International General Certificate of Secondary Education

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The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is an English language curriculum offered to students to prepare them for International Baccalaureate, A Level and BTEC Level 3 (which is recommended for higher-tier students). It is based on the GCE O-Level and is recognised as being equivalent to the GCSE. The IGCSE was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations. The examination board Edexcel offers its own version, the Edexcel International GCSE. Most Students begin learning the syllabus at the beginning of year 10(Grade 9) and take the test at the end of year 11(Grade 10).

The IGCSE is an international alternative to many national curricula, IGCSE qualifications are based on individual subjects of study, which means that one receives an "IGCSE" qualification for each subject one takes. For this reason, schools worldwide have different expectations about how many IGCSEs students should take. Typical "core" curricula for IGCSE candidates include a First Language, Second Language, Mathematics and one or more subjects in the Sciences. IGCSE candidates can choose a number of additional courses ranging from Social Sciences to Creative Arts.

The IGCSE is predominantly exam-based, meaning they are not actual certified "courses", but rather exams that test knowledge in individual subjects in the same way as Advanced Placement exams and SAT Subject Tests. For this reason, it is also a viable option for many home-schooling educators or in Adult education, when one is seeking a qualification but has no time to attend full-time school classes.

Its academic worth is comparable to many secondary school curricula worldwide, such as England's GCSE, the North American GED or high school diploma, Hong Kong's HKCEE,[1] Singapore's O-Level,[2] and the Indian CBSE or ICSE courses. The IGCSE prepares students for further academic study, including progression to A Level and BTEC Level 3 study, Cambridge Pre-U, IB Diploma Programme and other equivalents. It is recognised by academic institutions and employers around the world and is considered by many institutions as equivalent to the standard GCSE.

Cambridge IGCSE provides a broad study program that covers subjects from a variety of areas: Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Creative, Technical and Vocational. Most IGCSE subjects offer a choice of tiered examinations: Core or Extended papers (in Cambridge), and Foundation or Higher papers (in Edexcel). This is designed to make IGCSE suitable for students with varying levels of ability. In some subjects, IGCSE can be taken with or without coursework. Cambridge IGCSE allows teaching to be placed in a localized context, making it relevant in different regions. It is intended to be suitable for students whose first language may not be English and this is acknowledged throughout the examination process.

Cambridge IGCSEs are studied in more than 70 subjects by students in over 120 countries and regions worldwide.


The IGCSE is often considered to be more similar to the older O-Levels qualification than to the current GCSE in England, and for this reason is often argued to be a more rigorous and more difficult examination.[3] Up until recently, most schools offering the IGCSE were private International Schools for expatriate children around the world. However, an increasing number of independent schools within the United Kingdom are now also offering IGCSEs as an alternative to conventional British GCSEs for international IGCSE subjects on the supposed basis that it is more challenging than the national curriculum.[4]

It's use is most widespread in International school as the Curricula can be adopted for most national circumstances.[5]

Grading, courseload, and awarding[edit]

The IGCSE is graded on an 8-point scale from A* to G with a 9th grade "U" signifying "Ungraded". This measure of grading is also found in the UK GCSE. Previously, the "A*" grade in the GCSE did not exist, but was later added to recognise the very top end of achievement. In the case of Further Mathematics an extra A^ grade was added for students that can "demonstrate sustained performance in higher-level maths skills such as reasoning, proof and problem-solving.".[6]

International schools around the world normally allow students to study anywhere from 5 to 14 IGCSE subjects. Like the situation in the English Baccalaureate, 5 core subject passes at C or above is the minimum required.[7]

The Cambridge examination board offers an ICE (International Certificate of Education) group qualification for candidates who achieve 7 subject passes A*-C across the following groups:[8]

  • Group I: Languages
  • Group II: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Group III: Sciences
  • Group IV: Mathematics
  • Group V: Creative, Technical and Vocational

The ICE is awarded in three grades: Distinction, Merit and Pass. It requires 2 passes in Languages, and one pass in every other group whilst the seventh subject be in any group to be qualified for an award.

