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The EPSO Dilemma - CIE, AP, or Both?

KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
Greetings.
I am a new member here who has arrived on the basis of a dilemma that has troubled me for many months on end.
It seems that this is the place in which I can resolve it. I am providing you with all of my mental strains that have plagued me starting August of last year. It is complex, and I will try to explain it in a way that is easy to comprehend.
Starting junior year, due to some personal conflicts, I have had to move schools. It was a dramatic change for me, not because of the people necessarily, but because of the stark contrast in academic focus for each school. The school at which I have moved… I wonder if it was a mistake. The average GPA, test scores, and anything that can be used to compare them to another school is on a much lower level than the school I had switched from. However, there is one thing that redeems them and keeps me from moving again - the Cambridge International Examinations program.
This program, whom I will hereafter refer to as CIE for convenience purposes, is Bradley Central High School’s “early postsecondary opportunity” (EPSO). This program is a rough equivalent of other high school programs, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), etc. It follows the same format - teach high school students introductory college course curriculum and have them take an exam at the very end of the course. If the score is high enough for the college they wish to attend, they can be granted college credit. I’ve heard that the program is the newest EPSO, taking its footing in Florida in recent years and slowly spreading upwards into the U.S. However, it seems that the farther you go north, the less they are heard of. For some reason, my school in Tennessee has DROPPED AP in favor of this new program, despite all the negative connotation...
This has posed a great issue for me. It makes me wonder - is everything I’m doing at this school (taking ALL CIE COURSES AVAILABLE, participating in clubs more frequently) still not enough to satisfy these prestigious institutions I seek?
Was the switch in schools worth the sacrifice?
Because Walker Valley High School, the school I had switched from, not only has some of the highest GPA, test scores, etc. that I can get in my area, they also offered AP. I absolutely cherish AP. It is more challenging than CIE and much more recognizable.
“But wait! You can take the AP exams without taking the course!” I can hear you shout. And yes, that is definitely true. Though, this poses a new problem - if I were to take these exams in tandem with the CIE exams, would the credits received from the exams STACK, or would one of them be null and void, considering that they both count towards an introductory course? (I.E. Say I take both AP and CIE Biology. Will colleges take only ONE of these for matriculation or are there benefits of taking both, even though they do roughly the same thing? More on this question further in the passage.)
“Well, that situation can be easily resolved. See what the college you want to go to accepts, call them, see how everything applies, and solve it!” you say. But wait, let me tell you of another confounding variable - I don’t know what college I want to go to. I don’t know what I want to major in, or whom I should put my trust in my education in.
With this information, it seems as if I have one option - Take both AP and CIE at once to get as broad a coverage for colleges as possible.
This, though, is proving to be a challenge, let alone a mental paradox.
I don’t want to suffer through self-teaching AP curriculum all for the same CIE credit to be accepted. For example, I am currently taking Biology 2 in Cambridge. AP Biology seems to have a lot more in its curriculum than CIE for introductory biology. I’ve only JUST discovered the best textbook to use, and it’s becoming disheartening due to how difficult it is, seeing as the exam is in May. (I seriously wonder if I can study for it in time, but am trying very hard. I’ll have to purchase Campbell Biology 11th edition on eBay the SECOND I get my next paycheck, which is next week.)
Then again, I don’t want my academic prowess to be undermined by these CIE courses that are foreign or of a lower standard to many prestigious universities. Above all, I want to show them that I am tough and capable of handling college stresses.
I’ve already had to drop taking the AP U.S. History exam this year because of how late I was given the American Pageant by my history teacher, who used to teach AP courses. I calculated the time I would spend to copy notes for each chapter and how it would lead into the year. If I did one chapter every two days, not counting days I have to spend at my job, that would send me STRAIGHT into May, just before the late exam testing date, no breaks, no time for studying any other exams. I could not afford sacrificing any study time for my other classes (I need As on those exams too) so I had to drop it. Hell, I don’t know if that’s even FEASIBLE for a human being without their insanity consuming them first.
Currently, the only AP exams I can see myself taking this year are the AP Biology and AP English Language and Composition, since I’m taking CIE equivalents. As you know, I’m starting to second guess biology. Labs comprise at least 25% of an AP biology course, and I am not sure if CIE labs are really teaching me everything I need to gather in order to interpret AP biology extended response questions. Furthermore, all of the terminology is very intimidating. I was using AP Barron’s Biology Book 5th edition up until a few days ago, when I found out that’s actually one of the worst books to use. AP Lang, though, seems very doable, as it’s just a matter of changing your writing format. (CIE doesn’t like strong intros; AP does. CIE likes the “PQC” or “point quotation commentary” approach to analysis of nonfiction; AP likes something a tad different. Not a lot of study differences.)
“If you like AP so much, why don’t you just switch back to Walker Valley since it was so much better?” This leaves you with another issue. I want to finish my years at Bradley Central High School so that I can take all of the CIE classes and then proceed to get the “AICE diploma” which is similar to the “AP scholar” recognition, albeit less known, which means I will not be able to take AP classes.
Is that AP Scholar title (I’m aiming for AP Scholar with Distinction. National is just dreamy, but I don’t see myself achieving that with Cambridge unless I cheese it with easier AP exams) worth it? That was another thing I was interested in AP for. Does it grant you scholarships, recognition, anything?
Oh, oh! How about another question? What AP exams should I take next year? I will be taking CIE Literature, CIE Environmental Management, and some sort of CIE Calculus. Perhaps I can take AP Literature and AP Environmental Science with them? ...Maybe even AP Calculus AB if the curriculum isn’t that different...? Knowing the difficulty of these classes, should I even take AP U.S. History that year and really push myself to take AP Biology this year? I don’t want to overload myself too much, as I will also be attempting to join more national clubs senior year, maybe HOSA, BETA, and/or FBLA, to appeal even further to colleges. If anyone can enlighten me as to how difficult they are or even compare them with their equivalent CIE exams, I would be grateful.
I just want to be enough for these colleges. I’m doing everything in my power to satisfy them.
I just need your help.
Please, PLEASE try to sort through this scrambled list of my thoughts as best as you can, and ask any questions as needed. I will answer anything you ask. I need this resolved or helped more than anything. Counselors and AP coordinators have been of no use.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time in reading, and even more a gratuitous thank-you if you attempt to help me.
I wish you the best.
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Replies to: The EPSO Dilemma - CIE, AP, or Both?

