IGCSE – Everything You Need to Know

All you need to know about IGCSE

IGCSE is the most popular internationally used schooling system. It is academically rigorous English language curriculum.  It is offered to students to prepare them for International Baccalaureate and CIE A-level.

IGCSE is offered in over 120 countries, including India, USA, UK and Singapore, by private schools. IGCSE certificate is recognised by all the major universities and colleges across the world.

Full Form of IGCSE

Full form of IGSE is International General Certificate of Secondary Education.

Difference Between GCSE and IGCSE


GCSE is secondary education qualification awarded in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. GCSEs are taken at age of 15/16 years. GCSEs are taught in the first 2-3 years of high school.


IGCSE means International GCSE. It is for overseas students, whose mother tongue is not English.

What is O level and A level?

O Level

GCSE and O level are the same thing. O level is now called GCSE. A levels are harder than GCSEs.

if 16 year olds want to leave school and get a job, then GCSEs are compulsory. They would need a C grade or higher in math and English language, to get a job.

A Level

A levels are taken age 16-18. A levels are taught and taken in the last 2 years of high school. A levels are taken by students who want to go to university or some other form of higher education. In UK, A levels are not compulsory like GCSEs.

A level can be divided in two parts. The first part is known as A.S. (Advanced Subsidiary). This is first year of A levels. Students generally take 4 A.S subjects. After first year, they generally drop one subject, and continue with rest of the 3 subjects. That is why, at the time of completion, they will have 3 A levels and 1 A.S (half an a level).

Main Characteristics of IGCSE

Strong Foundation- IGCSE helps in identifying student’s strengths and weaknesses at Cambridge primary stage. It develops the strengths right from the Cambridge secondary 1 level. Thus learning and development of the student is much faster seamless.

Global Benchmarking- Since IGCSE is an international programme, Cambridge Primary provides educators a global benchmark to evaluate students’ progress over time. Reporting to parents is also far more structured and comprehensive.

International upto date curriculum- The curriculum is relevant for global audience and culturally sensitive. It includes best quality of teaching material and assessment resources.

Class Structure of IGCSE

Unlike other Indian school boards, IGCSE is not designed as per classes like class 6, 7, 8 etc. However here students are classified as per levels broadly based on their age. Following are main levels in IGCSE

  • Cambridge Primary – 5-11 years
  • Cambridge Secondary 1 – 11-14 years
  • Cambridge Secondary 2 – 14-16 years
  • Cambridge Advanced – 16-19 years

Subjects and Grades of IGCSE

As mentioned in earlier, IGCSE is very different from other Indian boards. Its course structure is very different. It is more rigorous, with emphasis on practical hands-on learning.

IGCSE offers students choice of subjects to choose from. From the list, students are required to take a minimum of 5 or maximum 14 subjects. The core subjects are First Language, Second Language, Science– Physics, Biology and Chemistry and Mathematics. Students can also choose from other subjects like art, design, social science, computer studies, information technology, sociology, economics, business studies etc. For every subject, students are awarded one certificate. Grades are from A to G in the descending order.

For every student to move to next level, he/ she has to get a at least grade C in all core subjects.

Main subjects in different grades are following-

  • Cambridge Primary

  1. English
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science
  • Cambridge Secondary 1

  1. English
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science
  • Cambridge Secondary 2

Choice of 70 subjects. Main subjects are-

  1. Biology
  2. Chemistry
  3. Physics
  4. International Mathematics
  5. Additional Mathematics
  • Cambridge Advanced

Choice of 55 subjects. Main subjects are-

  1. Biology
  2. Chemistry
  3. Physics
  4. Mathematics
  5. Mathematics – Further

Main advantage of IGCSE over other Indian boards

  • IGCSE is recognised by most of the major universities all over the world.
  • IGCSE students can apply to foreign universities wherein CBSE and ICSE board is not recognised.
  • Its curriculum is more advanced and offers variety of subjects to choose from.
  • It gives far more emphasis on English and technical subjects than Indian school boards.
  • It is best suited for global citizens, people who move from one country to other frequently, NRIs, diplomats and people who are planning to move abroad soon.

CBSE, ICSE, IGCSE, IB, State Boards – A Comparison

Main disadvantage of IGCSE as compared to other Indian boards:

  • Fee of IGCSE schools is much higher than CBSE or ICSE board schools (50-200% more)
  • IGCSE schools are only found only in metropolitan cities and Tier-1 cities in India
  • If parents are shifting to other cities or want to switch schools, it would be very difficult
  • Books for IGCSE schools are not easily available in India. However now easy option is to order the same online using several online portals
  • Quality teachers for tuitions are not available. However Vagupu brings the best IGCSE teachers from India and aboard


Vagupu has some of the best online IGCSE Tutors. Book your first free session today

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