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IGCSE vs GCSE: Which should you take?

IGCSE vs GCSE: Which should you take?

Wish to send your child for an overseas education but wondering which is the best way to go? 

In this article, we'll be taking a closer look at the two of the most popular Cambridge qualifications, commonly known as IGCSE and GCSE.

What is GCSE

Whether you reside in or outside the United Kingdom, you’ve probably heard of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) system. Simply put, GCSEs are subject-based academic qualifications that most students in the UK complete towards the end of their mandatory schooling, usually around age 16 or in the 11th year of school.

What is IGCSE

In short, IGCSE is the equivalent of the traditional GCSE without the UK-centric curriculum or context. The IGCSE was designed to make the GCSE qualification more globally relevant and was conceived in 1988, just two years after GCSEs made their debut. In 2021, approximately 240,000 students from 146 different countries earned IGCSE qualifications.

In essence, IGCSEs and GCSEs are strikingly similar, with IGCSE being recognised as the international counterpart of the GCSE. While both are usually pursued by teenagers around age 16, there's no age limit for either qualification, meaning people of all ages can take them, whether they're younger or older.

Key differences

  Cambridge IGCSE Cambridge GCSE
Curriculum Developed by Cambridge Assessment International Education with a global perspective. Available in over 150 countries, including the United Kingdom. Developed by Cambridge Assessment International Education with a United Kingdom-centric perspective. Available in the United Kingdom only.
Recognition Widely recognised and accepted by universities and employers globally. Mainly recognised by universities and employers only in the United Kingdom.
Subjects Offers a wide range of subjects, typically ranging from 70 to 80 subjects across various disciplines, allowing students to choose based on interests. Provides a more international array of subjects. Offers up to 60 subjects across various disciplines. However, most schools only offer up to 20 subjects at a time.
Assessment Written exams, coursework, practical assessments, and oral examinations, depending on the subject. Written exams, and coursework. Unlike IGCSE, more GCSE subjects have coursework as a core component.

A*(highest) to G (lowest)

9 (highest) to 1 (lowest)
Exam Period November/January
(*Some additional subjects in May/June)
(*Maths & English can also be sat in Nov)

Which is harder

The answer mainly lies in students’ strengths and preferences. While one student may possess stronger exam-taking skills, another may find coursework more manageable.

The difficulty between GCSE and IGCSE varies based on the assessment methods and subject choices. IGCSE places a strong emphasis on diverse assessment methods, including written exams, coursework, and practical assessments, while GCSE relies more on written exams and coursework. Additionally, the specific subjects chosen can significantly impact the perceived difficulty, as some subjects may have more demanding content or require different skill sets, making them more challenging for individual students.

Which should your child take

So, should your child take IGCSE or GCSE?

It’s important to note that this question is relevant only if your child resides in the United Kingdom and wishes to gain admission into institutions of higher education within the country.

If you’re staying outside of the United Kingdom, taking IGCSE would be your only option here. Alternatively, you can consider taking either the IGCSE or the Cambridge GCE O Level.

Let Geniebook help you get there

With over 220,000 students and parents worldwide, Geniebook’s powerful suite of personalisation learning products has helped countless students achieve their academic goals. Be it getting into their dream secondary school, or scoring high on international exams such as the IGCSE and International Mathematics Olympiad.

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