What is IGCSE?

(Welcome! We are here to help you to score A* in your Cambridge IGCSE exams and success in your life. However, we are not CIE (Cambridge International Examinations). If you would like to get your certificate or check your results, please write to CIE directly.)

IGCSE is the abbreviation of International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is world most popular international certification for end of secondary school (equivalent to O-Level, UK GCSE, fifth form or year 11 in respective countries and schools), before one proceeds to Advanced Level (A-Level or sixth form or year 12&13) or pre-university studies.

IGCSE was developed by Cambridge International Examinations (previously known as University of Cambridge International Examinations), in short CIE, in 1988. University of Cambridge has been the UK local examination board since 1858. The term “IGCSE” is a registered trademark of University of Cambridge. Generally, when one mentions IGCSE, it is understood as the Cambridge IGCSE from the CIE board.

The IGCSE curricula is often considered more similar to O-Level rather than the UK national curriculums GCSE. Thus, the basis of the examination is also considered more challenging and rigorous.


Many universities worldwide require a combination of Cambridge International A Levels and Cambridge IGCSEs to meet their entry requirements. For example, leading US and Canadian universities require Cambridge International AS & A Levels, but some US and Canadian colleges and universities will accept learners with five Cambridge IGCSEs at grade C or above.

In the UK, Cambridge IGCSE is accepted as equivalent to the GCSE. Many UK universities look at Cambridge IGCSE grades, as well as predicted grades for Cambridge International A Level, when making admissions decisions.

IGCSE is also popular among homeschoolers, and adult students. Though IGCSE is being taken by students typically in the age group 14-16 (or 15-17 depending on primary 1 entry age), it also allows students from alternative education and adult students to sit for the exam and continue personal education advancement at any age.

Some homeschooling educators in the US are choosing IGCSE as oppose to the standard American high school curriculums, because it is said to be a year (or more) advanced than the standard American high school course.


IGCSE offers more than 70 subjects. Students are required to take a minimum of 5 or maximum of 14 subjects. The core subjects are English, Mathematics and Sciences. Students can also choose other subjects ranging from Social Sciences (commonly Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Sociology) to Arts & Technology (commonly Computer Studies, Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Art & Design).

Student is awarded with one IGCSE certificate on each subject. If you take 5 subjects, you will be awarded 5 IGCSE certificates. The number of subjects need to be taken is varied from school to school, and also depends upon individual preference.

Cambridge IGCSE subjects

Regularly updated and extended, Cambridge IGCSE provides you with a wide range of well-resourced and supported courses.



The IGCSE is graded from A* to G, with U stated as “Ungraded”. Students are required to obtain minimum grade C for the 5 core subjects in order to proceed to the next advanced level or further education. IGCSE grading overview is as below:

Difference between IGCSE Core and IGCSE Extended

To take account of differing abilities, there is a choice between Core and Extended curriculum papers in most subjects. This allows teachers to decide on the most appropriate level of papers for their students.

The Core curriculum in each subject is within the ability range of a large majority of students. It provides a full overview of the subject and is targeted at students expected to achieve grades C to G.

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. It is targeted at those expected to achieve grades A* to E. The Supplement describes the extra topics or depth which must be added to the Core to produce the Extended curriculum.

Students need not enter for the same level of curriculum in all subjects.

Target Grades Grades Available
Core Curriculum C D E F G
Extended Curriculum A* A B C D E

The overlap of three grades (C, D and E) is designed to accommodate students who perform either better or worse than their teachers expect. Students who fail to meet the minimum satisfactory standard for either the Core curriculum (Grade G) or the Extended curriculum (Grade E) will be ungraded.

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.

Group Award - Cambridge ICE

The Cambridge ICE certificate is a group award designed for schools that want to offer a broad curriculum. Candidates enter and sit for a minimum of seven subjects selected from the five IGCSE curriculum areas:

    Group 1 – Languages
    Group 2 – Humanities and Social Sciences
    Group 3 – Sciences
    Group 4 – Mathematics
    Group 5 – Creative, Technical and Vocational

Cambridge ICE is awarded to candidates who pass in at least 7 (seven) Cambridge IGCSE subjects, including two from Group 1 and one from each of Groups 2 to 5. The seventh subject may be chosen from any of the syllabus groups.

