AP pilot program to bridge divide between AP and IB

Penn’s Office of Admissions is examining the program, which will prepare prospective students for research and writing

A new Advanced Placement pilot program could close the gap between AP exams and the International Baccalaureate, another popular option for prospective Penn students.

Earlier this month, the College Board, in conjunction with University of Cambridge International Examinations, announced a new pilot program composed of an interdisciplinary seminar during junior year of high school and a capstone research project and paper during senior year.

Though the program will be piloted at Miami-Dade County public high schools for three years, “College Board and University of Cambridge International Examinations plan to announce an operational decision in approximately two years,” College Board spokesperson Deborah Davis wrote in an email.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the Office of Admissions is in the process of examining the program to determine its relevance to Penn.

The two-year combined approach is similar to the current IB program.

The IB Diploma Programme is a curriculum that is offered at more than 3,000 high schools around the world, according to the IB’s website. The program includes six courses, three of which are taken at a “higher level” for two years. The curriculum also requires an extended essay, much like the AP pilot program.

Furda said students should consider the context of their educational background and academic goals when faced with the option of choosing between the AP or IB program in a high school that offers both.

He added that this pilot program could be beneficial for college-level writing preparation.

“There’s a disconnect between secondary education and higher education in areas like writing. Students have a certain formula of how to write that they’re being taught in high school,” he said. “This program could prepare them for a particular type of writing like large research papers where it’s no longer about getting the point across in one page.”

Bev Taylor, founder of college consulting firm Ivy Coach, said the program may be crucial in building skills that students will need for continued independent research at schools like Penn.

“This AP pilot program may help level the field between high schools that have well-funded research programs, and high schools that don’t have those resources,” she said. “Now the students are equipped with the skills to conduct research and write papers on their own.”

Michael Goran — a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting — agreed that the program may help students find academic interests that will carry over into their college careers. However, he said that there may be drawbacks to the program, like the limitations of a high-school setting.

“The critical thinking component and analysis aspect of a collegiate education is tough to do when you have the set agenda and you have to march through the curriculum as it is,” he said.

Engineering freshman Bhavana Vidyashankar said the IB curriculum was helpful as a transition from high school to college because of the two-year timeline and the extensive writing projects involved. The IB program includes a 3,000-word extended essay, as well as 1,500-to-2,000-word essays called “internal assessments” in every course.

However, she added that students can find similar writing experiences elsewhere.

“I chose IB because at my school it was a stronger program, but I don’t think that it’s essential in any way,” she said. “I think that you would be equally prepared if you took a lot of AP writing classes.”

Wharton freshman Rachel Fleszar said though the IB program helped her get acclimated to college writing through constant exposure to writing, some components of the rigid curriculum were less helpful.

“I personally don’t feel like I benefited from some of the other writing projects and required classes,” she said. “The writing skills in particular weren’t something we focused on specifically.”

Overall, she found the program helpful for adjusting to the pace of a demanding academic schedule.

“I do think it was a nice transition between high school and college,” she said.


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