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.


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.



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 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.


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).

231 Replies to “What is O Level?”

  1. Hello. I want to repeat my o level this may june 2017 as I am not satisfied with my results. I sat for 8 GCE o level papers on last year OctNov session but this time I want to do only 6 subjects GCE o level on may june. I want to ask if I sit for 6 subjects as private candidate is it going to count as GCE or as GSCE (which is less tough and does not count while getting a job??) and do MayJune session’s results count less than OctNov session (from what I heard) ?

    • Hello there,
      All the examination series carry the same weight. If you register for the Cambridge O Level, you will obtain Cambridge O Level certificate. If you register for the GCSE, then you will obtain the GCSE certificates.

  2. Hi. My name is Shayan. I’m studying in a British school in Kenya. My Cambridge IGSC exams starts in May. I just finished my mocks and did not get good grades. I need advice on options.
    I understand that every year there are 2 exams once in May and second in December. What if I appear in December instead of May? Would it appear in my certificate?

    • Hi Shayan,
      There is no examination series in December. It is Oct/Nov, and it’s called November series.

      It does not matter which examination series you sit in. You will obtain the same IGCSE certificates.

  3. Hi, my daughter is sitting her O/Level examinations in a few months and I wanted to know if there is a minimum number of subjects that has to be taken in order to get into A/levels or an overseas university. The school does not force the kids to take 7 or more but most of her peers are writing 7 subjects. Is it alright if she takes only 6 subjects?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Olinka,
      If the school does not have a “fixed” number of subjects to be taken, she is definitely free to take any subjects according to her preference.

  4. Hello . I am from Pakistan, Karachi .
    I wanted to ask what is the deadline for registration for 2017 May/June GCE examinations.
    And as I am studying privately, where am I suppose to get the registration form from in Karachi ?

  5. Hello . My name is adil and I am from karachi .
    I wanted to ask what is the deadline for registration for 2017 may/june gce examinations .
    And as I am studying privately, where am i suppose to get the registration form from in karachi ?

  6. Dear team.

    My son is preparing for O Level, I just want to confirm the subjects that he needs to pursue in Law.


    • Hello Charles,
      In practical, anyone could study Law as long as he/she obtains the minimum required grades for the Law colleges/institutions/universities. English is the most important subject that you need to have and obtain very high grade, minimum A in order to enter a reputable Law colleges/institutions/universities. As the command of language must be strong in this field.

      We have seen students from the science group entered Law degree, and also students from the art group entered Law degree. There are also working adults who in search for career advancement taking Law degree as well.

      If you want to know a specific subject needed, it would be a good idea to check on the universities’ websites and find out from there.

  7. i want to give chemistry physics and maths d from bangladesh.pls let me know the three subject codes as i am confused about many different subject codes of same subjects

  8. Marc Rampersad of Trinidad West Indies writing the January exams in Trinidad have not received any Time Table yet :- Chemistry and Physics Please assist. Thank you

    • Hi Marc,
      You must get the exam timetable from your school / exam centre. Please go there and get from them. They should have a copy by now.

  9. Hey, I have this serious confusion about choosing subjects. I have chosen 6 of them is it alright or should I pick one more subject. Please help me and reply me as soon as possible.

    Thanks in advance…

    • Hi Noor,
      You can choose any number of subjects as your combination. You must also take into consideration if these subjects fit for your further studies.

      What we could suggest you is, first find out what do you want to study in the future, then find out what are the required subjects as entry requirement. You will have clearer picture and won’t be confused anymore. 🙂

  10. Dear team.

    My son is preparing for O Level, I just want to confirm the subjects that he needs to pursue in IT. I pressume 5 subject should be enough. At the moment he is in year 8, doing Maths, Science and English. He is homeschooling.


    • Hi Tania,
      He may consider these: English, Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Chemistry. You can also call up the university that he wishes to apply and get their required subjects. You would have better idea in this way.

    • Hi Minhaj,
      It is your decision as where you would like to continue your studies. It is not only USA is available, there are hundreds of universities around the world that you can apply to 🙂

  11. Hi. I’m theyzaan. I’m know studying o levels. And I’m from Yemen. The British council is closed right away.. What can I do.. Thank you and please replay as soon as possible.

