Some say that they are similar, others say – they are different. So, what they really are? Let’s see!

So, are they similar or different?

The first thing to say is that both GCSE and (I)GCSE syllabuses are very similar. Therefore, they are recognized as equivalent qualifications by top universities, sixth-form colleges, as well as other independent schools and educational institutions around the globe.

For instance, the UK’s “Russell Group” universities (prestigious top 24 research universities, which include Oxford and Cambridge) have confirmed that they do not make any distinction between GCSEs and IGCSEs when it comes to considering students’ previous academic qualifications (e.g. A-Levels and GCSEs/IGCSEs) for an undergraduate study.

Has it always been the case?

Earlier, the major difference between the two qualifications was the fact that with the GCSE syllabus, there was a greater amount of coursework for students to complete, while the IGCSEs were mainly assessed through final exams at the very end of the course. This is because the IGCSEs were initially designed for international students – those who were based overseas or for whom English was not their first language. In part, this is still the case, as the majority of overseas schools and colleges are unable to offer the UK curriculum GCSE and A-Level programmes and as a result offer their equivalent i.e. an International GCSE and an International A-Level).

As a part of the recent education reform, the Department for Education had removed a pile of coursework and so changed the GCSE format. Now students are assessed according to their final grades for the subjects based on the end-of-course exams. Some subjects however remain to have a certain practical element, which students are required to complete: such as science practicals for Science subjects, art portfolio for Art and fieldwork for Geography, for instance. Again this is where the major differences between GCSE & IGCSE syllabuses can be spotted as students following the IGCSE syllabus for Science subjects will find themselves spending less time in the lab than their GCSE peers.

Therefore, the differences between the IGCSE and GCSE exist, though they are minor.

The main differences between GCSEs and IGCSEs:

Exam Dates

GCSE exams happen annually in May-June, with the resits happening in November. IGCSE exams are available in November and January (for some subjects) and also in May-June each year.

The Area

GCSE qualifications are available in the UK and certain schools in a few other countries like Canada, Australia and India. Bearing “I” in the IGCSE is speaking for itself – International General Certificate of Secondary Education. IGCSEs are taken in over 150 countries worldwide.

The Programme Content

GCSE course content has been developed initially for British students, which is reflected in the programme, influencing some subjects like English Literature, History and Geography.
Furthermore, at Cherwell College Oxford, the traditional full-time IGCSE course lasts 1 year, while it takes 2 academic years to complete the Traditional GCSE Course.

IGCSE grading system

IGCSE results used to be traditionally graded from A*-G. However, in June 2017, a 9 – 1 grading system for IGCSEs was introduced in England.

Please note that the A*-G system is still used for the majority of countries, however, the new 9 – 1 grading system is available as an optional basis for schools in certain regions. All International GCSEs (IGCSEs) for Pearson Edexcel are now employing the new 9-point grading scale.

Did you know that at Cherwell College, we offer both IGCSE and GCSE courses? But how do we stand out from the crowd? At Cherwell, we practise the Oxbridge-style tutorial method of teaching, where programmes are delivered via one-to-one tutorials, tutorial pairs and seminars in small groups, which are of great help for students looking to achieve their best results!