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.

1,819 thoughts on “What is IGCSE?

  1. My son studies in Dubai.

    I note minimum is 5 subjects. Can my son take 1. English as Second language, 2. Mathematics,
    3. Accounting, 4.Economics and 5. Business Studies.

    Is Science compulsory ?


    • Hi Rajaram,

      It depends on what your son planned to study in the future. He must choose his subjects based on what he wants to study in the future. You can check the college’s/university’s website to get an idea of the required subjects.

      If your son is taking IGCSE through school and wish to apply for the ICE, he will need two different languages from Group One and one subject from each of the remaining subject groups. The seventh subject can come from any of the five groups.
      • Group One: Languages
      • Group Two: Humanities and Social Sciences
      • Group Three: Sciences
      • Group Four: Mathematics
      • Group Five: Creative, Technical and Vocational

      You can read more here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-cambridge-ice/comment-page-1/

  2. Hi. May I know the minimum subjects to sit for igcse before cont to A level? And what is the requirements needed for A level? Thank you!

  3. Dear IGCSE team,
    I am planning on going to an international school next year (17yrs old).Do i have a lot to catch up since i went to public school my whole life?

  4. Hello,
    I’m a 16 year old from Malaysia and I wanted to go to an international school.. Is it too late for me to enter one? My mom wanted me to take SPM but I wanted to take IGCSE but she’ll consider it. Also, it is possible if I take SPM and IGCSE ? I want to go to Cambridge /Oxford university but I heard that they only except IGCSE…

  5. Hello, I’m currently in year 10 and i took on 5 subjects- mathematics, english, biology, physics, and chemistry – should i add human bio or not? My teacher says its better to take human bio f you are taking biology but i need advice. He also says human bio covers 10 chapters and biology completes the human bio subject.

    • Hi Muhammad,

      You must choose your subjects based on what you want to study in the future. Start from checking on university’s website to find out their subjects requirements.

  6. Hello,
    I’m 16 this year and next year I’ll be taking SPM. I want to take IGCSE but my mom told me to take SPM but she’ll consider it. I am wondering, is it too late for me to enter an international school to take IGCSE ? And second, I want to enter Oxford University, if I am not taking IGCSE, can I use my SPM results?

    • Hi Hazwani,

      We’d suggest you to take IGCSE as a private candidate instead of transferring to an international school when you have only one year+ left in school.

      For your second question, you will need to check with Oxford University directly as each university has their own set of requirements.

  7. I am taking my IGCSE Board exams in Feb/March 2018, I will go back to the USA(I studied in California from 1st-8th grade and will continue studying there after tenth) What year of high school will I be in California after tenth grade in India?


    • Hi Shaylin,

      We are very sorry that we won’t know which year would you be in the US. You have to contact the US school and discuss with them directly.

  8. Can my kids sign up subjects for exam for the subjects that are not offer from their school? For instance, if their school doesn’t teach Geography, can they sign up for exam?

    • Hi Chih-Pei,
      Yes, you can register to sit for a particular subject privately. You must find an exam centre, for example, British Council, to register for this subjects. It is best to first check with the exam centre if they do offer Geography.

  9. If there is no tutor for learning geography in my school as a Cambridge subject, will i get online tutors from cambridge or maybe something else?

  10. I will need some clarification, is IGSCE the same with GCE in Nigeria?

    I am applying to a university in the USA and it requires IGSCE, so please explain

    • Hi Rabiu,

      IGCSE is from CIE. GCE in Nigeria is from Nigeria. They are from different exam boards.

      You may ask the university in the US if they do accept GCE in Nigeria.

  11. Hi there, my daughter just got D (58) in English Language Oral endorsement (0500) here in the UK. Can you let me know if this is considered a pass or fail? And if she will have to resit this exam under UK regulations?

    • Hi John,

      A ‘D’ is considered a pass.

      However, if your daughter plans to further her studies, you must get the confirmation from the respective school/college/university on this matter. Each school/college/university has its own entry requirement.

  12. Hi, I have recently got my IGCSE results and I was wondering can I repeat one subject in the upcoming exams oct/nov and the result would replace the old one and when will it come out ??
    And is it possible to take only two subjects for AS-level. Thank you!

    • Hi Samah,

      You can retake the subject in the upcoming exam if that subject is available for the exam session.

      The result will not replace the old one. You may choose which certificate to use based on the highest achievable grade.

      And yes, it is possible to take only two subjects for AS-Level.

  13. hey am doing 6 subjects in november and 2 of them are core am pretty good the rest of the 4 pretty sure i can nail A* but i need to get a distinction is it possible to get a distinction with 4A* and 1c and can those grades get me to a uni am not doing A levels

    • Hi Caleb,

      Each university has their own set of entry requirements. It’s best if you check with the university directly.

      Normally, you need A Level or equivalent as an entry requirement to university.

  14. My son is starting year 10 in a few weeks, he’s supposed to choose to study either 4 or 5 subjects( including chemistry, physics and biology) should I encourage him to take the 5 subjects or should he only do 4, knowing that he got straight Cs in his core subjects

    • Hi Maggie,

      Your son must choose the subjects based on what he wants to study in the future. We can’t suggest anything if we do not know what does he wants to study in the university. Please try to find this out, and we shall provide better suggestions.

  15. Hello, I’m Al-Zahra ,I was hoping to enter Cambridge University ,earlier last year I’ve entered my first year of IGCSE and my school has given me the chance to drop some subjects and so I was wondering how many subjects are needed so I would enroll in the university please reply as fast as possible. Thank you 😊

    • Hi Al-Zahra,

      Each university has their own set of entry requirements. It’s best to check with the University directly.

  16. Hi I’m a private candidate from Bangladesh and I just sat for my O’ levels a few months ago. My results came out and I’m confused about how many subjects are required for AS levels. The subjects I sat for my O’ levels were English Language, Bengali, Biology, Economics and Bangladesh Studies. So its pretty mixed up. Can you please help by suggesting which subjects I should take ( I’m weak with science subjects btw ) and if I can just choose 2-4 subjects? Its important so.. much help needed asap.

    • Hi Sadia,

      Have you thought of what you’d like to specialise in (in college/university) after your A Levels? This will help you to decide the subjects you need to take 🙂

      Students typically study four subjects at AS Level and three subjects at A Level. The standard admission requirement for UK universities is three A Levels.

  17. Hi
    iam hashim and i want to ask a question that
    i have give 2 papers of igcse in May/june 2016
    and next 2 papers of igcse in OCt/Nov 2016
    and next 2 papers of igcse in MAy/june 2017 and
    last 2 papers iof igcse i will give in OCt/nov 2017
    Did the universities accept my certificates because i haven’t give 6 papers at time?
    there is any condition? that the candidate should give 6 papers at a one time. than he wil get admission.

    • Hi Hashim,

      Each university has a different set of entry requirements. You will need to check with the university you wish to apply if they accept exam sittings in different series, and how many series are allowed.

  18. Hi,These are my grades and i wanted to which subjects to repeat and can i replace them with gcse subjects?
    English D (Extended)
    Biology G (Extended)
    Chemistry G (Extended)
    Maths U (Extended)
    Islamiyat U (Core)
    Physics F (Extended)

    • Hi Hassan,

      If you have got the IGCSE, you do not need to “replace” with GCSE. They are both at an equivalent level. You must first decide on what do you want to study in the future before you know which subjects to resit.

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