Revision Tips

How to prepare for AP and IB exams at the same time

I know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would I want to take more exams? Aren’t my 6 IB exams enough?” Well, there are many reasons why an IB student would want to take AP exams. Some people like to take an AP exam the year before they take an IB exam in the same subject. For example, I took the AP literature exam last year as a practice run for my IB English exam this year. Some students may be applying to US colleges that don’t accept IB courses and want to take AP exams to earn some credits. And, of course, some people are simply overachievers. Whatever your reasons may be, there’s no harm in taking both IB and AP exams! You just need to do some extra preparation. 

Choose your exams wisely

First, decide which AP exams you want to take. You should choose your best subjects and decide what AP exams fit best with your IB classes. Unless you’re a very dedicated student, you shouldn’t take the AP Psychology exam if you’re not taking IB Psych. Instead, try taking AP Biology if you’re in IB Bio, or AP European History if you’re in IB Euro. While you’re doing this, take a look at the AP exam dates and IB exam dates. If some of your IB and AP exams overlap, don’t worry! The College Board has late testing dates for AP exams, so you can reschedule your AP exam.

Compare the curricula

The next step is comparing the IB and AP curriculum. Go to the college board’s website and look at the course content for each exam you’re taking. Look at the course outlines in the course guides for your IB classes. Some IB classes cover the same content as their AP equivalents. For example, IB English A and AP Literature and Composition have very similar curriculum and exams. If that’s the case, then studying for one will be like studying for both! If there are differences in the content, you’ll have to do a little more work. 

For example, AP Calculus BC and IB Math A&A both cover vectors, limits, differential equations, and integration. However, AP Calc goes further into infinite sequences and series, while IB Math A&A covers additional content in algebra, complex numbers, and statistics. If you were taking both of these exams, you would have to study sequences and series on your own.

Make a study schedule!

Next is preparing for the exams themselves. Like most things related to IB, time management is key! A few months before your exams in May, make a study schedule. Make a list of all the content you need to cover for each IB exam and add any additional content you need for your AP exams. Then, make a plan to study each topic for a certain number of weeks. For example, spend 2 weeks reviewing the vectors unit in IB Math A&A, and then spend the next 2 weeks studying sequences and series for the AP exam. It’s important to stick to your schedule as closely as possible, but it’s okay if you get off-track! When making your schedule, build in extra time so you don’t get too stressed. 

Pay attention to grading criteria

Both IB and AP exams have essay portions. They are similar, but IB and AP have different grading rubrics, so familiarize yourself with the grading criteria for each exam. The best way you can practice is by doing practice tests. Start off by doing untimed practice tests for each exam, and once you have a feel for the style of questions, do some timed practice tests. Both types of exams have strict time limits, so it’s important to learn how to write quality writing quickly. AP exams also tend to have a multiple-choice section, unlike many IB exams. If you struggle with multiple-choice, taking practice exams is a great way to improve your skills and learn what the AP questions are like. There are also plenty of great resources online. The YouTube channel Advanced Placement has review videos for each unit in all of the AP courses.

Not all IB students choose to take additional AP exams, but if you are, hopefully this article helped you! It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you take the right steps to plan and are proactive about studying, you’ll do amazing on all of your exams.


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