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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1,690 thoughts on “What is IGCSE?

  1. I will like to know more about IGCSE. I am interested in the sciences. Could a mixture with mathematics be obtained?

    • Hi Sarah,

      Yes, you can. However, you will have to check with your school or local British Council (if you’re a private candidate) if the Mathematics subject you want is available.

  2. I would appreciate if IGCSE group could kindly update on FEB?MARCH 2017 past year papers ASAP. its already 1st week of April. May/June 2017 exam very near another 4 weeks only please help me.

    • Hi,

      We are trying our best to have the papers uploaded before the June exam series. In the meantime, you can revise using the older past exam papers.

  3. Hi IGCSE Team,

    I would like to inquire if I can still get ICE certificate if there is no Group V?

    I took 7 subjects – 1. English as First Language
    2. English Literature
    3. Biology
    4. Math
    5. Indonesian Language
    6. Chemistry
    7. Environmental Management
    But there is no subject under Group V.

    Can I still get the ICE certificate if all my grades are good?

    Please advise.

    Thank you.

    • Hi June,

      If you read the paragraph below the IGCSE subjects list, you should see that ‘candidates must take two different languages from Group I and one subject from each of Groups II, III, IV, and V.”

      If you have already taken your IGCSE, you can’t “enter” now to claim the ICE award. Please read above article to find out how to obtain ICE award. It is not particularly important to have one. So do not sweat about it.

  4. hello….
    i am supposed to do swahili….. for my upcoming papers though i am supposed to seat for October November today i read in the syllabus that this syllabus is examined in the june examination series does that mean i cant seat it on november i even tried looking for past papers of November and i could only find june….

      • so me seating for six subjects won’t affect me joining a college or university?
        and whats the ice stuff i have no idea about …i thought all we get is an igcse certificate….. is the ice stuff really important? in what way? and does it have to be seven subjects i dont want to make a wrong decision

        • Hi Caleb,

          It would be best to check & confirm with the college or university you’re joining. We wouldn’t know what is their entry requirements as every university/college have their own set of entry requirements.

          ICE Award is popular amongst the North & South American colleges and universities. If you wish to study in the US, then you might need to check with the respective university for the selection of subjects that they need.

  5. I am now a university student in my home country and I want to study abroad for some diploma. Do I need IGCSE?
    I am now 20 . Can I sit for the exam ?

    • Hi Pyae,

      As you are already a university student, you can always use the qualifications that you currently have to apply for overseas’ diploma. You should check with the university abroad on their entry requirements.

      If they require some sort of international certificates, we’d advise you to study A Level instead of IGCSE. This is because A Level is usually required as the university’s entry requirement.

      You can read more about A Level here: http://alevelcentre.com/what-is-asa-level/

  6. I know that i can use all variants for practice but i still want to know that i live in pakistan do i have to give variant 1 or variant 2

  7. Please if anyone can help can i apply for IG courses in egypt after finishing my high school here ? I am 18 ? And may i start them while taking my university courses ?

    • Hi Radwa,

      If you have already being admitted into a university, you do not need to take IGCSE anymore. Unless you just want to take the exam as an experience, by all means, go ahead. Just register yourself with your local British Council and sit for your exams there.

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