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Which AP and IB Courses Count for College Credit and How?

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A group of high school students on their way to AP and IB courses to earn college credit.Taking AP or IB courses doesn’t just look good from a college admissions perspective—these classes can also translate into college credit once a student enrolls. While policies vary by college, many universities will grant college credits that go towards specific course requirements, in turn allowing students to free up some room in their schedules. Even if AP and IB courses are only applied towards a student’s overall credit count, completing advanced classes is a great way to get a jump start on college.

Are AP and IB Courses Both Counted for College Credit?

One of the first questions students have about advanced courses and college credits is whether it’s better to take AP or IB courses. Ultimately, one option doesn’t outrank the other—it depends on the classes your high school offers. In the United States, AP classes are often more accessible to students than IB courses. According to the College Board, 1.2 million students took over 4.1 million AP exams in 2020. In contrast, 1.95 million students ages 3-19 are participating in IB courses but less than half of these programs are based in the United States. Given that most colleges don’t state a preference between IB and AP courses, it’s best to choose whatever is most available to you and make sure you’re meeting the requirements that your future college outlines.

What to Know About AP Classes and College Credit 

AP courses are a great way to increase the rigor of your high school curriculum while also gaining college credit. Students gain college credit through the score on the AP exam itself, taken at the end of the course. How well you need to score will depend on the school you’re hoping to use these credits towards. Typically, you need a minimum of a 3 to get college credit, however some colleges will only award credit if you earn a 4 or 5.

Don’t have AP courses at your school? The good news is that you don’t need to take an AP class to get AP credit; instead, you can just self-study for the AP exam of your choice, register for the exam at a neighboring school, and score well on it.

Students should also keep in mind that some schools will count some specific AP exams towards credit, but not AP exams in other subjects. For example, many schools count AP scores in foreign languages and math towards college credit but some of these colleges may not count scores on AP Literature and Composition the same way. Each college has its own policy regarding AP courses and how they are counted towards credits. It’s so important to do your research before the exams.

What to Know About IB Programs and College Credit

Unlike AP classes, students must be enrolled in and complete an IB course in order to take the exam. The level of IB courses is also important to note, since some colleges will only award credit for Higher Level grades, despite the rigor of Standard Level courses. Much like AP exams, many colleges require students to get a certain score on an IB exam in order to receive credit for that class.

Some institutions may only award college credit to students who hold a full IB diploma, meaning that it may not make sense to take a single specific IB exam if the schools that you’re applying to require the full diploma to receive credit. Other colleges will award credit for individualized IB exams.

It’s challenging to make decisions about the advanced courses you’ll take and the colleges you’ll use these credits towards. If you’re looking for guidance as you navigate this process, our team of admissions counselors is here to help.


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