IGCSE stands for International General Certificate for Secondary Education. It is an international, English language qualification for 14 to 16 year olds. It is recognized by leading universities and employers worldwide. It was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations in 1988. It is based on the GCSE O Level and is recognized as an equivalent and is offered to students in preparation for A Levels. It is an alternative to the national curriculum. However, unlike many school-leaving qualifications, IGCSE is a qualification based on individual subjects of study, the exams test knowledge in individual subjects in the same way Advanced Placement exams and SAT Subject Tests.
IGCSE provides a broad and flexible study program and covers subjects from a variety of areas such as: Languages, Humanities, Sciences, Mathematics, Technical and Vocational. Typically aimed at high school students, IGCSEs can be completed in 3 years, which can be divided over 4-5 exam sessions. Assessment ranges from written tests, oral tests, to practical tests and coursework.
Who administers these exams?
The British Council is mostly responsible for administering these exams and giving licenses to schools to teach the curriculum. The British Council deals directly with the schools’ administrations and in turn, the schools’ administrations are responsible for the teachers, students, as well as parents.
Two examination boards
There are two examination boards that offer IGCSE exams: Cambridge International Examinations and Pearson Edexcel. There are a number of similarities as well as differences between the two boards. Each board offers a number of subjects and in concept, the method of examination is the same. The differences may be in curriculums of certain subjects and examination times. Some subjects are more popular in one board than the other, but that depends on many factors, such as level of difficulty as well as how flexible the board is when it comes to retaking an exam. Edexcel for example, allows its candidates to choose certain papers to retake if their grades are unsatisfactory.
CIE: May/June and October/November sessions
Edexcel: January , May/June and October/November(AS Level and A Level only) Sessions
What makes IGCSE different?
Many argue that what makes IGCSEs very popular is that it teaches students how to think critically and expands their knowledge. Each session, the exam questions are different and they are constructed to test the student’s ability to understand key concepts and correlate different ideas in order to reach an answer. They also test the student’s creative and innovative abilities.
Ability range and grading system
In most subjects, there is a choice between Core and Extended curriculum papers. This allows teachers to decide on the most appropriate level of papers for their students. Typically, the core curriculum is taught to students who attend Pre-IG (grades 8 and 9). The Extended curriculum, which comprises the Core curriculum and the Supplement, has been designed for the more academically able and leads naturally into higher education or professional training, and is typically taught during grades 10, 11, and 12. In a few subjects, the examination covers the complete ability range and there is no choice of curriculum. For these subjects, the full range of grades is available.
|Target Grades||Grades Available|
|Core Curriculum||C D E F G|
|Extended Curriculum||A* A B C D E|
IGCSE, AS Level, A2 Level and A Level?
It is the most basic level of examinations offered by CIE and Pearson Edexcel. A bit more advanced is the AS Level, or Advanced Subsidiary Level. This level is more complex and expands more on the curriculum of the Ordinary Level. A2 is the second part and is more academically rigorous, and together, they form the Advanced Level qualification. Students are able to choose to study only AS Level of subjects or continue to study the A2 Level and complete a full A Level subject.
Grade boundaries and curve
A grade threshold or boundary is the minimum number of marks that a candidate needs to obtain a particular grade in a paper or subject. These thresholds are determined after each examination has been marked. Each year, the examination boards aim to set the threshold in just the right place to ensure that it is no more difficult and no less difficult to obtain that grade than it was in the previous year. Each session, the examination board lowers or raises the threshold of it was found that the questions in a paper have been more difficult or easier than the previous session.
What is required by public universities in Egypt?
IGCSE students applying for joining Public universities must be passing in 8 IGCSE OL Subjects with a minimum grade of C, and subjects must be studied as Extended not as a core curriculum. IGCSE student must provide Tansik Office with a maximum of 5 examinations sessions certificates that he/she has sit in the previous 3 years before applying for Tansik.
For students applying for Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Physical Therapy, they are required to pass A Level Biology with a minimum grade of D. Or 2 AS Level subjects, one must be Biology, and the other can be one of Chemistry, Physics, or Mathematics with a minimum passing grade of D.
As for students applying for Engineering, Computer Science and Fine Arts, they are required to pass A Level Mathematics with a minimum grade of D. Or 2 AS Level subjects, one must be Mathematics, and the other can be one of Physics, Chemistry or Accounting with a minimum passing grade of D.
Please note: Arabic First Language could be accepted as an IGCSE O Level if the student studied the subject as a “First Language” and this must be written in the certificate “First Language Arabic” but it does not exempt any candidate from the Thanaweya Amma Arabic exam.