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.)

Note: CIE (Cambridge International Examination board) has its name changed to CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) since October 2017.

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.

2,120 Replies to “What is IGCSE?”

  1. Hello, my daughter is attending 11th grade and wants to sit igcse exams but the school only has igcse for 9-10th grade. Is there any other way for her to take igcse?

  2. Hello,
    My daughter would be going to grade 8 this academic year.
    She wants to take up the grade 8 check point exams , however the IGCSE school she goes to does not offer check point exams .Can she go as a private candidate to a different school for the exams .

    • Hi Ramya,

      There are no Checkpoint tests available for private candidates in this level. Checkpoint exam is only available in Cambridge School for schooled candidates. You must abide to your school’s Checkpoint exam procedures.

  3. Hi,
    My daughter is to write IGCSE exam in year 11 but she won’t use it till she’s in year 12, what is the validity of IGCSE?

    • Hi Vicky,

      IGCSE certificates are valid indefinitely. If your daughter will pursue further study, we suggest that you check the college/university requirements on the longest period allowance.

  4. Does the number of subjects I take affect my placement at universities? Is it compulsory to take another language (such as a second language) in addition to English language and English literature? Furthermore, what subjects are recommended if one wants to pursue a career in the medicinal field?

    • Hello Malia,

      First of all, universities’ entry requirements are usually based on subjects taken, not the number of subjects taken. For example, if you wish to enrol in Medicine program, the usual required subjects are English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Add Maths.

      We strongly suggest you check with the university you wish to apply to as each university and its programs has their own set of entry requirements.

  5. Hi,

    I am in South Africa and would like to enroll my son for IGCSE at a local tutor centre. He completed Grade 9 CAPS curriculum. I am getting conflicting information. How many subjects does he need for IGCSE?

    • Hello Marilize,

      It is wise to check with the universities that wish you apply to, and get the confirmation on required subjects in accordance to the course you would like to study in the university.

      If you plan for further studies, universities usually require a minimum of 5 subjects. We strongly suggest you to check on the university entry requirements for your future studies.

    • Dear Sir/Madam.

      My son miss his first paper of the 3 papers for Physic, can he still sit and score by doing the other two papers? Would that be possible?

      Thank you!

  6. hey, I gave entrance exam for English and Maths today for year 10, My English exam went really well but I’m not really sure about Maths and I’m getting really scared, do you think they’ll take me?Or what is the criteria and the passing marks for an entrance exam

  7. Hi
    My son in year 9 and he want to take the exam of 3 subject (Biology- physics and chemistry) in May-Jun 2019.
    would this conisdered as 1 trial or 3 trials .
    any problem will face him on admission to colleage if he take the exam in 2 consequance years 2019 and 2020 rather than all in one year 2020.
    please let me know

    • Hello there,

      We suggest that your son takes his exams whenever he is ready. Furthermore, he will obtain separate certificates for each subjects. With regards to the colleges/universities, we suggest that you check with them on the longest period allowance for different examination series. A general guideline is within 13 months. However, some colleges/universities do have longer allowance. Please get confirmation from them directly.

      You might be interested in our online revision course which is now open for registration. Every year we have two revision sessions. The first session will be March-April and the second one will be August-September. The revision course provides video tutorial, revision timetable, downloadable exam-style practices, common mistakes candidates make during the exams, and also examiners’ advice. Please kindly find out the details here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/cambridge-igcse-revision-courses/

      You may also check out our exam model answers. Many students scored A* by copying the style of the answers. Please check them out here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/igcse-exam-resources/

  8. Can I take English as a first language even if I am not a native speaker. Like if I am good in English that’s enough for me to select English as first language?

    • Hi Mahamadou,

      English as First Language is designed for learners who have excellent command of English. English as Second Language is designed for learners who already have a working knowledge of the language and who want to consolidate their understanding in order to progress in their education or career.

      We would suggest you download both exam papers and you could try to work on them. In this way you would know which one suits you best.

  9. Dear sir

    If a student takes some subjects exam in Nov2019 and some in May2020, is there any impact on the issuance of IGCSE exam results? How would typical next level (colleges/universities) entry requirements be impacted on general in this situation?

    Thank you

    • Hello Joshua,

      You are free to spread out your exams. Furthermore, you will obtain separate certificates for each subject. With regards to the colleges/universities, we suggest that you check with them if they accept the result on a certain year.

      A general guideline is within 13 months. However, some colleges/universities do have longer allowance. Please get confirmation from them directly.

  10. Hi, my daughter is in Year 8 now. Regarding the ICGSE exam, would you please advice on subjects that she need to take if she might want to pursue in Performing Arts or Art and Designs in future. In addition, can she register to sit for the relevant subject, (I think Art or Drama) if the school does not offer it, where she is taking up those courses externally, whereby she learn her arts n drama outside the school.

