There are several options for students who wish to accelerate to college-level learning during their high school years. There are AP classes, there's the IB program, and now there's the AICE Diploma.
If you're not very familiar with the AICE program, never fear; this article will bring you up to speed. We'll cover what the diploma is and how you can get it, as well as the benefits of pursuing the program (including scholarships and college credit).
What Is the AICE Diploma?
The AICE Diploma is an internationally recognized diploma awarded for the satisfactory completion of a series of academically rigorous courses specific to AICE in high school.
It's viewed as a graduation option in some places: it can stand in for the graduation requirements of certain high schools, though most students will likely earn it in addition to their traditional high school diplomas.
The AICE program is also described as an acceleration mechanism, meaning it gets you ready for hard college classes at a more rapid pace than traditional coursework. As with the AP and IB programs, AICE involves studying college-level material before you even graduate high school. You're also more likely to be accepted into honors classes right away when you get to college if you have an AICE (or AP or IB) Diploma under your belt.
The whole AICE program is overseen, ultimately, by a branch of Cambridge University. The classes are hard, and most are offered at two levels: the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level, and the Advanced (A) Level. AS Level classes are one year long and less demanding than their A Level counterparts, which are two years in length.
Classes tend to be narrow and specific in focus; the AICE Diploma entails a very specialized program. In this way, AICE is more like IB than AP, if you're familiar with those two programs. With AICE, there are about 50 subjects to choose from across four different groups: Group 1, Mathematics and Sciences (example: Marine Science); Group 2; Languages (example: Afrikaans); Group 3, Arts and Humanities (example: Hindi Literature); and Group 4, Interdisciplinary and Skills-Based Subjects (example: Thinking Skills).
The AICE Diploma is internationally used and recognized, and it's accepted at many universities all over the world. At many schools, AICE courses will earn you college credits—but more on that when we talk about the benefits of the program.
With AICE's degree of international recognition, this is probably a good idea.
How to Get an AICE Diploma
The initial consideration for students wanting to earn an AICE Diploma is whether there's a school nearby that offers the program. The classes aren't something you can freelance; you must earn the diploma through an approved school. These schools are much more common overseas than in the United States, and much more common in Florida than in any other state. They do exist in the other 49, though.
You can locate the nearest school offering AICE on the Cambridge website. Schools that offer AICE may offer AP and/or IB as well; if you're aiming for a diploma, though, you're going to have to commit to one program in the end. You might be able to get a certificate or two from a second program, but don't count on diplomas from the AICE program and the IB program, for instance. Each diploma program entails a number of classes, and it's not practical to think you could fulfill all the requirements of two programs.
Once you're enrolled in a program, it's time to think about the classes you'll need. Currently, six credits are required for earning the diploma: one credit from the math and science group, one credit from the languages group, one credit from the arts and humanities group, and three credits distributed across the groups any way you want. Optionally, up to two credits may be taken from the interdisciplinary and skills-based subjects group. Your exact options when it comes to classes will depend on which are offered at your school.
Note that these requirements are only valid up through November 2016. Thenceforth, a seventh credit will also be required: one credit from the compulsory core subject, Cambridge AS Level Global Perspectives and Research.
Passing an AS Level exam (corresponding to a one-year course) earns you one credit; passing an A Level exam (corresponding to a two-year course) earns you two credits. You must take all exams with in a 25-month period.
In each subject you can earn an A*, A, B, C, D, or E, or you can fail. Earning an A* is like earning a high A+ in the United States. Earning an E is like earning a C in the United States. Yes, you read that right; each letter grade is more impressive than its American counterpart, with even an E being counted as a passing grade.
Depending on your scores, you can earn the AICE Diploma at Pass level, with Merit, or with Distinction. There are 20 to 60 points awarded per credit. The diploma is awarded at Pass level for 140-249 points, with Merit at 250 to 359 points, and with Distinction with 360 points or more. If you don't earn the diploma, you can still be awarded certificates in the various subjects you took—which may still help you with getting into college or getting college credit.
Imagine if your "to do" list for the AICE Diploma looked this simple.
What Are the Benefits of the AICE Diploma?
There are many ways that earning the AICE Diploma pays off for students. Here are a few of the benefits you should consider if you're looking into the program.
Depending on the college you elect to attend, you can earn up to 45 hours of college credit from the AICE Diploma. Individual course certificates can also earn you college credit if you don't earn the diploma. All this is a function of which college you go to, though; you can check out which colleges around the world recognize AICE at the appropriate Cambridge website.
Schools in the US are much less likely to recognize AICE than AP or IB. Schools within the United States that do recognize AICE tend to cluster in Florida, and AICE is, once again, a more internationally-minded program, with AICE recognition much more commonplace overseas. AICE is recognized at places like Florida State University, Colorado College, University of Oxford, and Qatar University.
In Florida, completing the diploma and 100 hours of community service automatically nets you the Florida Academic Scholarships Award from the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
In Kentucky, you can earn a Kentucky Excellence in Education Scholarship that pays out for each E or higher you score on your exams if you're on free or reduced-price lunch.
There are also various school-specific scholarships at colleges like Mississippi State University, among others—check with individual schools for details.
Preparation for College
AICE is more flexible than IB, allowing students greater choice in the balance of classes they select. If, for instance, a student wants to take four credits in languages and only one in each of the other required categories, that's totally fine. AICE also demonstrates more concern over the amount of time students spend on busywork, remaining committed, by its own declaration, to helping students learn without excessive amounts of homework.
On the other hand, AICE courses are more specific in their focus than AP classes are. AP classes are known for their broad and shallow approach, whereas AICE classes narrow in on particular subjects and drill deep.
In a lot of ways, AICE seems to be a happy medium between these other two college preparatory programs. Plus, according to studies by the University of Florida and University of Virginia, it also appears that AICE Diploma students earn higher GPAs in college than AP or IB students.
All this indicates that it might not be a bad idea to pursue AICE just for the preparedness factor. AICE may be a great option for your education as a whole.
I'm not saying getting your AICE Diploma will definitely make you feel this good—just probably.
AICE is not currently as well known within the US as academic counterparts like AP and IB; however, it has its own definite merits.
The AICE Diploma is overseen by Cambridge University and demands that students fulfill a number of rigorous requirements. It can earn students recognition, credit, and scholarship money if lined up with the proper schools, and it's also an excellent way to further your education all around.
To continue reading about AICE, including suggestions for when to AICE over AP or IB, check out our complete introduction to AICE.
If AICE doesn't sound like your cup of tea, head on over to our discussion of AP and IB and see which of those might be more appealing to you.
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Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.