In addition, to award top candidates with the uppermost achievement, Cambridge awards "Outstanding Achievement Awards" in the categories of "top in country", and "top in world" for each subject.[9][10]

Recognition and equivalence[edit]

The qualification is recognized by institutions in the world. Many students finishing the IGCSE move on to post-16 study, in preparation for exams such as the A-Levels.[11] or international baccalaureate. It also allows further vocational education and is often considered the baseline for employment.

United Kingdom[edit]

As of now, only independent schools can easily offer IGCSE subjects, though in 2013 the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) allowed more use of IGCSE subjects in state-funded schools. Ofqual allowed the use of Cambridge IGCSE exams under the name of "Cambridge International Certificates".[12] However for 2017 the government decided to exclude iGCSEs from official performance tables, and consequentially entries from state schools have fallen.[13]

So far, 16 Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses received UK government accreditation. Following that, the UK government announced that the 16 accredited Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses would also be funded in state-maintained schools. Since then Cambridge IGCSE German and Spanish have also been accredited and funded, taking the total number of accredited and funded Cambridge IGCSEs to 18. For accreditation purposes, the syllabuses are referenced as "Cambridge International Certificates" in the UK, although they are known across the world as Cambridge IGCSEs. The IGCSE is offered by two examination boards in the UK, one being Edexcel, and the other one being AQA.[14]

United States[edit]

While the number of North American schools offering the IGCSE remains small, some homeschooling educators are said to be choosing the IGCSE instead of a typical North American high school curriculum. According to many of these educators, the IGCSE curriculum may be more advanced than a typical North American secondary school course by at least one year.[15]

The bi-national, jointly-funded US-UK Fulbright commission under the United States' Fulbright Program suggests that GPA conversions[clarification needed] can be done to allow for the differences between the GCSE (8-point) and US (5-point) grading scales.

Though this equivalence between an IGCSE and a US high school diploma exists and there are US colleges and universities which accept IGCSEs for admission,[16] the Fulbright commission advises students who have completed their IGCSEs at 16 to take the GED test as well, if they plan to directly enter North American universities without holding post-16 qualifications, such as the IB Diploma, A-Levels and BTEC Level 3 qualifications.[17]

Singapore & Malaysia[edit]

The IGCSE Board is predominantly used in international schools, while other schools offer it as an alternative to 'O'Level Exam.[18].


The IGCSE exams are conducted in the months of February (India only), May and October every year, the exam papers are sent to the United Kingdom to be marked and the results are released in May, August and January respectively. There is an exam fee for every subject taken, the cost may vary depending on the country in which the test was taken in.


The board has been criticized for inconsistent marking of tests, with graded results often being out of line with predicted results.[19]


  1. ^ "Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority - HKCEE". 2011-11-30. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  2. ^ "Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board - GCE O-Level General Information". 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  3. ^ "UK | Education | Q&A: GCSE v IGCSE". BBC News. 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  4. ^ "Private schools dump GCSEs in favour of old-style O Levels | Mail Online". 2006-08-09. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  5. ^ "Facts and figures". Retrieved 2018-08-25.
  6. ^ "New maths IGCSE may lead to 'super A*', experts say". Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  7. ^ "The English Baccalaureate - Schools". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  8. ^ "Cambridge ICE". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  9. ^ "Press releases". Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  10. ^ Saleem, Samia. "High achievers: On top of the (Cambridge) world – The Express Tribune". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  11. ^ "Cambridge IGCSE recognition". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  12. ^ "Accreditation requirements of 'IGCSE' qualifications for pre-16 students". Ofqual. 2012-10-09. Archived from the original on 2013-03-08. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  13. ^ Robertson, Alix (10 August 2017). "iGCSE results will not be published this year". Schools Week. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  14. ^ "IGCSE Papers". London Science Tutors. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  15. ^ "Homeschool World - Articles - A Higher Standard of Excellence - Practical Homeschooling Magazine". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  16. ^
  17. ^ = July 2015
  18. ^ . Edxcel Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ RSA. "The iGCSE debacle; who's suffering, who's responsible? - RSA".

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