AP vs. IB vs. AICE
As noted, the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) and AICE programs are college-level courses providing the opportunity to earn college credit.
The underlying educational philosophies are quite different. The AP program is offered through the College Board and allows students to select one or a dozen+ courses tailored to their specific goals.
In contrast, the IB program was developed in Europe and as the name implies, it’s an international program. Students earn a diploma by completing a specified number of courses across a range of subjects. To earn a diploma, there are specific distribution requirements. In some high schools, students are allowed to enroll in just a few IBs without earning their diploma. This is also the case for the AICE program.
IB courses and the overall program place a significant emphasis on writing and developing critical thinking skills. Earning an IB diploma requires each student to complete an extended essay on a research paper. Unfortunately, many high schools don’t schedule the timing of the essay to offer students the opportunity to submit their IB research papers to nationally sponsored essay competitions or to include on their college applications submitted early in the senior year.
A noteworthy difference between an AICE and IB diploma is flexibility. Students can select courses within three AICE curriculum areas. AICE is the most recent of the programs (piloted within the state of Florida), and it was only recently that the Common Application even recognized AICE as an option for designating course level. It is one of the newest advanced academic programs. AICE courses aren’t as difficult as AP or IB courses.
AICE courses don’t often prepare students for success on required SATII subject tests – which is no longer a consideration. However, if you look at the college transfer credit requirements– all colleges have clear guidelines on AP scoring and earning credit/undergraduate placement. That’s simply not the case for AICE. AICE diplomas have favorable status in Florida colleges- but their widespread appeal is lacking in most settings and the courses aren’t simply as rigorous as the gold standard of high school coursework in AP and IB. If you’re a Florida resident- you may be focused on the Bright Futures scholarship and in this case, the AICE coursework and diploma takes on a unique relevancy.
Like the IB diploma, students within an AICE program take a variety of different level exams with specific subject area distributions with an option to earn an AICE Diploma. Few competitive colleges accept AICE credits towards the undergraduate transcript.
The AP program creates opportunities for students to learn specific content and subsequently tests this knowledge on AP exams. Courses have content objectives. AP exams have become the gold-standard of an academically rigorous curriculum. Earning a high grade on an AP exam can overshadow the high school transcript.
For STEM students to be competitive in the admissions process, AP Calculus, AP Bio/Chem and/or Physics, APCS are invaluable and often expected on a student’s transcript to be a viable candidate in the most competitive of colleges.
Likewise, courses in AP History or AP Economics or AP Lang/Lit will be invaluable to preparation for many Humanities and Business students.
*** By the Junior year- students should have enrolled in at least one or two AP classes related to the intended college major area of interest. This is not only to be a stronger applicant- but it is evidence of academic rigor and preparation that will ease the transition to the undergraduate experience.