A Brief History of the IGCSE

In 1988 GCSEs were examined for the first time in the UK replacing the old O Level (or Ordinary Level) and CSE qualifications. The GCSEs brought with them an end to 100% final examinations and introduced the concept of coursework, where a student’s work throughout their study counts to their final mark. However, the British examination boards had also been setting exams for former British dependencies which, due to their education infrastructure, still need qualifications assessed by final examination. As a result, the IGCSE qualification was born to meet this market. Over the next two decades IGCSEs spread across many other countries, over 120 at the last count. In the UK IGCSEs were adopted as the qualification of choice in the private schools. 

In 2010 the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced that state schools would be able to offer IGCSEs (International GCSEs) from September 2010. As more and more people sit IGCSE This raises some important questions

  • ‘What’s the difference between a GCSE and an IGCSE?’
  • Are IGCSEs and GCSEs accepted as equivalent
  • What are the advantages of IGCSEs
  • Where can I sit an IGCSE exam as a private candidate

What’s the difference between a GCSE and an IGCSE?

IGCSEs are now offered by three of the principal examining boards in the UK  CambridgeEdexcel and AQA. These 3 all work hard at making sure that the IGCSE and the GCSE are aligned in difficulty.

Whilst at various points the IGCSE has been considered the harder and more rigorous of the qualifications since 2018 they have been very similar indeed as GCSEs and IGCSEs have both migrated from A* to G grading system to the 9 to 1 grading system.

Many employers had criticised the A*-C grade GCSEs qualification as lacking in challenge for more able pupils. With more and more students achieving A grades, the GCSE exam is was widely perceived as getting easier and easier, and lacking an ‘absolute standard’. 

So as a result of recent changes it is safe to say that the only real difference between the GCSE and the IGCSE is in their respective methods of assessment.

Where can I sit my IGCSEs

Candidates can sit IGCSE examinations all over the world. Oxford Home Schooling has chosen to use Edexcel as its preferred examination board as it has the most UK based centres for private candidates. In the last 2 years, Oxford Home Schooling students have sat their IGCSE in over 600 different locations in the UK alone. In 2019, UK students entered for more than 135,000 IGCSE exams with the Edexcel exam board.

Where can I study for IGCSE qualifications?

Whilst IGCSEs are the qualification of choice in many private schools, you can also study IGCSE with distance learning colleges like Oxford Open Learning and Oxford Home Schooling.

What are the advantages of studying IGCSEs?

IGCSE qualifications are ideal for those wanting to study for national qualifications by distance learning. Without all the administrative problems that encumber GCSE coursework, IGCSEs offer a practical way forward for those studying at home as the assessment is by written exam at test centres worldwide. If you need qualifications to go to college or university, apply for a professional or vocational course, or need, for example, Maths or English GCSE or IGCSE to apply for a job, then IGCSEs will help you achieve your goal. At the Oxford Home Schooling we offer a wide range of GCSE and IGCSE courses.