  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    1) AICE is recognized by universities.
    2) you won't be penalized for not taking classes not offered at your school. You do that need to take AP classes/exams.
    3) you WILL be penalized if you don't take the most rigorous AICE curriculum. It means you can't just take the basics for the AICE diploma. You need AICE maths (+ take SAT Subject Math 2 aiming fort 700+ and/or AP calculus AB exam depending on the AICE class you take), General paper, Global, 4 sciences (including bio, chem, Physics), foreign language (AICE 4), Literature and/or philosophy, 3 more AICE social science/history classes.
    4) you will be penalized if you do that get grades of B or higher.
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    I’m taking all AICE programs at my school. That would be the following:
    - Biology 2
    - English Language and Comp
    - General Paper
    - Statistics
    - Travel and Tourism
    - Global Perspectives
    - Environmental Management
    - Thinking Skills (already took this exam, got an A somehow)
    - 2 other math courses I don’t know the name of, I think they’re like precal and cal.

    I did some more research and found that Cambridge A levels are used, but I haven’t seen AS. And I’m only taking AS because we don’t have A level courses at my school. Is that bad or a reason to add some additional AP supplements?
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 74,498 Senior Member
    If you take more than one of AP, IB, CIE, CLEP, etc. exam on the same subject, then you will only get credit for at most one (typically the most favorable one based on your scores for the given college).
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    AP is way below ALevel.
    Check and see whether your school offers any true A levels (not just the AS) as it is better.
    You need to reach level 4 in a foreign language for top universities.
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    edited February 26
    My school only offers AS. My Biology Teacher said A level classes take up to a year and they just don’t do that there. What should I do if I can’t take A level AICE? Should I supplement these As courses with AP since they’re not ‘strong enough’? Or should I only take AP for classes I don’t have an AICE version of? (I.E. U.S. history, French or something)
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    I will note that Vanderbilt is of great interest to me. They pay more attention to A levels.
    Stanford has also sent me a letter regarding my scores on two AP exams. Perhaps then I should either study for Cambridge A level exams or AP?
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    You'll need all the classes I listed. If your school doesn't offer AICE Foreign Language nor AICE us history what level have you reached in French so far and what do honors students/strong students at your school take for US history?
    Wrt ALevels, don't take your Biology teacher's word for it, as s/he may have been talking about Biology only. Ask your GC and/or the program's director: what classes are offered at ALevel (or A2)?
    What's your schedule been so far and what are you thinking of for next year?
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    edited February 26
    My school doesn't offer anything above honors for U.S. history, so that's why I was trying to supplement with AP U.S. history. I'm currently at a level 2 in French (I finished the requirements for that last year at my previous school) and there is nothing I can take at my school that furthers my French education. Will I need to supplement this with an AP class too?

