What is O Level?

O-Level is the abbreviation of Ordinary Level. It is one of the two-part GCE (General Certificate of Education). The other part of GCE is Advanced Level (A-Level), which students enter after completing O-Level.

O-Level is the final certification for secondary school, to be taken at fifth form or year 11 at approximately age 17 (or age group 14-16). Students that have completed O-Level are considered to have completed formal education. They can further their studies to A-Level (at their schools’ sixth form or private colleges), Foundation Courses or diploma courses, or simply leaving school.

O-Level is offered by Cambridge International Examination (CIE), American Council for Higher Education and Edexcel International. Though schools in the UK had replaced O-Level with GCSE in 1988, it is still used in many Commonwealth countries, such as Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and also in Trinidad and Tobago. (Some schools in the UK have reverted back to exams based on O-Level at the later stage.)

O-levels were predominantly exam-based; this had advantages for students in part-time or evening education. Some commentators criticised this mainly exam-based approach as offering only partial proof of the student’s overall ability in comparison with other methods (e.g., coursework-based assessment). There was no summative “school certificate”: each subject was a separate O-level in its own right.

(Below are the information for O Level from the CIE exam board only.)

Cambridge O Level

Cambridge O Level is being offered by CIE (Cambridge International Examination). It is an internationally recognised qualification equivalent to Cambridge IGCSE and the UK GCSE. Cambridge O Level provides learners with excellent preparation for academic progression to Cambridge Advanced as well as other progression routes.

Cambridge O Levels has been designed especially for an international audience. They are sensitive to the needs of different countries and for learners whose first language may not be English – which is acknowledged throughout the examination process. The curriculum also enables teaching to be placed in a localised context, making it relevant wherever you teach it.

In some parts of the world, schools use Cambridge O Level as an international alternative to the local government’s examination.

Subjects

You can choose from more than 40 subjects in any combination to provide the building blocks to create your own curriculum. Students normally take 7-9 subjects in the O-Level exam, with maximum allowable 14 subjects.

olevelsubjects1

olevelsubjects2

Many schools allocate a total of about 130 hours for each Cambridge O Level subject, but how much time a school devotes to each subject will depend on a variety of factors. The syllabus is set by Cambridge, but how it is taught will depend on the school. Candidates must enter for Cambridge O Levels through a registered school or exam centre. Your school or exam centre will be able to give you more details about how candidates work towards these assessments.

At school, more able candidates may study six or seven subjects at Cambridge O Level, but less able candidates may have a much more modest programme. In order to follow a broad and balanced curriculum, most candidates take courses from each of the five Cambridge O Level groups (Languages; Humanities and Social Sciences; Sciences; Mathematics; and Business, Creative, Technical and Vocational). However, it is also possible to study individual Cambridge O Level subjects if this better suits the candidate’s needs.

Cambridge O Level courses usually take two years to complete and exams are taken at the end of that period.

Assessment

Assessment takes place at the end of the course and includes written, practical and oral assessment. This broadens opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning, particularly when their first language is not English.

Grades are benchmarked using six internationally recognised grades, from A* to E, which have clear guidelines to explain the standard of achievement.

Grade A* is awarded for the highest level of achievement, and grade E indicates minimum satisfactory performance. Grade U (Ungraded) is commonly regarded as fail.

Cambridge O Level examination series occur twice a year, in June and November. Results are issued in August and January.

Recognition

Many universities worldwide require a combination of Cambridge International A Levels and Cambridge O Levels to meet their entry requirements. 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 O Levels at grade C
or above.

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

Universities in many countries, including Canada and the USA, will admit students on the basis of their Cambridge O-Level performances alone. Grade C in Cambridge O-Level English Language satisfies the English proficiency requirements of many universities in the UK and other English-speaking countries.