    • Hi Duke,
      There is no minimum “required” subject if you are a private candidate. You may choose between 5-7 subjects based on your interest and capability. Please read above article on how to choose your subjects.

  12. Hi. Im from Pakistan and I’m in Malta right now. I have passed 9th and 10th grade board exams from Pakistan. Kindly guide me if can study O levels or A levels . thanks

    • Hi Ali,
      If you are a private candidate, you can always sit for O-Level or A Level privately with any local British Council.

  13. hi .i am studying edexcel IGCSE .how many subjects minimum do i need to take to get admission in a abroad university in both O and A LEVEL?

    • Hi Lamia,
      Each university has its own entry requirement. There is no global standard in minimum subjects required for the university. It is best to call up the university and check with them.

    • Dear.
      My son will appeared ICGCSE of 2018 ,I need your support how many subj compulsory & how many subject in business group please informe me.

  14. Hello 🙂

    If someone wants to give an examination of O levels at the age of 12, would there be any issue about this? Or he/she has to wait until he/she turns to 14?

    • Hi Saad,
      No, there is no minimum subject required for O Level, if you are a private candidate. However, if you are attached to a school, you must follow the minimum subject for the school. Universities would look at your grades, not minimum subject.

  15. Hi, I was wondering what subjects are offered in o-levels and how many are we meant to choose.
    I Would also like to confirm..
    O-levels are the studies done in year 11 right ?

    • Hi Najma,
      O-Level is a kind of group award. You must consult your school for that. They should have a “fixed” group of subjects to be taken.
      Yes, it is usually taken upon completion of Year 11. However, this is just a guideline for schooled students. If you are a private candidate, you can take the exams any time.

  16. Hello there! I had some concers about my igcse subjects credits. I know it sounds a little weird. I did my igcse in pakistan and moved to america and here they say that they cannot consider my igcse’s grade, and i cannot graduate this year. Because they are unable to give me credits. I was hoping to know about the grade equilancy(i am not sure what they call it). So i can show them how many credits i got from each subject based upon my grades i earned. I would be really Appreciate if you help me with this.

    • Hi Muhammad,
      Most of the ivy league colleges and universities in the US know about IGCSE gradings, for example: Harvard. If your university/college does not know about IGCSE gradings, they can always write to CIE and get the confirmation on the credit conversion.

  17. IF i skip A levels …. and join university , what i have to do ?? Like … i have to give some kind of exams …. ????
    My name is maheen and i am from karachi …

    • Hi Maheen,
      We strongly suggest you to call up the university and find out what is their entry requirement. Usually you need A-Level or equivalent certification in order to enter university.

  18. My name is Anwar khan shinwari
    And i am from pakistan
    Actullay my question that i have been cleared with 7 subjects of olevels.
    Can i take admission in collage ..????

    • Hi Answar,
      You could try to apply. Most colleges require A-Level or equivalent. However, if you’re applying for diploma courses, you might be able to get the admission.

  19. Hi. I have just passed 10 standard from cbse, can i take o levels now?
    And i want to know what is the difference between o levels and the normal studies.

    • Hello Aroojie,
      We do not understand what is “the normal studies”. If you wish to compare O Level and IGCSE, you may find all the details above.

    • Hi Jagga,
      Most universities and colleges require both A Level and O Level qualifications as the entry requirement. You must take both.

  20. I am going to start 9th grade this September in USA I will be moving to Bangladesh the summer before 10th grade. Will I be able to take o level if so how do I prepare?

    • Hi Zumana,
      You can enrol into a school which offers O Level, or you may study at home. If you are going to study by yourself, please first find out from your local British Council on: the available subjects in your area, the exam registration dates, fees, etc etc…

  21. Hi there,
    I’m thinking of registering for O levels this year but there are so many subjects so I wanted to know what are the minimum criteria to fulfil this level, like is it ok if I choose the subjects randomly and am I supposed to choose atleast 7 subjects or less? Please let me know. Thank you.

    • Hello Shrujana,
      You may choose the subjects according to your ability, if you are a private candidate. If you are attached to a school, you might need to follow the minimum chosen subjects from the school.

