Gabrielle Friedman: Give me some credit

With registration for fall 2010 right around the corner, the two things on my mind are coursework and credits. Rummaging through the fall catalog trying to find classes that start after 9:35 and are can be tedious. But I’m still stressed about credits I earned in high school – credits the University does not fully accept.

International Baccalaureate (IB) courses are just not of equal value to Advanced Placement (AP) courses here at GW, even though the work is just as difficult – if not, in some cases, more challenging. The IB program is AP’s crazy uncle, similar to AP in that it is also a college-preparatory program focusing on mainly the same subjects offered in AP (with additions in the language department since it is an international program). Yet it is different in that the courses are offered two ways: standard level or higher level.

Standard level teaches the material for one year and tests through an international standardized exam (similar to AP). Higher level teaches more material in a subject area over a two-year period and tests through a standardized exam (AP on steroids). Additionally, the amount of courses students can take at a higher level is capped due to the rigor. But IB students take a mix of standard level and higher level courses.

A simple scan of the credit charts for both IB and AP coursework found on the GW Web site reveals that “[IB] credit is granted only for higher level exams.” Herein lies the problem. If the AP program is a one-year commitment, why do IB students only receive credit for higher level courses, which are two-year commitments, and nothing for their standard level coursework, which is identical to AP? It seems the University is simply favoring the AP program and this causes IB students to have fewer credits than they rightfully deserve.

But the problem with the way GW deals with the IB program does not stop there. Students receive only elective credit for the exams they take at a higher level (and receive the necessary score for credit). Going back to the same credit chart, one can see that a 4 or 5 on an AP American History exam will give a student credit for HIST 40, whereas a 6 or 7 on the IB History of the Americas exam (IB is graded on a 1 to 7 scale) gives that student credit for HIST 099 – the equivalent of an elective course. So after two years of hard work, IB students can look forward to only getting elective credit. How generous!

While AP students have the ability to get out of taking graduate curriculum requirement courses (which is the main reason most of us decided to take college-prep courses in high school), IB students are stuck taking courses in college that simply regurgitate material they already learned in high school. It is imperative that GW reexamine its policy toward IB credit and reflect a better understanding of the program. Otherwise, the school is just lessening the incentive for IB program students to come to GW, while continuing to make registration for current GW students all the more frustrating.

The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

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