Comparing AP and Other College Credit Opportunities

Periodically, we review Iowa students’ options for earning college credit. This post is an adaptation of an earlier post from September 2014.

We have discussed some of the differences between AP and other ways to earn college credit in the past, but the various options for students are many and often overwhelming. Why might Iowa Online AP Academy courses be a good fit compared to other options?

What are my options for college-level coursework as a high school student?

  • Advanced Placement (AP) is a nationally recognized program administered by the College Board. Students have the option to enroll in a wide range of different courses and take an exam in May. In Iowa, schools also have the opportunity to participate in the Iowa Online AP Academy, which allows high school students to enroll in online AP coursework for courses their school may not offer.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) is another widely-used program in which high school students enroll in an advanced curriculum and then take examinations for college credit. One main difference between AP and IB is that IB is a curriculum-centered program in which you enroll in several IB courses at once.
  • Concurrent Enrollment is an initiative offered by the state of Iowa that allows high school students to enroll in community college courses while still in high school.
  • Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) also allows high school students to enroll part-time at either two- or four-year colleges or universities.

How do credits transfer for these options?

  • AP: Passing an AP exam with a score of 3 or higher generally allows students to earn either advanced standing (by waiving otherwise required courses) or credits (as if the student had taken and passed the course) for entry-level college courses. For example, receiving a 4 or higher on the AP Biology exam gives you credit for a specific University of Iowa course (BIOL:1140 Human Biology) that might apply towards your degree.
  • IB: If students pass an IB exam with a score above a certain threshold (at the University of Iowa, this threshold is a 5 or higher), then the student may receive course credit for required or general education courses.
  • Concurrent Enrollment and PSEO: Generally, if students pass their class with a C- or higher, they receive college credit. However, this credit may or may not transfer to their post-secondary institution of choice. For example, passing Bio 112 (General Biology I) at Kirkwood Community College transfers in as a natural science general education elective at the University of Iowa, rather than as a specific course in a degree area (which the AP score example above earns).

What does the Iowa Online AP Academy offer that other programs do not?

The Iowa Online AP Academy framework works with your high school curriculum so that you can take advanced classes that are of interest to you. In addition, Advanced Placement courses are nationally recognized as a way to earn college course credit at many colleges and universities across the nation. Finally, as an online program, IOAPA also offers flexibility that traditional courses may not in terms of scheduling, as well as practice with online course formats.

Will Iowa Online AP Academy courses prepare students in the same ways as traditional AP courses?

Iowa Online AP Program students who take the AP exam generally perform just as well as, if not better than, students who participate in traditional AP courses.  Students who enroll in IOAPA courses also tend to successfully complete them—during the 2015-2016 school year, the completion rate for IOAPA high school courses was 95.6%, and of those students,  90% successfully passed their course.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about IOAPA by visiting our website. The University of Iowa’s AP credit policy is here, or you can visit the College Board’s AP Credit Policy database for the policies of other colleges and universities. You can also read about the state of Iowa’s Senior Year Plus initiative for more specifics on earning college credit in high school.


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