  22. My Son TAHA : Completed his Prep-III, Senior Section – 8 grade,
    When he will register in O-Level GCE Papers,
    Now his age is 11 years finished this month, turning on 12 from july 2016
    IS he eligible for register ?


    Father’s TAHA

    • Hi Iqbal,
      There is no age limitation in taking IGCSE. You may proceed to your local British Council and register your son. Please find out the registration dates now.

  23. Hi,im 23 now..can I do my o level..and after that if my results are good..can I continue with bachelor in law programme ..?

    • Hi Deepa,
      Yes, definitely you can. Just head over to your local British Council and register for the next examination series.

  24. hi, I want to ask if I wanted to take olevel but I do not know where to registe.. Do you know any colleges in kl that offer o -level and how much to pay?

  25. Hello, I take 5 subject in o’levels but I only passed 2 subject Bengali and English. I got Bengali A and English E. Then I take GED and passed all subject. I wanted to study USA for culinary arts. So, In this result can i eligible to admitted to any U.S. college ? I know it’s not type of question that you answer but yeah if you know something then please said something.

    • Hi Avril,
      You can use the O-Level past papers as practice. However, the exam format is different, so does some of the syllabus. Please check the past papers and syllabus of O-Level before you spend too much time in practicing something which is not in the IGCSE syllabus.

  26. Hi I’m 14 years old and I just finished my CIE secondary one exam today! I want to answer IGCSE O level examination ,how do I prepare for this.

    • Hi Rose,
      Please first find out the exam registration from your local British Council, and find out what are the subjects available. You could plan better in that way.

  27. Hi, I’m from Bangladesh, I’m 22 years old. I want to participate in IGCSE exam as a private candidate. Is there any age limit for private candidates in Bangladesh?

  28. hi,
    i have completed my o-levels in 2015 summer series.
    i got 3 Bs, 2 As, 1C and 1E.
    have i got good grades?
    My classmate got 4A*, 1A, 2BS

    • Hi Imran,
      You have done your part. Any grade is good grade :)… All you need to do is, find out more on the entry requirement for university. If they need minimum Grade B for a particular subject, which you don’t have, you might need to resit this particular subject.

  29. I took malaysian school sycibus. And im intends to take chemistry and biology under o level exam
    Can do so and where to register for the exam
    Finally how much is the fees.tq

    • Hi Natham,
      You can register with your local British Council. Just pay a visit to British Council to find out more on the fees and registration process.

  30. I am 21 year and want to do O level exam because of matriculation I’ve done but I wish to do olevel, and my result was not enough to go further jobs etc so decided to do olevel but as Age limit!!
    Is any age limit for admission!

    • Hello there,
      As far as we know there is no age limit for O-Level if you are a private student. Just consult your local British Council for this, and ask for exam registration.

    • Hi Shahib,
      Cambridge O Levels are usually taught as a two year course for students aged 14 to 16 years, but can be taken at any age.

      Nevertheless, if you are attached with a school, there might be an age limit from the school. In this case, you must get the confirmation from the school.

  31. Hi my name is MJ and I have completed my o-levels with 4 credits and I have accomplished my foundation. I wanted to study in France but they require 5 o- level credits. Is it possible to take the o-levels exam again?

    • Hi Mirjolol,
      Please ask the institute if they can accept IGCSE for that missing subject? If they could, you just need to take one subject with IGCSE.

      Else, you might need to ask how many subjects you need to take if you repeat O-Level again.

  32. Hi IGCSE team
    If someone got A* in 6 or 7 subjects(Physics, Biology, Chemistry, English, Mathematics, Arabic, and any subject) will he get a scholarship in either Oxford or Cambridge universities ? and What are the possible papers(2,3,4,5,6) that can come in the IGCSE exam other than paper 1 ?

  33. Im in o level and i really cant understand your website and im good at learning and im taking tutions and im so scared from failing in ig exam so please help me i pressed on you mathmetics link but there are 3 options i dont really know which one ill take for the ig exams on february so please pleaseee help meeeeeee

  34. differance between core & extended subjects
    to enroll on line how to go about
    is there separete code numbers for the subjects to mention

    • Yes, there are separate subject codes. For O-Level subject codes, please check with your school or your nearest British Council.

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