A Student’s Guide to the AP/IB Exams


Burden, Aaron. Two open books. 2016. Unsplash, unsplash.com/photos/QJDzYT_K8Xg.

Title: Studying for the AP/IB exams may seem exhausting, but in the end all the hard work pays off in the end.  

Whenever the month of May comes around every AP/IB (Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate) student knows that the time has come to take their exams. For students taking it for the first time it serves as a pivotal moment in their high school career, many students go through a range of emotions from nervousness to excitement. Yet the aftermath details a process that can be beneficial for students who take it. The score on a student’s AP/IB exam can impact the trajectory of a student’s academics in college. This article will focus on what the exams are, and how they relate to the academic career and future of a high school student.  

The main purpose of the AP exams is to measure how well the student has achieved mastery in content and skills within an AP course. The AP exams usually last between 2-3 hours and the first part usually consists of multiple choice questions while the second part consists of free-response questions that are usually answered as an essay, spoken response, or a solution to a specific problem in a question. In IB the main purpose of the exams are slightly different than AP. In IB they use both an internal and external assessment for students. The internal assessment is the process in which the teachers and school judges the student’s performance while, external assessment is usually a written response and is composed of questions that only requires the student to pick and answer one, this exam usually lasts from one to two hours and thirty minutes. During testing, AP exams allow breaks to occur while IB exams do not. This difference represents how the structures of the exams vary and how even though both tests measure what the student has learned throughout the school year the lengths of the exams aren’t the same. The scoring for the exams are also different. For AP it ranges from 1 to 5 while IB classes range from 1 to 7. On the days of exams Good Counsel students are excused from classes, are not required to wear a uniform, and are allowed to attend school only during their scheduled exams. After exams the students will receive their scores in July, and if the score is an excellent then they can use it for college credit. 

I interviewed the AP/IB Coordinator, Mrs. Dean about the exams. Mrs. Dean creates the exam schedule so that students can be aware of what, when, where their exams will take place.  I asked her for the advice she has for people taking the exams for the first time. She started by saying, “Trust the fact that you have been preparing for the exams for the whole year, trust your teachers, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned – and not something that you aren’t prepared for.” She continued by saying “Use students and classmates to study and to trust that it is a learning moment for you.” The purpose of the exams is to show students that they are capable of completing a difficult exam. It allows students to challenge themselves and to prove to others and themselves that they are smart and intelligent enough to achieve their goals. Furthermore even though the exams may cause anxiety among students, it allows students to test their potential to the fullest.

Overall, the exams are meant to be a way for a student to prove to themselves that they can do well and excel in AP/IB courses. It allows students to prepare themselves for the future and college. It is also a learning experience for students as it allows them to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and learn from their mistakes. In doing this it allows students to improve in their academic career and become equipped to manage any obstacles that occur their way in college.