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IGCSE vs GCSE: 5 Differences You Should Know in 2024

Updated: Apr 22

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) are two qualifications that are taken at the end of Year 11 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by students.

In Scotland many schools use the Scottish Qualification System instead. Students take these exams at the age of 16. This used to be the school leaving age in the UK but this was raised to 18 in 2015. 

While both qualifications cover similar subject areas and both are accepted by universities and employers, there are some differences. 

1. Exam Board

The main difference between the GCSE and IGCSE is the exam board that administers the exams and awards the qualifications.  The GCSE is administered by UK based exam boards such as AQA, Edexcel and OCR whilst the IGCSE is administered by international exam boards such as Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and Pearson Edexcel. 

2. Course Content

Both qualification cover similar subjects such as English, mathematics, science and humanities. However the IGCSE tends to have a more global focus and may cover topics which are more relevant to international students.

For example the IGCSE History may have a greater emphasis on world history whilst the GCSE may focus more on British history, or world history from a British perspective, although this differs by exam board syllabus. 

3. Assessment Methods

Both GCSE and IGCSE have varying assessment methods. The GCSE typically assesses through a combination of exams and coursework in some subjects (although the inclusion of the coursework element has frequently changed over recent years).

The IGCSE offers coursework as part of the assessment in some subjects, but also offers an extra ' alternative to coursework' paper in some subjects which allows International Students to sit the exams fully.

4. Grading System

Another key difference is the grading system. The GCSE now uses a numerical grading system with grades ranging from 9-1 with 9 being the highest grade. The IGCSE uses a letter based system with grades ranging from A* - G with A* being the highest. A grade C at IGCSE is roughly equivalent to a grade 4 at GCSE. 

5. Recognition

Both the GCSE and IGCSE are recognised by universities and employers in the UK and around the world. However, the IGCSE may be more widely recognised internationally and is taken by students in over 160 countries. 

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