Candidates who qualify for the Cambridge ICE award will be placed in one of three categories:

Distinction – Grade A or better in five subjects and grade C or better in two subjects.
Merit – Grade C or better in five subjects and grade F or better in two subjects.
Pass – Grade G or better in seven subjects.


Visit our IGCSE Recommended Books, IGCSE Past Exam Papers, and online classes to get the most out of this site for your education advancement.

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1,643 thoughts on “What is IGCSE?

  1. Hi,
    I’m supposed to be choosing my IGCSE subjects soon and I was wondering, should I take subjects for what I want to study or go for a variety to keep my options open? I am pretty positive of what I want to study in the future but many people recommend I take a variety. Also, if my options don’t allow me to get the ICE Award, should I still go with them?

    • Hi Fifa,

      We’d advise you to choose the subjects based on what YOU want to study in the future (and not what people want). Perhaps, you can let us know what you planned to study in the future so we can provide better suggestions.

      As for ICE Award, while it’s good to have, it’s not a necessity. Though, you will want check with the university you want to apply for whether or not they need ICE Award. If they require the ICE Award, then you’ll have to obtain one. You can read more here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-cambridge-ice/

      ICE Award is usually more popular in the US or South America. Unless you wish to study in the US or South America, ICE Award may not be that important.

  2. Dear IGCSE center,
    i am Noura from the UAE and I have a test about speaking and I want to practice ,and i want to know how can I search for a past paper (card)to practice

  3. My school only allows a maximum of 10 subjects n I’m going to choose on Wednesday but I can only do 9 and I struggling to choose between geography and economics because I hvnt decided if I should study automotive or civil engineering yet and I’ve already chosen math, English, ict, French, art and design, physics, chemistry and literature. Pls help me decide on the 9 subjects I should do that involve both civil and automotive engineering.

    • Hi Chineze,

      Usually, both Automotive and Civil Engineering require Additional Maths. Consider taking this subject instead, if you are able to.

  4. Hi IGCSE centre,

    I only know English, and don’t know any other language. I want to take English as first language and english literature.

    My question is, will it be counted as two subjects from Group 1 to be eligible for CIE group awards?

  5. My name on O Levels Certificate has a middle name which is not part of my correct name on my passport etc. O Levels issued in 2014. My A Levels has correct name, CIE makes correction within 18 months only unable to correct name on O Levels. My future is at stake. My university threaten to kick me out unless I have correctrd my name. Can any one has a viable solution!

  6. dear/sir or madam
    I am akash singh from india
    I sent this message to tell you that I would like to do the IGCSE exam in the india .
    Next year I’m gonna complete my 12th and does it matter if I am not english first language speaker?
    and does it matters if I am from other indian examination board
    And so if I have to do the IGCSE exam which subjects should I do for journalism studies in london school of economics
    I hope you take this points in to conseder and I hoe u answer me as detailed as possible…
    Please help me out
    I want to study in london school of economics…
    Thank you….

  7. dear/sir or madam
    I am akash singh from india
    I sent this message to tell you that I would like to do the IGCSE exam in the india .
    Next year I’m gonna complete my 12th and does it matter if I am not english first language speaker?
    and does it matters if I am from other indian examination board
    And so if I have to do the IGCSE exam which subjects should I do for journalism studies in london school of economics
    I hope you take this points in to conseder and I hoe u answer me as detailed as possible…
    Please help me out
    I want to study in london school of economics…
    Thank you

    • Hi Akash,
      If you are already taking the local exam board, you do not need to take IGCSE again. You can always apply with your local exam board.
      We suggest you to look at the entry requirement for London School of Economics, and find out what are the required subjects for Journalism.

  8. Hi, I am a homeschooler and want to apply for college in Norway, Sweden, and Germany. What is the minimum of O level (IGCSE) exams that I need to take before taking 3 A levels?
    And is the minimum of combined exams taken have to be seven or more, or can it be less?