Difference between Cambridge IGCSE and O Levels

Features of Cambridge IGCSE

  • Cambridge IGCSE is aimed at a wide ability range of students, with a range of grades awarded from A* (highest grade) to G (lowest). There is a core (C to G) and extended (A* to C) curriculum available in some subjects.
  • Cambridge IGCSE uses a variety of assessment techniques to test oral and practical skills, initiative and problem-solving and application of skills, knowledge and understanding.
  • A coursework option is available in many syllabuses, allowing Centres an element of personal choice and giving teachers the chance to share in the process of assessment.
  • Candidates are rewarded for positive achievement (what they know, understand, and can do).
  • Cambridge IGCSE prepares for progression to employment, or to further study. It prepares students very well for Cambridge International AS & A Levels.

Features of Cambridge O Level

Cambridge O Level shares some of these features, but the following differences should be noted:

  • Cambridge O Level candidates are only awarded grades from A* to E, where A* is the highest achievable grade.
  • Cambridge O Level offers fewer coursework options than Cambridge IGCSE.
  • Some Cambridge O Level syllabuses were developed to meet specific local needs, such as minority languages.
  • The focus of Cambridge O Level languages is on writing and reading skills.
  • There are more restricted practical test options in Cambridge O Level sciences. (These constraints are advantageous to some schools where resources are limited, for example no oral examiner is available).




333 Replies to “What is O Level?”

  1. Hi.
    I have completed my IGCSE on 2016 but unfortunately I couldn’t score A or B or C in Maths and now I need Maths to have any of these grades to join a certain university.
    Will I be able to repeat Maths IGCSE now as in on January 2019?
    At least can you tell me how long does one have chance to retake an IGCSE exam after they have first attended it?

    • Hi Luna,

      It’s not too late to re-take your exams. However, there are no IGCSE exams in January. There are two exam series for UK and International: November and June while India has March series. Kindly read this article to know more about key dates: http://www.igcsecentre.com/exam-registration-dates/

      Furthermore, IGCSE and O-level are two different examinations but of equivalent qualification. As such, ask your preferred university if they do not have a strict rules such as: all qualifications must be from the same examination board, since you’ve completed your O-levels already and you plan to take IGCSE Mathematics.

      You may also be interested in our online revision course. These had helped numerous students to score A*. For more information, kindly read this: http://www.igcsecentre.com/cambridge-igcse-revision-courses/

      • Can I plz tell me how many subjects are in o levels?? Actually I don’t know anything about this because i am starting o levels now so plz tell me !😭☹️

        • Hi Mishal,

          There is no minimum subject required for O Level if you’re a private candidate, and the maximum number of subjects you can take is 14. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school. With regards to what subjects are compulsory, it all depends on what do you want to study later. Please check on the university’s entry requirement in order to make a proper decision.

    • Hi Umamma,

      If you are attached to a school, you must follow the school’s subject options. However, if you are a private candidate you can choose your subjects. We suggest that you should decide on the subject based on what you want study in the university. You may also check on the university’s entry requirement. In this way you have 100% confirmation on the needed subjects.

  2. Hi there!
    I am an o-level student from Pakistan ,Studying in Rockford Cambridge School.Recently I have registered for Private exam Business studies for November session 2018 . But mistakenly i have registered for IGCSE level Business studies (0450) code instead of O-level Business studies (7115). I had applied for an application to British council But they replied,”repay your fees again” . And I can’t.

    Q: Being an o-level student , if i gave an exam of IGCSE level , Would it become any problem for me in future?
    Thanks 😀

    • Hi Arvan,

      If your future study does not have strict rules such as: all qualifications must be from the same examination board, you can take different subject from different board. We strongly suggest you to check on the university entry requirements for your future studies.

  3. Hi there, I would like to ask:
    Seeing as IGCSE and O LEVELS are different examination boards, I was wondering if I could combine the two? I have already registered to write Art and Design for IGCSE this year, but I may not write the rest of my subjects in 2019. Rather than IGCSE, I plan to write the rest of my subjects at O level. Would I have to take up another subject at IGCSE level? If so, can it be a ‘third language’ or ‘foreign language’? Does IGCSE offer examinations for a third language?
    Thank you.