    My schedule is currently the following:
    - AS Biology II
    - AS Eng Lang
    - AS Travel and Tourism
    - U.S. History Honors

    Next year, I'll take:
    - AS Math (I think is the name)
    - AS Math Further (I think is the name)
    (I took AS Stats this year, but the exam will be looped in with the mathematics senior year)
    - AS Eng Lit
    - AS Global
    - AS Environmental Management

    If this seems very limited, I am theorizing it's due to the lesser demand for the programs at my school due to the lower test score averages of the students here, which implies that there's lesser motivation for students to take them.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    AP= French 5. You DO need to take French 3+4 for selective 4-year universities. Ask your GC whether they have a program such as dual enrollement (you'd have to take College French 2 and 3 at a minimum) or online offerings. Reaching level 4 (or AP ie., 5) in a foreign language is a big element in determining whether you challenged yourself intellectually and are ready for these top colleges.

    US history honors is fine.
    AICE Maths/Further Maths is pretty advanced.
    AS English Lit, AS Global, AS Environmental Management are fine.
    But
    - have you taken regular or honors chemistry? regular or honors physics?
    - can you take College French 1 over the summer as a review to prepare for dual enrollment College French 2 in the Fall?

    This year's schedule is fine in terms of rigor EXCEPT you're missing Foreign Language. THat can be made up by taking dual enrollement French at a college.

    Next year's schedule should read something like
    AS Maths/Further Maths
    AS Eng Lit
    AS Global
    regular/honors physics
    Dual enrollment French 2 (Fall) Dual enrollment French 3 (Spring) = at a nearby college, preferably a 4-year
    AS Environmental management

    How are you doing on test prep? Does your school offer SAT or ACT classes? Have you worked through Khan Academy, taken practice tests?
    What are your strongest subjects?
    Is your family Pell-grant eligible (ie., makes about less than 45K if it's you+parents)?
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    edited February 27
    -Are dual enrollment courses applicable to all colleges though? From what I've heard it all varies in terms of what college you go to. I don't want to take a dual enrollment course that's only applicable to, say, the college in which I took it, i.e. Lee university.
    -Yes, I've taken honors chemistry. It was an absolute breeze. This is my problem. I need something more challenging than this. But due to my school's limited funding and even moreso the students that limit themselves, I can't get any better. At least, not that I know of. If you can enlighten me as to where and how I can take advanced level courses that won't already conflict with next year's schedule, I'll oblige.
    -No, I haven't taken any sort of physics. Neither school I went to seemed to offer anything regarding physics other than the basic "physical science" which I don't believe counts.
    -My high school doesn't offer anything above what is required for the state, which is foreign language levels 1 and 2. I don't know where I could get a foreign language course.
    I'd take physics, chemistry, you name it. I just don't know how.
    -As far as ACT/SAT prep, I have been advised to go into it blind at first, get a feel for how each exam works, and then take them as often as possible studying all the way to ensure that I get the score I desire if I haven't already. Tennessee doesn't put a whole lot of emphasis on the SAT for an unknown reason, so I'm even more blind with that than with the ACT. Most people I know estimate that I will score a composite of 30+. I pick up mini tips for the ACT along the way, so I'm not entirely afraid of it. Should I be? My confidence does get the better of me, so I try not to be confident on much. I wasn't confident on the AP psychology exam, got a 5. Felt awful about the AICE thinking skills exam, got an a. Felt pretty good about AP government, got a 4. You see the pattern?
    -A huge issue for me is that I'm a well-to-do generalist, not a specialist. All of this academic stress has really taken both its mental and physical tolls on my body, degrading my interest in subjects. I don't have a specialty, I'm good at everything. Forgive me if that sounds painfully naive, I'm trying to be honest. I'm not really challenged with anything provided I'm given a course for it. With AP exams, though, self studying limits my motivation, and only having 3 months to study for an AP exam I've barely surfaced has left me with 4 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. I try not to limit my capacities and tell myself "nothing is impossible" but this short time frame I've mistakenly given myself to study for the exams really makes me wonder if I can take them.
    -As far as I know, I am eligible for a pell grant. My family is split, dad makes ~40-50,000 a year, mother makes even less. Shes always talking about pell grants and applying for them, but I'm uneducated on the topic. This leads me to assume that I'm eligible based on how much emphasis she puts on it.
    Sorry for the load, I've been extremely stressed the past few days.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    edited February 27
    You do NOT need to take these AP exams so stop putting so much stress aupon yourself.
    You DO need 8 hours of sleep a night to function at full capacity and avoid damaging your brain.

    You're correct, physical science isn't the same as physics and doesn't count.
    Dual enrollment classes are as valuable as AP classes.

