Decoding IB Math: Your Roadmap to Picking AA or AI

As an IB Maths Tutor, We talk to students daily to understand their difficulties and challenges. It has always been a challenge to select suitable IB Diploma subjects & to decide which subject to take at HL & which to SL. The challenge becomes more complicated in Mathematics because it has four branches, while other subjects have only two.

Here are four branches of IB Mathematics Courses:

  • IB Mathematics Application & Anylaysis Higher Level (AA HL)
  • Mathematics Application & Analysis Standard Level (AA SL)
  • IB Mathematics Application & Interpretation Higher Level (AI HL)
  • IB Mathematics Application & Interpretation Standard Level (AI SL)
IB Maths AA vs IB Maths AI

IB Maths AA vs IB Maths AI 

Some students want to study Maths at the university level while others want to learn it because of its widespread use as a tool in most other subjects. But none can ignore it. This is the reason IBO has designed all these Mathematics courses. IB Maths AA is mainly designed for Physics, Engineering, high-level Economics, and mathematics students. If you are more interested in the “Why is this theory like this?” question, you should go for AA. While IB Maths AI focuses more on Probability & statistics, it is designed for students studying medicine, Psychology, Chemistry, design, some Economics, etc. If you are more interested in “How to apply this theory” to solve a problem, then you should. Both courses have 80 % external & 20 % internal assessment weightage. 

There are three papers for AA & AI HL and only two for AA SL & AI SL courses. Application and Analysis focuses more on Algebra, Geometry, Numbers and Trigonometry, and Calculus. At the same time, Application and Interpretation discusses Statistics, Probability and Functions more. 

 Number and AlgebraFunctionsGeometry and TrigonometryStatistics and ProbabilityCalculus
IB Maths AA HL2932513355
IB Maths AI HL3942465241
IB Maths AA SL1921252728
IB Maths AI SL1631183919

Source: IB Official Website

But teaching hours are different. Application & Analysis has more hours of teaching than Application & Interpretation. IB Maths AA restricts the use of GDC in paper one, while you can use GDC in all IB Maths AI courses.

How to choose your course IB Maths AA vs. IB Maths AI

As I have already discussed, there are four choices in IB Diploma Maths courses. Students choose one depending on their interests and career options. Before making a choice, we need to understand a few points.

  1. IB Maths AI SL is the easiest course, while IB Maths AA HL is considered to be the most difficult one. If we arrange all the courses in their order of difficulty, it would be like IB Maths AI SL, IB Maths AA SL, IB Maths AI HL, and then IB Maths AA HL.
  2. IBO provides a two-week window to the students. That means you can study a course for these two weeks & make a decision based on your interests, understanding & career goals. It is always difficult to switch a course once you delay your decision.
  3. You can easily switch from a HL course to a SL course. But it is challenging and vice versa. We recommend you keep from Application and Interpretation to Application and Analysis.
  4. Before deciding about your IB DP Maths course, you must have a clear idea about your major study in university. There are some universities which strictly require IB Maths AA HL courses. They do not offer engineering courses to Application and interpretation students. While some offer relaxation. So, students must be clear about their course at the graduation level & university policies before choosing between AA & AI courses. Otherwise, it can hamper their career options.

Selecting IB Maths AA vs IB Maths AI according to difficulty Level

  • If you are very good at Maths, you love to do it, and you also need Maths at the university level, then you should use the IB Maths AA HL course. It is the most challenging course, and you should opt for it only when you have an interest and need both.
  • Suppose you are not interested in Mathematics and are not planning to do any core Mathematics course at the university level. But if you need some understanding, you can opt for the IB Maths AI SL course, which is the easiest. 
  • If you are less interested in the theory part of the subject but love the practical implementation of Mathematical concepts, go for IB Maths AI HL. But before that, you must know about the university policies and whether they accept AI Hl for Engineering & other Maths-based courses. 
  • Sometimes, the university needs an AA course, but you are not interested in a higher-level AA. In this case, the only choice left is Maths AA SL. It can fulfil university requirements & it is relatively easy, too.