  4. I just want to know how many subjects i will take in o level AND how many subjects are compulsary???
    Least subject i will take for example can i take six or there is a option to take less tan six

    • Hello Zainab,

      There is no minimum subject required for O Level if you’re a private candidate, and the maximum number of subjects you can take is 14. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school. With regards to what subjects are compulsory, it all depends on what do you want to study later. Please check on the university’s entry requirement in order to make a proper decision.

  5. hi
    i want to study for (IT) computer science for that i have to clear my o-level and a-level exam so how can i do my o-level exam.

  6. Hi, Im from Malaysia
    I would like to know is there anyway I could take the A-level exam without O level or equivalent?
    sit as private candidate for example?

    • Hi LL,

      If you have finished high school, you do not need to take O level anymore. Just proceed to A level.

      You may register as a private candidate. Once you have decided to register as a private candidate, you will have to check the British Council at your local area or you can also find a list of registered Cambridge schools in your local area here: http://www.cambridgeinternational.org/i-want-to/find-a-cambridge-school/ and check with school if they accept private candidate

      • I have the same case and I want to retake one of the exams, but I completed my o levels in 2016 so do you know whether I still have chance to retake it now in 2019??

        • Dear Luna,

          It’s not too late to re-take your exams. However, there are no IGCSE exams in January. There are two exam series for UK and International: November and June while India has March series. Kindly read this article to know more about key dates: http://www.igcsecentre.com/exam-registration-dates/

          Furthermore, IGCSE and O-level are two different examinations but of equivalent qualification. As such, ask your preferred university if they do not have a strict rules such as: all qualifications must be from the same examination board, since you’ve completed your O-levels already and you plan to take IGCSE Mathematics.

          You may also be interested in our online revision course. These had helped numerous students to score A*. For more information, kindly read this: http://www.igcsecentre.com/cambridge-igcse-revision-courses/

  7. I am a private student and would like to take IGCSE. However, for the English paper, I prefer to sit O level English 1123 as substitute for IGCSE First Language English 0500.Can I do that..? Please Patrickadvise.

    • Hi Patrick,

      Yes, you may take both O-level and IGCSE subjects. But please be guided that IGCSE and O-level are different examination boards and it will all depend on what you want to study in the future. We suggest you to find out the acceptance of different examination boards for different subject from the university that you’re planning to apply to.

      Also beware when you want to take both IGCSE and O Level exams in the same examination series, as you might face dates clashes incidents. This happened to many of our candidates before.

  8. Hello. My son is in year 10. I would like to know 1) how is the certification fo IGCSE done? Is it per subject or there’s one certificate with the aggregate grade?
    2) if one doesnt achieve the requisite grade on a particular subject, is it possible to resit only that subject and how does affect the student progression to the next level?

    • Hi Joyce,

      To answer your questions, your son will receive individual certificate per subject. There are no aggregate grade. If your son fails in one subject, he may take the test again. There will be no repercussion with regards to IGCSE but it will depend on your son’s chosen school/college/university entry requirement if he ever plans to pursue further studies.

      Kindly read this article to learn more about IGCSE: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-igcse/.

    • Hello,

      It depends on what you plan to study in the future. You must choose subjects based on what you want to study in the future. You can check the college’s/university’s website to get an idea of the required subjects.

      If you are taking IGCSE through school and wish to apply for the ICE, you will need two different languages from Group 1 and one subject from each of the remaining subject groups. The seventh subject can come from any of the five groups. You can check about ICE here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-cambridge-ice/

  9. Hi ! Can I know what is the least number of subjects one should do in order to get a world prize in Cambridge O levels? Also do the examination board allow world prizes for subjects like Sinhala language?(I want to know this point because pretty confident in that language as for it being my mother tongue)

    • Hi Poorna!