    Find a website called FAFSA forecaster. It will tell you the minimum you're expected to pay, per Year, and whether you're eligible for federal financial aid. Then, run the NPC on Vanderbilt (look up " Vanderbilt NPC") then run the NPC on Utk and Rhodes. Most aid comes from the Colleges themselves and only about 80/3,700 "meet need". Choosing the right colleges means balancing the NPC results and your academic results.
    Each college calculates differently but these 3 would give you a first idea of College costs.

    Would you go into an exam without preparing? Then, why would you go into the ACT without preparing?
    (As far as colleges go, Act=SAT, so focus on the ACT for now).
    These tests are full of tricks and traps. The more you practice the better you do.
    Get practice books from your school library such as Princeton review or Kaplan. Get Rebecca melzer's books as well as pwn the act Math.
    If you're aiming for Vanderbilt, a 30 isnt enough. Their bottom25% is 32 ie., a score above 98% test takers. You don't get there without focused practice and, often, tutoring. Kids who score in that range often started practicing sophomore year.
  • KelseyMKelseyM Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    Alright, I guess with my next paycheck I'll purchase some good ACT prep books. I just thought it may be easier than AP or AICE exams, which is why I didn't really want to brush up on it. But I'll purchase some books and study.
    And should I eventually take the SAT in conjunction? Does that test do anything extra the ACT doesn't?
    You sure AS Cambridge is enough to satiate these colleges? On the Cambridge website, many colleges only specify A levels as grounds for matriculation. I know, I know, I'm repeating myself. I just need absolute confirmation. So with Cambridge AS Biology, this is a fitting supplement for AP Biology? Same with Cambridge AS English Language?
    Or should I find some way to advance the knowledge I've already learned in this course with an A level exam or AP exam so that I may have a greater chance? Is it just too much info to study on my own? Or should I just do AP studying on courses that aren't Cambridge? Like AP US History or AP French, since language is so important? Or just DE classes over the summer for those if I can find them?
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    edited February 27
    You don't need to buy the books for now. Borrow them from the library, figure out which ones you'd like to have. The Melzer books are especially clear and we'll done.

    The ACT covers more than the SAT, which is why some colleges that require SAT+ SAT subject tests don't require subject tests from ACT test takers.
    The rest isn't difficult but it requires absolute accuracy at great speed over several hundreds of questions. That's why training ("prepping") is crucial. There are tricks to know ways to build speed and stamina. Each question, on its own, is relatively easy. When you only have 20 or 30 seconds to answer it correctly and you've already answered 145 questions before, it's hard to be accurate. Yet you must get it right in a few seconds, question after question, for several hours.

    That being said, you could take the SAT subject in biology and in US history (instead of self studying for AP, which colleges don't take into account, a 700+ score WOULD count positively for you.)

    You can't take AP French after French 2. It's a "Level 5" class. You need to take dual enrollment or online French. The advantage of dual enrollment French is that a college class would go at twice the speed (at least) of a high school class, so, by taking college French 1 over the summer to review then college French 2+3 next year, you'd have the equivalent of high school French 4. There are summer intensive programs, too, utk may have one, check into it if it's something that might be feasible.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 74,498 Senior Member
    edited February 27
    KelseyM wrote:
    My family is split, dad makes ~40-50,000 a year, mother makes even less.
    MYOS1634 wrote:
    Find a website called FAFSA forecaster. It will tell you the minimum you're expected to pay, per Year, and whether you're eligible for federal financial aid. Then, run the NPC on Vanderbilt (look up " Vanderbilt NPC") then run the NPC on Utk and Rhodes. Most aid comes from the Colleges themselves and only about 80/3,700 "meet need". Choosing the right colleges means balancing the NPC results and your academic results.
    Each college calculates differently but these 3 would give you a first idea of College costs.

    With divorced parents, the OP needs to be careful of colleges that want both parents' finances in the NPC and actual financial aid calculation. See https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/2083835-faq-divorced-parents-financial-aid-and-net-price-calculators.html .

    UTK and (usually) Vanderbilt require the finances of parent you live with. Rhodes requires the finances of both parents.

    Most of the "good financial aid" private colleges do require the finances of both parents.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 40,104 Senior Member
    To understand the process, look up threads where parents or students recount their whole search over 2 years, with results and updates, such as
    - "Help find a college, daughter#2" by lexluthor
    - "which of these schools is not like the others" by allyphoe
    - several threads by toomanyteens
    - "straight up advice for getting into college for the "average excellent" students" and "where do the cool kids go to college?" By lindagaf
    - "I messed up" from last April (2018) by a student
    - look at the results threads for Vanderbilt last spring
    (I can suggest more good "stories" with happy or not so happy or unexpected endings if you wish)
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