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What are IGCSEs?

by Adeline

IGCSEs are the international version of the General Certificate of Secondary Education, and are a qualification for 14 to 16 year olds — they are not the latest Apple gadget, even it may seem like it when we see it written “iGCSE”. The most  common type of IGCSEs are the ones that were developed by Cambridge Assessment International Education over 30 years ago, and are being used in schools throughout the world. Examinations boards such as Edexcel and AQA also offer their own version of the International GCSEs.

 

They work in the same way as GCSEs in that the qualifications are based on individual subjects: a student receives an IGCSE qualification for each subject, and may choose to take a mix of IGCSEs and GCSEs. There is a choice of over 70 IGCSE subjects, including 30 languages, and schools can offer them in any combination. The Cambridge IGCSE curriculum claims to offer “a variety of routes for learners with a wide range of abilities, including those whose first language is not English”, and to develop “learner knowledge, understanding and skills in:

  • Subject content

  • Applying knowledge and understanding to new as well as unfamiliar situations

  • Intellectual enquiry

  • Flexibility and responsiveness to change

  • Working and communicating in English

  • Influencing outcomes

  • Cultural awareness”

 

One of the strengths of the IGCSE is that “the syllabuses are international in outlook, but retain a local relevance”.

Who are the IGCSE providers?

They are offered internationally as well as in some schools in the UK. Independent schools are more likely to offer them than state schools, especially since the Department of Education excluded IGCSEs from its performance measures after the introduction of the new GCSEs: “in the year in which a reformed GCSE subject is first examined, the equivalent IGCSE subject will be removed from Key Stage 4 performance tables” (Cambridge International).

 

As schools are evaluated thanks to these performance measures, or “league tables”, this is likely to discourage them from offering IGCSEs. This has been a controversial choice, especially since the inclusion of IGCSEs in the performance measures only dated back to 2014 (Department for Education). If you are interested in reading more about “the sage of IGCSEs”, Fiona Millar wrote a detailed article in the Guardian: “The IGCSE: if it’s good enough for Eton, why not for our local schools?”.

How do IGCSEs compare to standard GCSEs?

Both have a system of tiering, with Foundation and Higher Tiers for GCSEs corresponding to Core and Extended IGCSEs and allowing to take into account pupils of differing abilities. Overall, IGCSEs are often seen as more challenging than GCSEs. However, with the reform of GCSEs, IGCSEs and GCSEs have come closer: Cambridge indeed claims that their “IGCSE qualifications were a benchmark for the design of the reformed GCSE in England”, and notes that “The content of reformed GCSE and Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses has extensive overlap, though Cambridge IGCSE will remain distinct from GCSE, offering an international choice to schools around the world” (Cambridge IGCSE standards and GCSE).

 

More recently, there has been debate as to whether IGCSE are actually easier: arguments have been made on both sides: Exam reforms boost private pupils in race for universities vs. IGCSE just as robust as ‘gold standard’ GCSE, say independent schools. I would be curious to hear our tutors’ and students’ thoughts on this, but I suspect the debate would not be easy to settle.

Our qualified IGCSE tutors have been hand-picked by teaching experts (our longest-standing, most successful tutors, some of whom are PGCE qualified teachers) in our thorough selection process

 

We offer five varied tuition rates to suit all budgets, with prices depending on the tutors' qualifications and their total number of hours of private tuition or classroom teaching experience. 

Let us find you an IGCSE tutor to inspire your child! Contact us today.

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