      There are 5 awards category issued by Cambridge Assessment International Education. First is the ‘Top in the World’ which refers to the learner who has gained the highest standard mark in the world for a single subject. ‘Top in Country’ refers to the learner who has gained the highest standard mark in your country for a single subject. ‘High Achievement’ is awarded to learners who have achieved outstanding results in subjects which are not so widely taken and which, under the current criteria, would not qualify for ‘Top in Country’ Awards. Learners who achieve the highest standard marks in Country in a particular subject will receive the award. ‘Top in Region’ awards are only recognised in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. ‘Top in Region’ refers to the learner who has gained the highest standard mark in the region for a single subject. Lastly, the ‘Best Across’ award is issued to learners who have attained the first highest cumulative total standard marks in eight subjects.

      However, Cambridge have set minimum entry thresholds for ‘Top in the World’ and ‘Top in Country’ awards. These thresholds are set to maintain the value and integrity of each award by ensuring that award-winning learners are selected from a sufficiently representative sample. If there are not enough entries worldwide, Cambridge will not award ‘Top in the World’ for that subject. If there are not enough entries for a subject from Country, Cambridge will not award a ‘Top in Country’ prize.

  10. I have completed my high school . I need to give 0/A level exam so what exams i need to give in order to qualify from O to A and what subject i need to select in O and As well as A level for completing my mehanical engneering in future

    • Hi Harry,

      If you have finished high school, you do not need to take O level anymore. Just proceed to A level.

      For mechanical engineering, we suggest these subjects: English, Maths, Additional Maths, Physics, Chemistry. You may also check on the university’s entry requirement. In this way, you have 100% confirmation on the needed subjects.

  11. Hello, I wanted to know if o-level and IGCSE are 2 separate studies which is taken separately or just doing IGCSE will be enough and don’t have to do o-levels.. Just want to know the different benefits of these.

    • Hi, education team.
      I need to find out about the number of o’ levels I have from these results I got at grade twelve (12) at a Zambian school. English=merit, maths=credit, science=distinction, commerce=credit, biology=satisfactory, literature=satisfactory.
      I will be very grateful for your help. God be with you,
      Patrick.

      • Hi Patrick,

        Did you register for O-level? As grades for O-level are presented from A* to E.

        Please ask your school regarding this matter.

  12. Hello I need the result of my daughter’s GCE O level exams condicted in Nov 2017 through her school in Nigeria. How do I get this please

    • Hi Mishal,

      You must find out what is the equivalent level for your matric system. Since we do not know your matric system, we cannot provide proper suggestions for you.

  13. I am confused .How many igcse subjects should I take to take an admission in the Uk? . I live in UAE n I might move to UK for my further studies (medicine) can u suggest something or some subjects I should take for igcses thank you

    • Hi Zaynab,

      First of all, there is a minimum of 5 subjects that you need to take. You can refer to this page: http://www.igcsecentre.com/what-is-igcse/

      Every university has their own set of entry requirements. You must check with the university in the UK for their entry requirements.

      Usually, the required subjects for medicine are: English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Add Maths for IGCSE Level. Again, we strongly suggest you check with the university you wish to apply to; and get confirmation on the required subjects for medicine.

  14. Hi
    My son in 11 grade I want to know how many subjects he have to choose to clear o level he already have Bussiness studies, English, mathamatics, ecnimics.
    He already given Pakistanstudies/ geography / history and islamiate exam.
    Please advise me that total how many subjects I have to choose to clear o level so far I have 6 subject.

    • Hi Agha,

      There is no minimum subject required for private candidates. However, if your son is attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school.

      On the other hand, it’s advisable to check with the respective university on the required subjects for the field that your son wants to study in the future.

    • Hi Abdullah,

      There is no minimum subjects required for O-level. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school.

  15. I am from Malaysia . my son is 17 years old . he is dyslexic adhd.
    he wants to study in Madinah to study arabic language. please advise.
    what should he take?

