What is the IGCSE and why is it the right choice for your child?

GIIS communications team
Oct 22, 2020
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Many parents are interested in the IGCSE program for their children. They hope to build a solid foundation, especially during their nursery school and secondary school years. Learning programmes that focus on mental, physical, and emotional development are necessary for today's competitive environment.

Let us delve into what the IGCSE is and the benefits of the program for your child:

What is the IGCSE?

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education, also known as the IGCSE, is based on the British curriculum, or GCSE, but adapted for an international audience. It is an excellent content-rich programme committed to preparing 14-16-year-olds for future university studies, no matter where they are in the world.

The program is mostly exam based and is assessed through an exam board chosen by the school, including Cambridge Assessment International Education and Edexcel.

The IGCSE Curriculum

With a focus on inclusive international education, students can choose from a range of 70 subjects and 30 languages. It encourages students to continue learning in their native language while continuing to learn. Core and Extended curriculum papers allow students to appear for papers based on their ability levels.

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Let us look at the subject groups offered:

Under IGCSE, students are offered five subject groups which are as follows:

Group 1 – Languages – (First, second or foreign)

Group 2- Humanities and Social Sciences (English Literature, Geography, History)

Group 3 – Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)

Group 4 – Mathematics

Group 5 – Creative, Technical and Vocational (Music, Business Studies, etc.)

All 70 subjects of the programme are divided into these five core groups. Schools do not offer all 70 subjects and parents should discuss the options with the admission counsellor for a better understanding.

Support for Teachers

Some of the materials that the teachers use to provide support to students include:

● Textbooks

● Standard booklets with responses 

● Work and lesson plans

● Resources that support teaching 

● Providing materials for exam materials. It includes mark schemes, previous examination papers, examiner reports, and statistics of results by grade and subject. It allows schools and teachers to understand their classrooms, individually and collectively, before the final assessment.

How is the IGCSE different from the GCSE?

Wondering what the differences are between the IGCSE and the GCSE? 


IGCSE sets up the curriculum in a more internationally focused context. In the IGCSE program, they will learn map skills based on another country or continent.

GCSE students will practice map skills based on United Kingdom maps in geography class. It also provides a diverse range of different subjects, specifically languages, to be as flexible as possible to a school's need to meet local requirements.

Practical coursework is not mandatory in the IGCSE programme. IGCSE takes into account the possibility of hurdles or difficulties that educators and administrators could face.

For example, a field trip for teenage girls may not be possible in some orthodox countries.

GCSE programme requires practical coursework to complete the final exam.

The IGCSE programme uses a G to A* scale.

The GCSE programme is typically graded on a 1 to 9 scale.

Depending on the subject at hand, there are often more topics covered in the IGCSE programme.

For example, in mathematics, demanding topics like integrations and sets are included in the programme.

In the GCSE programme, 6 main topics are covered in mathematics.

Topics like number, algebra, ratio & proportion, geometry & measure, probability and statistics.

In the end, there is virtually no difference between the two programs when it comes to how secondary schools and universities value them.

What are the various exam boards and do they matter?

The two primary exam boards offering the IGCSE programme are the Cambridge Assessment International Education and Edexcel. It is usually up to individual schools to choose the exam board. While the content remains the same, it is the exam format that varies.

The Cambridge exam board has four separate papers for the geography subject, while the Edexcel exam board has a three-hour exam. Universities typically don't place any weight on which exam board is used and regard a high exam grade in either board as a success.

Does the IGCSE program lay a good foundation for the IB diploma program?

The IGCSE programme prepares students for future international studies, like the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program and entry into international universities.

Teachers of some subjects, especially the sciences, find that students who have taken part in the IGCSE program have an excellent understanding of foundational concepts.

The IGCSE program lays the foundation for the IB diploma programme. It is an excellent platform for the IB diploma program when it comes to content. Schools tend to differ when it comes to how they manage the balance of knowledge and 21st-century skills.

Why is the IGCSE programme suitable for children?

There are many advantages to choosing the IGCSE programme. Let us look at them: 

● Student-centric approach: The IGCSE programme is accessible to almost all ability levels since the curriculum is differentiated in terms of difficulty level. It is designed to meet the needs of the most advanced and able students, as well as those who find academics challenging. Teaching methodologies and practices are designed to enhance every child’s learning. 

● Learning is inquiry-based: One of the most outstanding aspects of the programme is that it encourages curiosity in every child. The focus is on real-life experiences, exploration and expression. Children are encouraged to ask questions, and research answers to help them develop a deeper understanding of their communities and the world, at large. 

● Rigorous assessments: Most children, and even parents, find the assessments to be fair. They are also flexible as the focus is not on what the child has mugged up. It is on how well the child understands concepts. 

● Yearly assessments: Since the assessment takes place at the end of the course or year, the programme enables students whose first language is not English more time to learn throughout the course of the programme before demonstrating what they have learned at the end. The IGCSE program is an excellent option if your child has strengths in assimilating knowledge and showing their knowledge in exams. 

● Recognised by significant universities across the world: Many universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and several other countries recognise the certificate. In the absence of a local degree, diploma or certificate, the IGCSE results are taken into account to offer university placement.

● Helps with job placement: Many employers recognise the IGCSE background of candidates, giving them a preference. This advantage may come later in life for many students, but it is a huge advantage for students looking to start jobs early. Students can hope to get exciting opportunities at Fortune 500 companies. 

● A community worldwide: Since the IGCSE programme is usually opted for by international school students, students have access to a global community. Children learn the skills to be inclusive and develop empathy for different kinds of people and cultures. It builds a truly global outlook while helping each child become part of a more comprehensive and diverse global community. 

Understanding your child

There are many advantages to choosing the IGCSE programme. But, parents need to understand the demand of the curriculum and a child’s abilities when finalising the course of study. Let us look at a few questions that a parent should ask themselves: 

Where do your child's strengths and weaknesses lie?

Is your child very knowledgeable in a particular subject? Are they naturally curious and would benefit from the learner-centric curriculum of IGCSE? Would probably excel in a content-based exam, or are they more comfortable with practical assessments? What is their ability to pave themselves through a diverse range of different subjects and types of projects or tasks?

Does your child have a clear idea of what and where they would like to study?

If yes, they should look at the requirements of their future educational institute. If the IGCSE programme is recognised, it could be a great asset to their application portfolio.

How well does your child excel in the subjects offered?

A child may be excellent in physics but may not enjoy chemistry. It is to counter the unique interests of children that IGCSE provides a wide choice of subjects. Children can choose a combination of mathematics, design, and geography if these are the three subjects that interest them. However, parents and teachers can guide the children on the subject combination to best suit future goals. 

If your child switches between programmes or changes schools, there will likely be some gaps in their knowledge or skills. It is essential to speak with the admission counsellor or teachers before the new academic year starts to identify gaps in skills or knowledge.

The Bridge program at the Global Indian International School helps with the transition from one school to another. You can contact us to know the advantages of the programme and how we can help your child adjust and learn.


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GIIS communications team

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