In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Courses

  • Introduction
  • General Information and Historical Development
  • Journals
  • Data Sources
  • AP Course and IB Program Implementation, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Student Characteristics, Motivation, and Experiences
  • Access and Equal Opportunity in Advanced Placement
  • Overall Evaluation and Alignment with Program Mission and Principles
  • College Enrollment, Performance, and Student Outcomes
  • International Baccalaureate in a Global Context

Education Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Courses
Xueli Wang, Kelly Wickersham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0122


The Advanced Placement (hereafter referred to as AP) program, developed by the College Board for high school students in the United States and Canada, consists of a growing list of over thirty courses using curricula at the college level, covering subjects such as calculus, chemistry, and English language and composition. In 2016, over 2.6 million high school students participated in AP. Upon completion of an AP course, students may earn college credit by sitting for a computer or paper-and-pencil examination. The program was created in the 1950s to provide advanced coursework and the necessary knowledge that high school students needed to succeed in college. While the program has since expanded significantly, there remain contentious issues surrounding access and equity for low-income and racially underrepresented student populations. Although states and schools have introduced initiatives to increase access, equity, and success in AP for disadvantaged students, the results from these efforts are mixed. Another program that assists with college preparation is the International Baccalaureate (hereafter referred to as IB), created by the International Baccalaureate Organization in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. The IB aims to cultivate an international mindset through inquiry-based learning. Around the world, over one million students participate in the IB’s four programs: Primary Years, Middle Years, Diploma, and Career-related Certificate. The Primary and Middle Years Programs, spanning primary and middle school, prepare students for the Diploma Program, which serves secondary school students and prepares them for college. The Career-related Certificate is a vocationally oriented program and an alternative to the Diploma Program. The IB continues to evolve with the changing times, as more schools across the globe adopt these programs within their own national, political, social, and educational contexts. This article lists AP and IB together within each section, given the common themes they share, with the exception of Access and Equal Opportunity in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate in a Global Context. The first few sections cover General Information and Historical Development, Journals covering topics on these programs, and relevant Data Sources. The article then presents information on implementation, instruction, and assessment of the programs. Following this, student characteristics, academic achievement, and motivation are described, along with a specific section on Access and Equal Opportunity in Advanced Placement. The article then lists sources regarding evaluation as well as the college choice, major selection, and college success of AP and IB students. Information on the International Baccalaureate in a Global Context concludes the article.

General Information and Historical Development

Both AP and the IB have their own unique histories, beginning in two different parts of the world. Fox 1985 provides a detailed history of the IB and IB schools, while Hacsi 2004 reviews the history and role of testing and AP. Although the programs seem attractive and are praised for multiple reasons, as Doherty 2009 and Schneider 2011 point out, these and other authors are careful to discuss potential issues and implications of the adoption and expansion of both programs in a number of countries, as in Bunnell 2011. Lichten 2000 also presents insight into concerns that arise with these programs, particularly the alignment between AP and college standards. In addition to these informative pieces, there are general resources by the College Board and the International Baccalaureate Organization for parents, professionals, and students to help them better understand these programs as a whole and their recognition in other countries. Baker 2012 and Sadler, et al. 2010 also provide such overviews and resources.

  • Baker, Thomas Jerome. 2012. The International Baccalaureate: Education with a global perspective. Lexington, KY: Thomas Jerome Baker.

    A broad overview of the IB Diploma, with recommended resources on the program. Chapters on professional development for teachers and IB Diploma curriculum and examination details. Provides several case studies of schools in different countries using this program to promote the usefulness of the IB.

  • Bunnell, Tristan. 2011. The International Baccalaureate in the United States: From relative inactivity to imbalance. Educational Forum 75.1: 66–79.

    DOI: 10.1080/00131725.2010.528717

    This article explores issues regarding the IB program, specifically its expansion over the past decade, with a large number of students from schools in the United States. Discusses efforts to maintain the IB’s global, neutral perspective within national contexts.

  • The College Board. International University AP Recognition. New York: The College Board.

    A tool allowing students, parents, or administrators to explore AP recognition policies in different countries outside of the United States. Information on international schools that offer AP is also available. This page is updated regularly.

  • Doherty, Catherine. 2009. The appeal of the International Baccalaureate in Australia’s educational market: A curriculum of choice for mobile futures. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 30.1: 73–89.

    DOI: 10.1080/01596300802643108

    In response to discussions of developing a more national curriculum and credential, this piece explores the IB in the societal, political, and educational context of Australia. Draws upon media sources to determine how the program is depicted and marketed in Australia.

  • Fox, Elizabeth. 1985. International schools and the International Baccalaureate. Harvard Educational Review 55.1: 53–68.

    DOI: 10.17763/haer.55.1.cl26455642782440

    Details the history of international schools and the IB. Outlines the IB program and curriculum. Discusses the growth of the IB around the world and addresses questions regarding the future of the program.

  • Hacsi, Timothy A. 2004. Document-based question: What is the historical significance of the Advanced Placement test? Journal of American History 90.4: 1392–1400.

    DOI: 10.2307/3660359

    Explores the history and role of testing in the United States. Discusses the AP exam and how it fits into the context of other types of education testing. Describes the societal and educational objectives of testing in relation to inequity and social mobility.

  • International Baccalaureate Organization. The IB by country.

    This source provides information on the various IB World schools, professional development events, and the number of universities around the world with official policies that accept the IB.

  • Lichten, William. 2000. Whither advanced placement? Education Policy Analysis Archives 8.29: 1–19.

    Explores the misalignment of admissions and grading standards between AP and higher education institutions. Evidence reveals that AP scores have fallen, and many colleges do not accept a large proportion of these exams. Discusses contention with government mandates that mediate between AP and public colleges and universities.

  • Sadler, Philip M., Gerhard Sonnet, Robert H. Tai, and Kristin Klopfenstein. 2010. AP: A critical examination of the Advanced Placement program. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

    Book for a range of audiences interested in AP. Consists of research on numerous aspects of AP, including the types of teachers and courses, student characteristics and performance, and the complexities and implications of offering AP.

  • Schneider, Jack. 2011. Excellence for all: How a new breed of reformers is transforming America’s public schools. Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press.

    Fourth chapter describes the expansion of AP and discusses how the program is lauded for promoting social justice and social efficiency through increased access and course content that enhances academic achievement. Cautions against efforts to improve high-poverty public schools by offering AP without accounting for existing social conditions.

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