AP vs IB vs SAT Subject Tests: What’s the Difference?

By admin September 23, 2016 BS/MD Admissions Consulting

A common question that high school students have is “What’s the difference between SAT Subject Tests, International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, and Advanced Placement (AP) exams.”

SAT Subject Tests

In this post, we’ll see how each of these academic tests work, which will help you compare and draw informed conclusions.

SAT Subject Tests are required when applying to many competitive colleges; however, more and more universities are making the move towards being SAT optional schools, including some top-ranked ones such as Smith, Washington University, Bates, Hofstra and Sarah Lawrence.

Students are tested on their knowledge of subjects learned in high school

20 subject tests across five areas : English, languages, mathematics, science, and history

You have the advantage of picking tests that demonstrate your strengths and indicate your interest and preparedness in specific programs and majors to colleges

One hour multiple-choice tests

Raw test scores are converted to scale scores of 200-800

Subject Tests are offered six times a year. You can take one, two or three tests on any test date. You have the flexibility to choose certain tests at the time of registration and change them (take one less, add one more, or switch tests) on the test day. Note that you cannot sit for SAT and SAT Subject Tests on the same day.

One of the main difference between SAT Subject Tests vs AP/IB exams is that SAT Subject Tests test knowledge of high school subjects, while AP/IB tests college level course knowledge.

AP Exams

Advanced Placement tests could result in college credit if you score high enough. AP programs aim to prepare high school students for the rigors and expectations of college-level academics through advanced courses.

Exams are held in May

A total of 37 exams with the following features:

2-3 hours long

No negative marking for wrong answers or answered questions

First part is multiple-choice

The second part consists of free response questions that can be answered in an essay, verbal (conversational) or problem-solution format.

Scoring on a 5-point scale with 5 being the highest possible score. ‘5’ being ‘extremely qualified’ and ‘1’ indicating ‘no recommendation’.

IB Exams

An International Baccalaureate (IB) program is a pre-college course focused on interdisciplinary teaching and aims to make students international-minded individuals. IB exams could result in college credit if you score high enough. Students take six subjects at Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL), usually split into 3 HL and 3 SL courses.

You must enroll in IB classes to be eligible for the exam

Written, essay based format

Tests students on critical thinking and an appreciation of global issues

Section A : short answer questions.

Section B : essay section where you need to choose one out of three essay topics, presenting case study facts; scores factor in analysis and evaluation skills as well as content and structure.

7-1 grading scale, where 7 is the highest score and 5 is the passing grade.