    • Hello Lai Mei Ching,

      It is wise to check with the universities that she wishes to apply to, and get the confirmation on required subjects in accordance to the course she would like to study in the university. In this way you have 100% confirmation on the needed subjects.

      On the other hand, if the subject is not available in her school, she may register as a private candidate. We suggest that you pay a visit to your local British Council or you can also find a list of registered Cambridge schools near your area here: http://www.cambridgeinternational.org/i-want-to/find-a-cambridge-school/ and check with school if they accept private candidate.

  11. Hi,

    As stated above, if a student pass with 7 subjects, he can be awarded with the certificate of ICE.

    With the following combination, can he can get the certificate of ICE?
    1. English as second language
    2. Chinese as first language
    3. Mathematics
    4. Geography
    5. History
    6. Science
    7. Business Studies

    Please advice

    • Hello there,

      If you would like to get an ICE Award, you have to register for ICE Award during your exam registration. If you did not register for ICE Award, you are not able to claim the award after that. To obtain ICE Award, candidates enter and sit for a minimum of seven subjects selected from the five IGCSE curriculum areas:

      Group 1 – Languages ;
      Group 2 – Humanities;
      Group 3 – Sciences;
      Group 4 – Mathematics;
      Group 5 – Creative and Vocational

      Cambridge ICE is awarded to candidates who pass in at least 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.

      For more information about ICE Award, kindly read this: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-cambridge-ice/

  12. Hi,

    My daughter is in 8th grade IGCSE. She want to take up biology related courses in university. what are the subjects she need to choose in AS and A level. I know Physics, chemistry and biology is a must but does she need to take math as well? and if math is compulsory, is there a math curriculum without calculus. And can she take O level math with other subject in A level?

    • Hello Vinodhini,

      A good guideline is English, Maths, Additional Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry. You should get the confirmation from the university on their entry requirement. With regards to the Mathematics, we suggest that you check the subject syllabus. Lastly, she may take her O level during the AS/A Level period. However, do check on the exam dates, and make sure they do not clash with the AS/A Level exams dates.

  13. Hi

    My daughter is 15yrs old ( in June 2019 ) and preparing to sit GCE O Level in summer 2020 series. Here under are the subjects of her choice for the exam:
    1. English subject
    2. English literature
    3. Mathematics
    4. Science 3 credits ( Physics, Chemistry, Biology )
    5. Economic
    6. Madrin Chinese
    7. PE

    She is good at Mathematics and is it advisable for her to sit early exam for Mathematics in June ‘2019?
    If the grade is good, we will keep it for GCE A level education, will colleges/ universities accept such kind of early sit in specific exam as all subjects in one exam?
    If the grade is not preferable from us, can we go for re-sit in summer 2020 with the remaining subjects?

    Thanks for your advice.

    Aung Naing Kyi

    • Hi Aung Naing Kyi,

      If your daughter is a private candidate, she can always opt to sit for one subject first, then the rest later. If she is a schooled student, you might need to check with the school for such arrangement.

      Usually university/college would accept combining results from separate examination series, but within a certain period, for example: within 13 months or 24 months, depending on each university’s entry requirement.

      Therefore, we strongly suggest you to check with the respective university/college on their acceptance in terms of results from separate examination series.

      Lastly, yes she is free to re-take her exams. She may choose which certificate to use based on the highest achieved grade.

  14. Hi,

    In case my daughter got lower result for a subject, she can apply for next exam and sumit better score to university by her choice?

    • Hi Won Young Sun,

      Yes, she can re-take her exam. The result will not replace the old one. But she may choose which certificate to use based on the highest achieved grade.

    • Hi Lucy,

      English as a Second Language and IELTS serve different purposes. For academic wise, some university courses accept English as a Second Language at a specific grade. If your grade is not desirable for the university, the university might ask you to take IELTS.

      IELTS also serves as language assessment for migration purposes. So it all depends on what do you want to do with the subject taken.

      We suggest you to find out from the respective university on their entry requirements.

    • Hi Jimmy,

      A good guideline is English, Maths, Additional Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, ICT. But we do suggest that you check on the university?s entry requirement. In this way you have 100% confirmation on the needed subjects.

  15. i may want to know if (9-10) igcse grading system is recognize in kuwait to apply for equivalency . recently i had done 6 igcse and i need 7 subject to be completed and apply here in kuwait . however i planned to take an additional subject edexcel igcse mathematics A (9-1) as long its approve in kuwait . although i have complete grade 12

    • Hi Elena Marie,

      Different colleges have different selection preferences, therefore you should check the individual college websites. If after consulting the websites you have any further queries about admissions requirements, do get in touch with the admissions office at your preferred College.

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