Studying in the USA

You’ve heard time and again that admissions officers want to see you take the most rigorous curriculum that you can handle and that your high school offers. Great, so that might get you the coveted acceptance letter, but does all your hard work in these college-level courses get you anything more? Will you get credit or placement at U.S. universities for IB or Cambridge exams? It surprises me how many students are eager and willing to take these challenging courses to impress the admissions committee, but few ever take note as to which universities may be more generous in awarding credit or placement for enrolling students with certain exam results. You’ve worked hard for it! Knowing how your exam results will be treated by different universities could make the difference between repeating courses, having the opportunity to take upper-level courses sooner, and maybe even graduating from college in less time!

It’s a universal fact that colleges recognize IB and Cambridge curriculums as evidence of academic ability. So doing well in either program is a great way to demonstrate your readiness for college. But with advance research, students can also form an application list based on those colleges that are more generous in their rewarding of exam results. If you haven’t done this in advance, I would certainly suggest you compare your admission offers by the credit/placement policies before deciding where to study in the USA!

Like all things college-related, one size does not fit all when it comes to policies regarding IB and Cambridge exams results. A certain score on the IB Diploma could grant you 30 credit hours (the equivalent of one full year of study!) at some colleges, while at others, they may only look at the 6s and 7s earned on Higher Level exams (and perhaps only on specific HL exams). That’s a significant difference! If your goal is to accelerate through college on an expedited timeline, you should know the policies of the college before applying.

So how do you know what a college will award for your exam results? It is tedious work. The best, most accurate resource is the college’s own website. A simple internet search of “[College Name] IB/Cambridge credit policy” should do the trick to take you directly to the school’s policy. But if you don’t yet know which colleges to look up, you can use the IBO website and Cambridge International site for a big-picture view and to compare universities. Download the PDF from the IBO’s titled, “University Policy Index,” for a list of self-reported policy information provided by universities across the globe for IB results (note that this was last updated in October 2015, so policies may have changed). There are PDF resources for Cambridge exams that highlight many policies for AS & A Level recognition by country. Here is the link for US institutions. These sites are a good starting point for a quick reference when comparing institutions and forming your college list, but you should double check the findings directly on each college’s website of interest.

So moral of the story here is doing well in these programs and exams can really pay off in terms of admission decisions and credit/placement policies with enough advance planning. Don’t forget that getting in to college is only the starting point; getting through college may be advantageous at certain colleges who reward your hard work in high school.


Written by Lauren Randle
Lauren Randle is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Lauren worked as a senior admissions officer at Georgetown University and previously held positions in college counseling at Malvern Preparatory School and the Canadian International School of Hong Kong.