Knowing Our Choices

Knowledge is Power.   I firmly believe in the truth of that maxim and am certain that it is one of the most important reasons that Ascension Academy was created. We exist to empower students with the knowledge that not only enlarges them as human beings, but enables them to gain admission to college and to earn degrees pursuant to entering professions they choose. The path to reaching this goal inspires many questions, perhaps the most important of them being, “how can I ensure that my child is prepared to enter, and graduate, from college.”

Colleges and universities in the United States and internationally require students seeking admission to have earned a diploma from an accredited school or academic program or an equivalent measure (GED). Two of the most well-known and recognized college prep curricula available to students are the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. But what are they?

The Advanced Placement Program is directed by the College Board (developer of the SAT, PSAT and AP exams) and has offered high-level course syllabi and rigorous finishing tests since 1952. It is the most widely subscribed college prep curriculum program in American high schools. The College Board has gone on record as saying that success in AP courses and finishing tests is proving to be the best indicator of a student’s success in college.

The International Baccalaureate Program was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 and is run as a division of UNESCO. It has been adopted by over 700 American schools and is recognized by colleges and universities worldwide.

Both AP and IB courses expose high school students to a high-level academic program of study comparable to what they should expect in a semester of college work. Colleges and universities around the world use scores from AP and IB finishing tests to influence admission decisions, establish placement in programs or to grant college credit. Criteria for doing so varies from college to college, although the measure of credit value for courses/tests taken in either program depends entirely on how high a score the student earns on the finishing tests (see below.)

I. Understanding both Programs

AP Schools (by course)                                         IB Schools (by program)
Nationwide: 16,277 schools                                   Nationwide: 751 schools
In Texas: 1483 schools                                           In Texas: 49 schools
In the Panhandle: Ascension                                  In the Panhandle: AHS only
Academy plus all Public School Districts

Please Note:
Advanced Placement identifies specific courses whose teachers have been certified by the College Board as meeting the requirements for college credit. Students taking those courses may or may not be required to take the AP test—given in May each year--and students may take any AP whether or not they have taken the corresponding AP course.

While participation in an AP course of higher academic rigor is of notable value to a student in high school, college admissions consideration and/or credit is usually based on student performance on the AP tests, not on the courses, taken. Scores below a “3” on the AP would not be highly valued at most colleges.

International Baccalaureate approved schools may offer both “Full IB” programs that require the completion of the full diploma curriculum in grades 11 and 12 (see below) or may permit students to elect some IB courses. IB courses may also be offered at the “Higher Level (HL)” or at the “Standard Level” (SL). Students are not required to take the IB exams given in May as part of the program, but only students enrolled in the IB program may sit for the annual exams.

While participation in an IB program or course of higher academic rigor is of notable value to a student in high school, college admissions consideration and/or credit is usually based on student performance on the HL (not SL) courses in which the student earns scores of 6 or 7 (on a 1-7 point grading scale). An IB Certificate without corresponding high scores on the finishing tests offers no guarantee of any credit recognition when applying to college.

II. Comparing the Academic Scope of each Program

AP Courses range from core subject disciplines in English (language and composition), languages (French, Spanish, Latin, Russian, Italian, German and Chinese), math (calculus and statistics), science (biology, chemistry and physics), and social sciences (US History, Geography, European and World History, Government, Economics, and Psychology). Some schools also offer AP courses in art, art history, music theory, and technology.

Ascension academy currently offers the seven AP courses listed above in bold, although students may sit for any of the AP exams from this list.

IB Courses fall in 6 subject areas studied in grades 11-12, 3 at higher level (HL) and 3 at standard level (SL). These are Language 1: English; a Second Language (French or Spanish); Experimental Sciences; The Arts; Mathematics and Computer Science; and Individuals and Societies. Additionally the IB program adds the following requirements: An Extended Essay (4000 words), a Creativity, Action and Service requirement of 150 hours (CAS), and a course in Theory of Knowledge (TOK).

III. Finishing Tests are offered each May in both programs.

AP Tests are graded by teams of AP teachers each summer, and tests are ranked on a 1-5 scale, with scores of 3 considered qualified for college work, 4-well qualified and 5-extremely well qualified. Scores of 3 or more usually weigh favorably in college acceptances and those of 4 or 5 may receive college advanced standing or even college credit depending on the particular college’s admission philosophy. Ascension alumni often report moving quickly to sophomore standing in college thanks to their work in our AP program.

IB Tests are graded by an international team of IB examiners at various locations around the world. A score of 6 or 7 (on a 1-7 scale) is the usual requirement for college credit at most institutions.

Qualifications to take the tests: AP tests can be taken by any student who registers and pays the fee, regardless of being in a public or private school (or home-schooled) or enrolled in an AP course. IB exams are restricted to students enrolled in the IB program at a certified school.

Costs: $91 for each AP exam while the IB charges a $151 registration fee for the program at the start of grade 11 and a $104 cost per test taken.

In conclusion, schools offering either the AP or the IB—or even both—provide the best chance for young people to be exposed to and prepared for the rigors of collegiate academic life. Students who attend schools with strong AP and IB programs benefit from exposure to the teaching and work load required. But each college ultimately decides and determines how it is going to accept the AP and IB credentials of its applicants, with the greatest stress being placed on how well the students score on their finishing tests in either program.

Students at Ascension Academy are required to take no fewer than four AP and as many as seven AP courses, which when coupled with the Dual-credit work that most of them elect, gives them a significant head start in college. With anywhere from 15 to 30 college credits in hand, it is no surprise that so many of our graduates earn their degrees on time—or even ahead of time. And with the higher cost of college tuitions this turns out to be a significant return on their Ascension investment.