In the last few years AP has been changing its focus and exams, particularly in the sciences, to become deeper and more flexible, like International Baccalaureate. AP exams have demanded that students answer every essay question. IB exams allow students to choose which essay questions to answer, so that IB teachers can go more deeply into some topics without penalizing students at exam time. AP has moved to adopt that same exam question choice system.
On Monday, AP announced another big change, adding a project component that sounds very much like the IB extended essay required of all students who want to get an IB diploma. But in some ways it goes even further.
The College Board, owner of AP, said it was joining with the University of Cambridge International Examinations to offer an "AP/Cambridge Capstone Program and Credential." This will be piloted in 15 to 18 schools around the world, including four in the Miami-Dade County school system.
It will consist of a junior year Interdisciplinary Investigations and Critical Reasoning Seminar in which students working often in teams will research and write a project "exploring a specific topic of global relevance." In their senior year students may choose to enroll in the Capstone Research Project. The College Board said '"it culminates in a 4,500- to 5,000-word academic paper, which enables students to develop practical skills in research methodology and the skills to manage a sustained piece of academic work."
Up to now, the biggest advantage IB had over AP was its emphasis on writing, particularly the 4,000-word extended essay. Will this College Board addition be a big improvement for AP schools?
It will mean, of course, if a student takes one of these new courses they will have less time on their schedule for other AP courses they might have taken. Can their school faculties handle this kind of challenge? It is an enormous commitment of time for the teachers at IB schools. What will this do to the pressures that have already caused some teachers, students and parents to complain about AP and IB?