    • Hi Hawa,

      We strongly advise you to contact the Arabic Language institute in Madinah and find out their entry requirements.

  16. Hello,
    I sat for O Levels in my country, if I am to apply for a job in the UK do I have to convert my O Level results on my CV to equivalent IGCSE grading standard? For example change A1 to A*, A2 to A and so on.
    Many thanks!

    • Hi Abu,

      If you mean the minimum subjects you need to take for O-level, there is no minimum subject required for private candidates. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school.

  17. Ive heard that exam papers of the same subjects of O levels in pakistan, india and afghanistan are different and difficult than in other countries… is it true?

  18. which subjects are compulsory to give in any case or if i do medical which subjects are necessary for me to give. simal doing olevel from pakistan

    • Hi Simal,

      Usually, the required subjects for medicine are: English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Add Maths. We strongly suggest you check with the university you wish to apply to; and get confirmation on the required subjects for medicine.

    • Hi Maazin,

      If you are a private candidate, there is no minimum subject required for O-level and the maximum you can take is 14. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum/maximum subjects as required by the school.

  19. (Last post had email address error)
    My daughter will complete her 9th Grade from USA in May 2018. (Expected GPA above 4)
    We then plan to move to Pakistan where she will continue studies at O&A level system.
    Will she get credit of courses completed in USA for O level?

    • Hi Syed,

      Please check with the respective schools in Pakistan for the US grades credential. Just remember do not change school when entering 11th grade. Normally, they won’t take new student at 11th grade.

  20. My daughter will complete her 9th grade from USA by May 2018. Then she will move to Pakistan. She is planning to go through O & A level in Pakistan. Will she get credit of 9th grade courses completed in USA? She will end up with a GPA of above 4.

    • Hi Syed,

      Please check with the respective schools in Pakistan for the US grades credential. Just remember do not change school when entering 11th grade. Normally, they won’t take new student at 11th grade.

    • Hi Arean,

      If you are a private candidate, your local British Council is the best place to sit for your exam. You will need to register for your examination either with your local British Council or any registered Cambridge schools that accept private candidate. You can find the list of registered Cambridge schools here: http://www.cambridgeinternational.org/i-want-to/find-a-cambridge-school/

      Once you have registered with an exam centre, please ask them which is your exam hall.

      • Hey,my brother is in O-3 gcse n studying in pakistan ,but recently we got our family immigration visas n we want to go to U.S in this april but he has his exams starting in may,so i want to ask can we change his exam centre to U.S? He is studying in beacon house school systems,do let me know if changing centre is possible?thank you

        • Hi Rabi,

          Please speak directly with your brother’s exam centre regarding this matter. You must always refer to the previous exam centre for such changes before you register with a new one.

    • Hello Shaharyar,

      Please proceed to the British embassy to inquire about this. Get all the relevant information from them regarding the study visa.

  21. Hi,

    My daughter aged 11 years, wish to appear in O level exams,’would you please clarify following;

    1. Is she eligible to appear in the exams?
    2. Where can I find the books and other helping material, online?
    3.can she appear as private candidate?
    4. What’s the fee structure?

    Regards

    Muhammad waheed iqbal

  22. Hi IGCSE Team,
    May I know if Horse Management is one of the courses offered in O Level? Is it qualified as one of the subjects? Thanks.

    • Hello Aisha,

      Usually, the normal procedure is, you need an A-Level or equivalent qualification to apply for university. However, please do check the possibility of entering at O Level / IGCSE level.

  23. Hello IGCSE team, please let me know when my son will be studying at AS or A Level, can he retake any subject under O Level (CIE) for improvement of grade?

    • Hello,

      Yes, you can retake any subject for improvement 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.

  24. How many years my Cambridge O Level registration is valid as I registered in 2017?
    Can I take Cambridge O Level Exam in multiple sittings like one in 2018 (May/June) for 4 subjects, second sitting in 2018 (Oct/Nov) for 1 subject and last sitting in 2019 (May/June) for 3 subjects, if my school allows?

