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. Students begin learning the syllabus at the beginning of year 10 and take the test at the end of year 11. 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.

Subjects and recognition

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. For this reason, it is also a viable option for many home-schooling educators. Its academic worth is comparable to  England's GCSE. 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. Cambridge IGCSE provides a broad and flexible study programme 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.  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. An increasing number of independent schools within the United Kingdom are now offering IGCSEs as an alternative to conventional British GCSEs.

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.  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. 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.

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. 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 (Ofqual) 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". So far, 16 Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses have 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 U.K., 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. The UK Government’s School Performance Tables 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 in future following their accreditation by Ofqual and subsequent funding in state schools. 

Cambridge IGCSE
IGCSE English paper 3 2008
IGCSE English paper 3 2008 Mark Scheme
IGCSE maths syllabus 2011
IGCSE maths paper 1 2008
IGCSE maths paper 1 2008 mark scheme
IGCSE science syllabus 2012
IGCSE science paper 2 2008
IGCSE science paper 2 2008 Mark Scheme
IGCSE English syllabus 2014
IGCSE Art and Design syllabus 2015
IGCSE Art and Design question paper 1 2008
IGCSE Art & Design paper 1 2008 Mark scheme
Edexcel IGCSE
Edexcel IGCSE Business Studies
Edexcel IGCSE French
Edexcel IGCSE history
Edexcel IGCSE religious studies