Fast tracking with International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP)

March 08, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Fast tracking or Acceleration is an option in the United States where the students can transfer credits from their High School to college. This enables them to complete their college degree in less than four years. Fast tracking can be done either as examination-based program such as International Baccalaureate (IB) and College Board’s Advance Placement (AP) or as college-based (dual enrollment) program. IB and AP are preferred modes of fast tracking college degree and are accepted by more universities. For example, universities like Duke and Harvard accept IB and AP but they do not consider the dual enrollment programs ( In this article, I focus on the examination based IB and AP programs and how students from India and US are using them to fast track their college degrees in US. AP started in 1955 and the first IB school in US started in the year 1971, whereas for India the first IB school was set up in 1976 and AP exams were only available only online until now. However, students can take the AP exams in several Indian cities from January 2014. (,

As an IB teacher in India and currently an IB Diploma Examiner, I have experienced IB first hand. Most of the students who enrolled in the IB program at the school where I taught in India had predetermined goal of studying abroad, with US being the preferred choice. An additional advantage that IB gives to these students in the US is fast tracking. Even though the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has started recognizing IB for university admissions, there is still no provision for transferring credits to undergraduate courses in Indian Universities.

As mentioned earlier, AP is now available to students in India and there about 15 schools that offer AP classes ( and the first in-person exams will take place in January 2014. Initially, the students who wanted to pursue the AP had to either do self-study or take private classes apart from their regular course work. There is always the provision of taking these classes online but that does not seem very feasible for students who want to pursue the sciences because online classes cannot give practical experience. College Board states that the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has started recognizing AP courses for eligibility in undergraduate courses in India but under the ‘College and Universities that recognize AP’ tab there is just one acronym ‘TK’ listed, which does not seem like a reliable name of a university. Since this is a very recent acceptance in India, AP is still not the preferred choice of Indian students.

One of my students currently studying at a prestigious American University was able to transfer 20 units to her undergraduate course in Business Administration. As she took IB Higher Level Math and Science so she did not have to take those classes again at USC. She will now be able to complete her course a year before intended time. IB is beneficial for Indian students who want to pursue their undergraduate studies in the United States. It also prepares them better to face the challenging demands of writing papers and conducting independent research. Since, IB students already do that in their program, they find the transition to be easier. 

Students in the US have the opportunity of taking IB as well as AP and AP being an older course is available more easily. Also, the credits transferred from an AP course are more than that transferred from an IB course. ‘So, why do students in the US do the IB program when more number of credits can be transferred from the AP courses?’ Another IBDP graduate from Florida currently studying at University of Florida gives a possible answer to the above question. He feels that IB has advantage in credit transfer when it comes to Social Sciences and Humanities whereas AP is given preference by most universities for Math and Physical Sciences. 

However, it turns out that fast tracking is not the only option that these students look for while opting for these advanced programs. They want to be better prepared for college and demand a holistic educational experience. The student from Emory feels that IB is a more challenging program and results in the overall development of the personality whereas the one of University of Florida finds IB appealing because of the passion they have about their goals and the program. He further quotes “Overall, the promise of a passionate student body and an "IB family", along with the increased likelihood to be accepted to colleges and universities, gravitated me towards the IB program”. The major advantage of IB is that its evaluations are formative rather than summative. So one exam does not assess the strengths and weaknesses of a student. The students have essays and projects that help them buffer their results. AP is based on traditional rigorous exam method whereas IB is more contemporary in terms of looking at overall development of a student. 

IB started with an aim to give the students of internationally mobile parents, a consistent educational experience up to High School. But it is no longer the only criteria for students to do the IB program. For its focus on all-round development, critical thinking and independent learning it is becoming the choice of students even with no intention of moving. Students are becoming more aware of the kind of education they want. They are getting more ambitious and want to go beyond what a regular high school degree has to offer to them. They start thinking about college while still in high school. Both these programs have given an opportunity to students who are willing to put an extra effort to ‘fast track’ their lives. 


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