By Melanie Kells, Secondary Chemistry Teacher


As, Bs, Cs, percents, scores for 5, 6 or 7 – So many different ways of recording achievement.
How do the grading schemes of the main high school curriculums compare to each other?

There are three educational schemes that international students often seek during their final year or two of secondary school. This article will attempt to compare assessment of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), the A & AS-level programme, and the Advanced Placement (AP) program. All three have a summative examination that is created by a central committee and is administered to all students during the same dates and under similar conditions. This summative assessment is graded externally and useful in comparing one student to all others taking that exam around the world during the same season.

Developed in Europe, the IB DP programme is studied for two years. Students take six subjects in a wide range of content areas. Three additional components are (CAS, ToK, and EE) with each integral to the programme. The IB Diploma is awarded with a highest possible score of 45. Each of the 6 subjects earns a score from 1-7 with up to 3 additional points awarded for the other components.

Created in the UK, AS-level subjects occur during a one year course of study. Students generally choose 4-6 subjects. Each subject earns a score from e – a. The is a wide range of subjects available and many students specialize and have a career plan in mind when they choose their subject areas.

After completing an AS-level subject, the A-level (A2) extends learning into a second year (the first year earning an AS-level certificate) in a subject. Students generally choose 3-5 subjects. Each subject earns a score from E-A*. Study is concentrated on these subjects only. Usually students choose AS and A level subjects that will lead them into their desired university or college path.

Popular in America, Advanced Placement (AP) subjects occur during a 10 month course of study. Students generally choose 1-2 per year in Grades 11+12. Each subject earns a score from 1-5. In addition to AP courses, students also take subjects as a part of the normal high school experience. Usually students choose AP subjects that will lead them into their desired university or college path.

All of these curricula are assessed with a final grade earned mostly by an end of program exam that occurs over about 3-5 hours. All of these tests are scored with a points and percentage system that is then converted to the score using a rubric and percentage range to establish each final grade. There are other components such as coursework or labs. These vary widely in each subject and in each curriculum, but often contribute about 20% to the final grade in the subject.

Guide to comparing final exam assessment in AP, IB, AS, and A level (compiled from a variety of sources)

Approximate Percentage *APIBASALatvian system**

* Each subject has a different standard applied when combined with the rubric. These percentages are general and approximate. This percentage is the percentage earned on assessment of the entire course, not a unit test or part of a course.
** ISR has developed an aligned system of assessment with Latvian grading.


Further Reading

Further Explanation on the different curriculums

Further Explanation on IBDP vs A level

Explanation about GPA

Education in Latvia



Adminpiya, et al. “The Complete IB Middle Years & Diploma Programmes Guide.” Tutopiya, 23 Mar. 2020,

American Foreign Service Association,

“Advanced Placement: What Do The Scores Mean?” Occam Education, 20 July 2018,

“Curriculum.” ACS Cobham HS,

“Home.” Cambridge Assessment, grading&

“International Baccalaureate – Ppt Download.” SlidePlayer, IB,

Liebowitz, Cheree. “IB, AP or AICE: A Comparison of the College-Level Programs.” International College Counselors, 21 Mar. 2019,, et al. “What Everyone Ought to Know About – Ppt Download.” SlidePlayer,