  9. Hi, I would want to know, If I am learning Music as a subject in the IGCSE curriculum, what are the number of hours I am looking at per week or a year in each grade.

    • Hi Lucy,
      You can’t write your exams online. You can only study online. If you wish to rewrite your O Level, you must register yourself with your local British Council and sit for the exams there.ou can’t write your exams online. You can only study online. If you wish to rewrite your O Level, you must register yourself with your local British Council and sit for the exams there.

      We suggest you to pay a visit to your local British Council and find out more details.

  10. Hello, My name is Nifemi.I got 99% inthe november 2016 IGCSE Math exam for O’levels.Please could you help me check whether I was the best in the world.Thank you.

    • Hello Adeyemi,
      CIE would announce best candidate. If you wish to know about the announcement, please write to CIE directly.

  11. I am about to take my O level exams in May in India. I want to take 5 exams total. Can I take 3 now and 2 in the next session in October or do I have to take all exams in one session in order to be recognized by colleges? Thank you!

    • Hi Leela,
      If you are a private candidate, you could split your subjects into different examination series. No problem for that.

      However, it is worth noting that, some universities would require the different sittings were not too far apart. For example, they might require the different sittings were done within 12/13 months. You need to call up the university/college that you wish to apply and get the confirmation from them.

  12. Hi, I’m Nzenwata Stephanie and i have already taken my IGCSE in may 2016. I came out with a merit and i wanted to know if good medical schools out there will accept a Merit result from igcse. I feel like i could have done better so should i re-sit it or move on with my A levels?

    • Hi Nzenwata,
      It depends on which medical school you wish to apply for. If it is Cambridge or Oxford, they would require AA*A*, which is in the Distinction category.

      Generally, medical school would require Grade A and above. We would suggest you to consider to resit only necessary subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, English, Maths.

      You may proceed to A Level, and resit the subjects at the same time.

  13. Hey there… I have five subjects and want more but it’s too late. If I did the exam of both math core and math extended is it considered 6 subjects?

    • Hi Gisel,
      You can’t do both Core and Extended in the same examination session. You must choose only one. You can always take one more subject in the Nov series.

  14. Hi
    I’m going to do my Igcse in 2017 may what if I didn’t pass can I apply for 2017 October / November re-sit or I need to wait a hole year to do them again .

  15. dear/sir or madam
    I am Mustafa Ahmed from Iraq,
    I sent this message to tell you that I would like to do the IGCSE exam in the UK.
    what does it requaer to come to the UK and does it matter if I am not english first language speaker?
    and does it matters if I am from Iraq because every on hates Iraq.
    And so if I have to do the IGCSE exam which subjects should I do.
    I hope you take this points in to conseder and I hoe u answer me as detailed as possible.
    beast regardes your student at Cambridge International school in Kudristan\Iraq.

    • Hi Mustafa,
      We would suggest you to finish your IGCSE exams with your current school, then move to the UK for further study. If you are currently in Year 11, you won’t be able to find any school to accept new student in Year 11. Moreover, if you would like to sit for the exams as private candidate in the UK, chances are it is hard to find an exam centre. We have got many candidates wrote in to ask for help due to lack of exam centres in the UK for private candidates.

  16. Hi IGCSE team, I am taking part in the mathematics exams this may/June. The 3h and 4h one. At what age does one usually take part in these exams because I am just 13 and is it one of this age that you take part in these exams? Or I am just more brilliant that some students? PS. I am also really nervous and really badly want to get an A star. Do you have any tips for me?
    It would be much appreciated

  17. Dear igcse

    Im located in uae and 25 years old. I have no secondary school sertificate so i decide to study igcse at home. Can u please advice me wich subjects i should pass to get my igcse sertificate? I should pass minimun 5 subjects right? ( What are they? ) And do i get for each subject one sertificate? Then after i have 5 sertificates where can i collect the igcse sertificate? Im confused please help. And pls advice me some tips for online igcse courses or some books? Please help me i dont know where to start. Thanks allot

  18. My Son is planning to do Home schooling, currently he is studying in 7th class CBSC (India).
    Can he write IGCSE 10th grade directly? What will be the examination schedule.?
    We are living in Hyderabad India, Do you have exam center in Hyderabad?
    What is the procedure for applying for the same?

