What makes IGCSE different than any other secondary education?
IGCSE (International General Certificate for Secondary Education) is the world’s most popular international qualifications for high school students. IGCSE is not only limited to examining the candidates on what they’ve learnt throughout the year, but it expands their knowledge through deep understanding rather than memorising, and practicing a wider variety of questions which are based on the students’ perceiving, comprehending and relating those questions with what they have learnt throughout the course.
What are the various types of assessments present in the exams?
Assessments differ according to the subject, they range from written to oral tests, as well as practical exams and coursework.
What are the subjects available?
You can choose from more than 70 different subjects – from mathematics to English. Your choice of subjects depend on which University and faculty and in which country you are applying into.
What is the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs?
Exams are served through two main exam boards, either CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) which offer IGCSEs or the Pearson Edexcel which offer the GCSEs. Their syllabuses differ to some extent, for example, Edexcel Science Advanced Structured papers do not include a practical paper -which some students prefer- while Cambridge’s exams do. They are both served during 2 months in the year, IGCSEs in May/June and October/November, and GCSEs in January and May/June.
Explaining the curricula:
IGCSEs offer 2 levels of exams, the Ordinary Level (referred to as O-Level) and the Advanced Level (A-Level). The OL offers the basics of a particular subject, you will notice that you may have heard of some of the contents in middle school. The Advanced Level which is divided into two sublevels, the Advanced Structured papers (AS) and the Advanced level 2 (A2), is a much deeper study of the subject. You can take the AS papers without taking the A2, or you can take both and have an AL, but you can not take A2 without AS.
As mentioned earlier, A-Levels are a deeper study of the subject. In some universities, the A-Levels are being taught during 1st 1-2 years of the study. A-Levels will help set your mind on what you want to study in university through exploring the subjects you love. However, do take into account the big jump between O-Levels and A-Levels.
The IGCSE/International GCSE “core” curriculum is suitable for students who expect to achieve grades C to G. An “extended” curriculum offers more challenging content for students aiming for grades A* to C. Take into account which one is required in the country and university you are applying into.
Assessments and grades:
All candidates’ assessments are held centrally in UK. Final grades are dependent on the session’s “curve”. The curve depends on the exam and the academic level of the students sitting for the exam. For example, the A-grade may range from 30-40/40 in June’11 while in June’12 of the same paper in the same subject, it may range from 25-40/40; which only reflects the academic level of the students who sat for that paper/ subject in each session.
Syllabuses and past exam papers are available online as well as a hard copy in schools and certain bookstores. Cambridge/ Edexcel’s books written professionally by examiners are also available for explanation.
The syllabus provides a brief outline of what the student should know for the exam. Books should cover those areas as well as some extra topics which are to be ignored. Tutors prepare some useful notes for students. However, you should always check back the syllabus which is updated every 5 years.
Past exam papers are released by Cambridge/ Edexcel within a few months of the session’s exam, these are helpful for practicing only and not learning the curricula which is a misconception by many students.
Two months before your exams: (British Council’s website: www.britishcouncil.org.eg)
Now is the time to think seriously about your revision timetable. You should:
• check the most up-to-date syllabus for every subject
• find out about the exam (for example, are questions multiple choice or essay-based?)
• prepare a revision timetable.
Some revision tips:
Try to schedule revision for your most productive times during the day. For example, if you feel fresh and alert in the morning, make sure you do most of your studying early. You should also try to:
• prioritise exams that make up a large percentage of a subject’s grade
• take regular breaks to refresh your mind
• use a variety of study tools to revise – including books, audio guides and online video summaries
• highlight important points in your study notes
• ask family and friends to quiz you on each subject
• sit past papers so you get a feel for the questions and timings
• make time for relaxation with family and friends.
A month before your exams:
If you’re a school student, your exams co-ordinator should provide you with a Statement of Entry.
Your Statement of Entry will tell you exactly when your exams are being held so you can make appropriate travel arrangements. You must remember to bring this form with you on exam day.
For more information on what to bring and to view your exam timetables, see ‘Your Exam Day’.
In the meantime, continue with your own revision timetable – but remember to schedule breaks so you don’t get too tired.
Exam quick tips – on the day
So, you have revised and prepared for the big day. Don’t worry if you feel a little nervous – that’s only natural. Follow a few more simple tips to stay relaxed and get the best possible exam results. Try to:
• stay calm and take deep, even breaths
• read the exam paper completely before you start
• plan your time
• move on to the next question if you get stuck
• read the questions carefully and make sure you answer each one properly
• sip fresh water throughout the exam
• check each answer, particularly if you finish early.
For essay questions, remember to structure your answers with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning introduces the essay, the middle explores the topic in more detail and should make up around 75 per cent of the overall word count, and the end concludes or summarises your essay.
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