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AP or IB Curriculum? It's a Vigorous Debate.

Andres Avendano in his International Baccalaureate Spanish class at Annandale High School. Both Advanced Placement and IB are strongly recommended by colleges.
Andres Avendano in his International Baccalaureate Spanish class at Annandale High School. Both Advanced Placement and IB are strongly recommended by colleges. (Dominic Bracco Ii -- The Washington Post)
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Monday, October 20, 2008

The D.C. area has the country's highest concentration of Advanced Placement courses, which lead to three-hour exams that can earn students college credit. A growing number of schools also have the rigorous but lesser-known International Baccalaureate program.

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IB was created in the 1960s by European and American teachers at the International School of Geneva who wanted to unite the college preparatory systems of their home countries so students would not face a hodgepodge of courses. The program has evolved into a high-level curriculum found all over the world, including in more than 600 U.S. high schools. Like AP, IB has courses in every major subject, but it demands more writing and has final exams that are two hours longer and that lack AP's multiple-choice questions. Students usually may take just two or three IB courses if they wish, as AP students can do. Those who want a full IB diploma must finish six courses, plus a Theory Of Knowledge course, write a 4,000-word essay and perform community service.

AP and IB officials say they are not competing against each other. But parents and students often debate which program is better. The washingtonpost.com Admissions 101 discussion group has nearly 5,000 posts on this issue. IB is admired for its emphasis on writing and the integration of its courses. Both AP and IB are strongly recommended by college admissions officers.

In the Washington area, 28 public and three private high schools have IB courses. Some school systems have also adopted the IB Middle Years Program for middle schools and the IB Primary Years Program for elementary schools.

-- Jay Mathews


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