IB Math AA and IB Math AI - Which one to take?

May 14, 2021

IBO offers diploma courses on math and these courses are on-demand among students worldwide. Syllabus of IB Math has changed drastically over the years. IB math courses are designed to develop mathematical knowledge along with the logical, analytical, and critical thinking skills of the students. Also, these courses are powerful tools to improve their employment opportunities. Among the IB math courses, the most popular ones are:

  • IB math Analysis and Approaches or AA (SL and/or HL)
  • IB math Applications and Interpretations or AI (SL and/or HL)

SL signifies standard level and HL signifies higher level in these courses. Now, students are often confused about which one is better and which one is right for them. To figure out this, the difference between these two courses must be known. Let's start with the basic difference between these two:


  • IB math AA is about theories of math. Calculus, algebraic expressions, binomials, regression, and many other theories are included in this
  • IB math AI is all about the practicality of maths. This holds the real-life problems, statistics, distribution, and most importantly, the implementation of mathematical concepts in different situations.

Meant For 

  • People who want to go for pure math disciplines should go for IB math AA. 
  • People who prefer practical experience by using bookish mathematical knowledge can go for IB math AI.


IB math AA and IB math AI both include  

  • Number and Algebra
  • Functions
  • Geometry and Trigonometry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Calculus

Hours spend in each of these areas are different for IB math AA and IB math AI. To be more specific, IB math AA is all about theories, and according to the changed syllabus, IB math AA includes more hours than IB math AI for all these areas. Check the details in the table below:

IB math section details


Timing, score, weightage, and number of questions in IB math AA and IB math AI are basically the same. The only difference is calculator is allowed for all the papers of IB math AI. But calculator is not allowed for paper 1 of IB math AA.

Check official sites for: 

IB Math AA and IB math AI - Which one to take? 

Moving on to which one to take, we need to consider different factors. Such as, 

Candidates' Preference: Theoretical or Applied Maths

In case a candidate prefers to acquire more theoretical knowledge they should go to IB math AA. It is classical math and aims at the theories. For core knowledge in math, economics, physics, and engineering, this course will a great help. 

For those who want practical knowledge to start a business or to develop scientific solutions, IB math AI is their selection. To be more specific, this is for those who want to explore what they have learned from the theories. 

University or Work Requirements

Candidates' future plans will play a major role in selecting the diploma course. If your plan is to stay close to the academic segment or want higher studies on that subject itself, you should go for AA math. On the other hand, you should select AI math if your target is fieldwork or you want to take career-oriented courses of the subjects. Check the university and course requirements properly before applying. Simplistically, the career path of the candidate should be the determiner here. In case, you are still uncertain about your career path, you can spend some time figuring it out. 

With or Without a Calculator

As mentioned above, paper 1 of AA math is to be completed without a calculator. Ask yourself whether it will be okay or not. In AI math a graphic calculator is provided which happens to be an advantage to the candidates. So, check before choosing.

Now, the Question is SL or HL? 

The only difference between SL and HL is the teaching hours - SL of both AI and AA has 60 hours. For HL, it is 90 hours. Before choosing, ask yourself whether it's too much or bearable. If you are passionate about maths, only and only then go for the higher level. Otherwise, stick to a standard level. The table below shows the average hours required for each: 

IB math SL vs HL

Wrapping up

IB math AA and IB math AI have different purposes and learning outcomes. The aspirants need to figure out which will be more helpful for them. The basic difference between these 2 courses lies in the teaching approach. AA teaches the theories and AI teaches the implementation of the theories. Candidates can take IB maths tutor by registering with MyPrivateTutor now and get excellent results in IB math.


A blogger turned content editor, Rachita curates the blogs for MyPrivateTutor Thailand. She loves researching and she is fascinated by the unusual facts that come by. Apart from education and e-Learning, she loves to write on sustainable fashion, food, movies, and social media trends. 

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