    • Hello KS Hasan,

      You must register for each examination series. You may split your subjects if your school allows you to do so.

  25. Hello IGCSE,

    Could i ask that does it possible that the person who was the age above 25 age still could taking the exam of O Level? and may i know that how was the exam ? does it exam base on online or still need find some centre to taking the exam on the spot?

    • Hello Clare,

      You can always continue your study at any age, there is no age limit to sit for IGCSE / O Level exams.

      Please pay a visit to your local British Council, and find out on the exam registration dates, fees etc…

      Once you have registered yourself for the exam, you may enroll yourself in our A* online revision courses here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/cambridge-igcse-revision-courses/. These courses are being crafted to help you to achieve A*.

      All exams must be taken physically at an exam centre. In your case, since you are a private candidate, British Council is your best choice. Otherwise, you can search for any registered Cambridge School which accept private candidates here: http://cie.org.uk/i-want-to/find-a-cambridge-school/

  26. Hi
    I want my daughter to take IGCSE exams as a private candidate. She is currently 13 years old. What is the minimum age she can take this exams.

    • Hello Ruchi

      The minimum age to sit for IGCSE is at age 14. However, since your daughter is a private candidate, please proceed to your local British Council and check on their minimum age requirement.

      Please pay a visit to your local British Council, and find out on the exam registration dates, fees etc…

      Once you have registered your daughter for the exam, you may enroll her in our A* online revision courses here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/cambridge-igcse-revision-courses/

      These courses are being crafted to help you to achieve A*.

  27. Hi, I Am Studying In Pakistan So Is Urdu Compulsary? Because I Don’t Know How To Read Or Write So Is There Any Chance I Could Replace It With French?

    • Hello Ali Hassan,

      Urdu might be the official language subject that is needed for that country. If this rule does not apply to you, you can always choose another subject. However, you need to check with the school on who is required to take Urdu. You ought to follow the subject options in the school.

  28. Im staying in malaysia. I need a help . Can u give suggestion about which o level book I need to buy and and helps me efficiently to score? I need some guide regarding the reference book .

    • Hello Srishalini,

      Please search on Amazon UK site to find the reference books that you need. Amazon UK has lots of IGCSE reference books available.

    • Hi Nigel,
      You can always sit for the same subject again after many years. Thought it won’t be called “resit”, it is simply taking an exam.

  29. hi guys ,
    i m studying igcse currently but for practice I am solving o level papers
    so, is there anything like core or extended in o level?

    • Hi Samyak,
      We do not suggest you to do so. As O Level and IGCSE have slight different on the syllabus, and the papers combination. Please just concentrate on IGCSE past exam papers if you are taking IGCSE exams.

  30. Dear team
    My son want to be a doctor so what subjects is necessary to be a doctor i need your help and advise for the subject
    Thank you

    • Hello Ismail,
      Usually, the required subjects for medicine are: English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Add Maths for IGCSE Level. However, we strongly suggest you to consult the university on the required subjects as entry requirement.

  31. hey,
    I am a student in grade 10 and I am planning to study university in Jordan,
    I will be taking my o levels on may june 2018 but I want to make sure if I can split up my subjects for 2 sessions or not .
    And is it compulsory to take mathematics A levels next year to study dentistry?

    • Hello Nano,
      Yes, you may split the subjects into 2 sessions. Please consult your exam centre on how to register the subjects in the available examination series.

      As far as we know, Mathematics is required. You may confirm that with the university.

  32. Actually,i am studying at an IGCSE curriculum school in Bangladesh and it is imperative for me to know the subjects available,so i could choose since i am taking my O’levels in a couple of years.So i would like to know the subjects?I would be very glad if you can do so at the earliest.

    • Hi Shararah,
      Since you are attached with a school, you must find out the available subjects from the school. Every school has their own set of available subjects.

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