Ask Test Masters: AP, IB, and Dual Credit

Ask Test Masters is a great resource available to you where you can directly ask us questions about all your college admissions needs. Recently, we received the following query:

“Hey, so I’m absolutely confused about DC/ AP classes. I’ve recently just dropped out of IB, and don’t know much about AP classes. I haven’t really decided on which college I want to go to but my top priority would be Baylor or UT. Depends on my major- which is yet undecided.”


Dear N.G.,

As a student who did both AP and IB in high school, I hope I will be able to answer your question about switching from IB to AP. The International Baccalaureate Programme is very philosophical and has all of these special classes (Theory of Knowledge) and essays (Extended Essay) and other projects (Creativity Action Service hours) that you have to complete in order to get the diploma. The good news is that AP is much more straightforward, and if your school offers AP classes in addition to IB classes, your AP classwork should be enough to prepare you for the exams. There are no extra essays or projects or classes to complete. The bad news is that an AP exam is essentially like an HL IB exam, and you won’t have any easier SL-type exams (although the Calculus AB AP Exam does cover less material than the Calculus BC Exam, and likewise with a few other AP exams). In general, you should try to take as many AP courses as you can while keeping your grades up.

For 1,300 years in Imperial China, entry into the elite civil service was determined by rigorous standardized exams that could last up to 72 hours and took place in solitary confinement.

If your school offers AP courses, you should be fine as long as you study hard and make good grades. However, I know that many schools specialize in either IB or AP, and there are few schools that offer both. If your school is IB only, I would strongly recommend reconsidering your decision to drop out of the program. You really need AP classes to prepare you for AP exams. In fact, schools are not allowed to let you take AP exams if you do not take AP courses.

Dual Credit is another option, although it is less widely accepted than AP or IB. According to the UT Austin website, “Some students take courses during high school that count toward high school graduation and toward college credit, usually through a local community college. If you received credit for such courses and you want the credit you earned to be transferred to UT Austin, you must submit an official transcript from the college(s) that awarded the credit to you.”

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In Texas, public schools generally accept dual credit, but private schools generally do not. So Rice will not accept your dual credit courses, even though UT will. Out of state schools are also unlikely to accept dual credit. In general, AP and IB courses are considered to be more academically rigorous than dual credit courses and look more impressive on your transcript. Do your homework and find out what your top schools’ policies are toward dual credit – if it serves your needs, it may be just fine, but there is no guarantee that dual credit courses will allow you to place out of entry level college courses the way AP and IB exams will.

As far as your major is concerned, don’t worry too much about that now – most college students change their major at least once. In your exams you’ll want a nice balance between math/science and the humanities. If you are thinking of applying to a math/science program, taking more advanced math/science courses and scoring well on their corresponding AP/IB exams is a good way to show that you’re ready to study math/science at the college level, though. This may also allow you to place out of entry level math/science courses your freshman year, which is good because sometimes the instructors don’t speak English very well and these courses are often full of hyper-competitive pre-med students.

If you find you want extra help while studying for AP exams, there are many test prep services (like Test Masters) that can help you get that score of 5 you need to really make your AP credits count. Hope that was helpful!

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