British Program Overview


The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is an academically rigorous, internationally used, specialized, English language curriculum which is offered to students to prepare them for International Baccalaureate and CIE A-level (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 in 1985. The examination board Edexcel offers its own version, the Edexcel International GCSE. The term "IGCSE" is the registered trade mark of the University of Cambridge and is used under licence. Recently, Edexcel have renamed their IGCSE as the Edexcel International GCSE.

The IGCSE is an international alternative to many popular national curricula. However, unlike many school-leaving qualifications in many countries, the IGCSE is not a group award or "certificate of education". It is a qualification 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 then 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 American GED or High school diploma, Hong Kong's HKCEE[1] and Singapore's O-Level.[2] or the Indian CBSE or ICSE courses The IGCSE prepares students for further academic study, including progression to AS Level and A Level 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 and flexible study program and 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.

Grading, courseload, and awarding

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 in 1994 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.".[

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

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

  • 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.

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

Recognition and equivalence

The qualification is recognized by many institutions in the world. Many students finishing the IGCSE move on to post-16 study, in preparation for exams such as the A-Levels



United Kingdom

Recognition and accreditation of the IGCSE in the UK is growing. As of now, only Independent schools can easily offer IGCSE subjects, though the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is allowing more use of IGCSE subjects in state-funded schools. Ofqual allows the use of Cambridge IGCSE exams under the name of "Cambridge International Certificates

On 15 February 2009, 16 Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses received Ofqual accreditation. Following that, on 8 June 2010, 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. They are listed on the U.K. National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ). For accreditation purposes, the syllabuses are referenced as "Cambridge International Certificates" in the U.K., although they are known across the world as Cambridge IGCSEs. The IGCSE is offered by two examination boards in the UK, Edexcel have offered their IGCSE since 2009, and AQA have offered their IGCSE since 2011

The UK Government’s School Performance Tables, published in January 2011, included the percentage of students who received the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc). It is awarded to pupils who achieve A*-C grade passes at GCSE, or IGCSE, in maths, English, the sciences, a language, and geography or history. Cambridge IGCSEs were the only IGCSEs to be included in the first EBacc. Cambridge IGCSE Biology, Chemistry, English, French, Geography, German, Greek, Hindi, History, Mathematics and Spanish all count towards the measure. More Cambridge IGCSE subjects will count towards the EBacc next year following their accreditation by Ofqual and subsequent funding in state schools. Over 500 UK schools, including 200 from the state sector and 300 independent schools, offer Cambridge IGCSE in the UK, and it is popular worldwide.


Edexcel offers a large number of GCSE courses. Many subjects are modular, meaning they can be taken at any exam point in the course. For example, in GCSE Religious Studies, candidates can take Paper 1 at the end of year one of study (normally Year 10) and Paper 2 at the end of year two of study. Edexcel also offers non-coursework options on most courses, with increased examination in areas. Edexcel in 2006 revised its GCSE Science courses following the QCDA new criteria - this saw more emphasis on How Science Works and has now incorporated more practical examination, some of which takes place in the classroom. Edexcel also offers a new two-tier Mathematics course, which led to the creation of a popular Modular Course.

In 2006, Edexcel created a new science course, consisting of six multiple choice exams, twelve modules and a practical. It is named Edexcel360 Science. In 2011, this was superseded by a new GCSE Science course.

At GCSE, Edexcel offers both Modular and Linear courses in Mathematics. Many centres favour the Modular course as it is considered to put less stress on students, whilst maximising their potential for success in the subject. Unit 1 is entitled 'Data Handling' and makes up 20% of the aggregate GCSE grade. Unit 2 is entitled 'Number' and makes 30% of the GCSE grade. Unit 3 creates the final 50% of the grade and is entitled 'Algebra'.

GCSEs in the core subjects of English, mathematics and ICT have recently been redeveloped. Teaching of the new GCSE English, GCSE Maths and GCSE ICT qualifications began in September 2010.

International GCSE

Available in over 40 subjects, Edexcel also offers a broad range of International GCSEs, which prepare students for academic and vocational study at level 3, including progression to GCE AS or A levels, BTECs or employment.

All subjects are linear, which means that candidates are assessed by exam at the end of their course. There is no coursework involved in the International GCSE. They are recognised as equivalent, grade for grade, to a GCSE and have the same status in terms of university entry requirements.

These GCSEs are popular with international centres wishing to study a syllabus similar to the English curriculum and are also popular with independent schools in the UK. Many International GCSEs have a distinct international element with content more relevant to students worldwide.

Edexcel International GCSE subjects offered include:

  • Art and Design
  • Business & Economics
  • English
  • Humanities
  • Information and Communication Technology
  • Languages
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences



For more information on British program examinations


Cambridge examinations

Edexcel examinations