How to Scam High Schoolers

By Owen Andersen

Offering college level class material and credit, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs hold pristine status within educational institutions. Every CUHSD School (minus Boynton) boasts a catalog of AP and or IB programs. Though many Westmont students are familiar with AP classes, IBs remain a mystery in the eyes of many Warriors. IB courses offer a longer commitment, with Diploma courses (the International Baccalaureate Organization’s most popular programme) lasting two years instead of AP’s one. Designed for students aged 16-19, the IBO states the Diploma Programmes serves as a method of fostering students who “Flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically” ( College Board, a “mission-driven not-for-profit organization” that runs AP programs, boasts a similarly benevolent mission statement: “connect[ing] students to college success and opportunity,” ( But, for two non-profit organizations,  both enjoy some mighty revenue—IBO had a revenue of $211,288,720 in 2020 (; College Board $1.1 billion in 2022 ( In reality, the College Board and the IBO consistently place a price tag on our education, gatekeeping higher level learning behind a paywall.

College Board validates student achievement based on AP Exam results; students only receive college credit through passing their AP test (receiving at least a ⅗). Additionally, the College Board solicits a surcharge of $97 in the US (and its territories), Canada, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools. Internationally, AP Exams cost $127, and AP Capstone Exams (a two year long course, akin with the IB Diploma Programme) costs $145 (UWorldCollegePrep). However, 2022’s average exam score was a 2.92; only about a 60% average pass rate ( Essentially, 40% of AP students burnt $90-$145. Specific AP exams possess even lower pass rates. For example, AP Government and Politics’ 2023 exam had a pass rate of 57.5%; AP US History exam, 48.2%; AP Physics 1 exam, 45% ( 

Why the monolithic rates? AP related resources blame expert test writers’ and graders’ salaries, vast distribution, and international sales. In tandem with the initial test price, the College Board requires that the actual process of sending universities your scores costs $25 per report, per university,  minus one report for one university. ( In 2023, Zippia, a career listing service propagating various companies’ information, stated the College Board possessed 300 employees, making the profit-staff ratio $3,733,333 per employee. 

On the other end of the coin, IBO parades a grander 2022 pass rate of 86.11%. On top of that, IBO instructs 1.95 million students aged 3-19 ( against the College Board’s 1.2 million ( However, the IBO charges just as fiercely as the College Board; the IBO costs $130 per exam. The IB Diploma Programme mandates six separate exams, implying a total of $780 for an IB Diploma. Coincidentally, the IB Diploma Programme remains the most popular of the IBO’s roster. Until 2019, the IBO enforced a “candidate registration fee” of $175, exchanging the flat charge for the aforementioned exam price ( Unsatisfied with only charging students, the IBO requires teachers pay a registration fee of $265 during their certification process ( Finally, schools offering IB programs must become an “IB World School” implying another toll. In the 2023-24 school year, Diploma Programme access requires $12,233 ( 

The final coup de grace of both IBs and APs remains their greatest marketing point: college credit. Though both courses do promise college credit, the credit amount lies under the jurisdiction of the universities themselves. Whitney Sandoval, an educator and writer for, clarifies that for AP scores, many schools “accept a 3, but credit awarded may vary based on the subject.” For IB scores, credit amount can also fluctuate—some colleges only award students who “hold a full IB diploma” credit.

In 2022, the College Board administered over 4 million AP exams, and roughly 1,600,000 had scores under a 3 ( Worldwide, 18,174 students received their IB Diploma, costing recipients a total of $14,175,720 ( Despite benevolent marketing, the College Board and IBO provide courses that fail in preparing large sums of their students for their exams, and fail in meeting promised rewards for the students that succeed. 

What do these non-profit, educational foundations receive in return? Hundreds of millions of dollars. 

For me, the worst part of these organizations’ monetization of my education remains the fact I fell for the chicanery, and I loved doing so. Including the two I’m taking this year, I’ll have partook in five AP courses throughout my Westmont tenure. Students like Marina Halbert are taking five AP courses this year alone. Personally, I’ve flourished under the College Board’s curriculum; sharpened my critical thinking, developed pattern recognition, and reconstructed my personal learning methodology. Honestly, most of my favorite teachers and classes have been APs, which makes the situation all the more sickening—IBs and APs can work, they can be incredibly effective in high level, intellectual development. 

But, these programs aren’t consistent. I only thrive because I have premier access to a catalog of teachers with astronomically high exam pass rates that are unscrupulously familiar with AP formats and formulas. Even in spite of my successes, I’m still left with a guttural feeling of being cheated. Why? Because nobody ever mentioned that AP exams cost $97 when I signed on. Nobody mentioned the necessity of forking over another $25 per report for sending colleges the results I earned. Nobody mentioned the exams were run by the same sheisty organization behind the SAT and the slew of AP/SAT prep courses. Then, I hear from a friend at Del Mar who left an IB program because of consistently inane experiences, and what do I come and find but another “educational foundation” placing price tags on higher education. 

When I observe IB and AP programs, I grow concerned by organizations monopolizing and monetizing aspects of my education that can and will directly impact the future of my peers and myself. Maybe I’m just losing my mind, but $211 million and $1.1 billion in revenue seems like a lot for two non-profits.