    • Hi Maheshwari,
      We suggest you to visit your local British Council first and find out on the available subjects in your area. You will also find out more on the exam registration, exam dates, fees, etc.

  19. Hi, I’m a South African mom and I homeschool my daughter. She will write her IGCSE exams in May/June 2018. One of her chosen subjects is Design & Technology but I just found out that it is not available to private students. Could you please recommend a suitable equivalent subject as she wants to take this as an A level subject. Thanks

  20. Hello! I was a private candidate for both my GCE O level amd A level exams under CIE and registered with British Council. I’m confused as to what I should put as my “high school” in my university applications.

    • Hi Maryam,
      You may put “private candidate” or “homeschooled”. The best is, call up the university and ask them what do they expect from private candidate to write in that column.

  21. A few students in my class would like to appear in the subject of English via IGCSE (0510), while for the rest they;ll go for GCE exam. Any problem?

  22. Hello,
    I have a son who will be 15 this April and he is homeschooling and we have chosen 6 subjects in IGCSE. They include PHY, CHEM, MATH, BIO, ENG First Language and ENV Management. He plans to appear 5 subjects in May/June and one remaining CHEM in OCT/NOV. We could possibly be moving to US in August 2017. I wanted to know what he could possibly pursue in US. I know some universities do accept IGCSE for admissions but I am not in favor to send him to University very early. What can you suggest? Should he prepare for AP, SAT and then apply to Universities two years down the line or any other option?

  23. my name is Mugisha,I had completed O’ Level in Rwanda with 12 aggregates in 2014 but I am conglese and right now I am in Kenya. am I allowed to register for A’ level or AS Level? what can I do?

    • Hi Mugisha,
      Yes, definitely you could register for AS or A Level. Just head over to your local British Council and find out more.

  24. Hi IGCSE team,
    I have done my igcse o level from Saudia Arab in the year 2013 and 2014 registered as a private candidate and cleared my o level with 2C 1D 2E and 1G.
    Due to some crisis i had to migrate from Saudia Arab to Pakistan which is my home country.
    Now in 2017 i want to register for A level in pakistan .
    Can you please guide me that if it is possible then how many subjects i should take for A level ? Should i register for Igcse or gcse for a level .
    I will be so grateful if you guide me properly please.

    • Hi Hassan,
      If you have passed the O Level, you do not need to take IGCSE anymore. Just proceed to A Level.

      If you wish to take A Level as private candidate, just register yourself with your local British Council. In terms of subjects, you must first find out what do you plan to study in the future before you make any decision on the subjects.

  25. Hello i was planning on becoming either an areospace, manufacturing, or mechanical engineer lets say for spacex, could you tell me which subjects that i should take?, but also what engineering major could i take if i were to join the geography igcse?

    • Hi Radea,
      Generally, engineering courses require: English, Maths, Additional Maths, Physics, Chemistry. Geography would be good for Civil Engineering, or any earth related engineering courses.

  26. Hello This year i was thinking of taking geography, Physics, English and math igcse but i really wanted to know what type of engineering major that i could take in a university if i were to have a geography igcse?

  27. Hi
    I have completed my o level IGCSE with 5 subjects 2 years ago in Saudia Arab. Now i am willing to do my a level from pakistan is it possible

  28. I did my igcse in 2015. I wasn’t in the best health so I was doing 7subjects and I passed 3 and I didn’t do quite well in 4. I wanted to resit 4 of the subjects in may/june. Will my new certificate have a record of the other 3 i passed + the 4 new resits? Even if I do it in a diffrent centre? Kindly explain if cambridge still has a record of my 2015 results and how my certificate will be. Thankyou

    • Hi Peter,
      You will obtain 4 new certificates for the 4 subjects. You can always use the 3 other subjects for your university application as well.

  29. hello. I want to resit 4 out of 7 subjects in may/june i got low grades.is it allowed to resit subjects I failed?. will my new certificate have my other 3 results plus my new 4 resits?

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