What is GCSE?

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a secondary school leaving certificate for schools in the UK.

GCSE exams were being introduced as compulsory secondary school leaving certificate by the UK government in the late 1980s, with the first exam taken in 1988. Since then, GCSE has replaced the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) and GCE Ordinary Level (O-Level) examinations.

Curriculums And Grading

GCSE has moved its focus away from merely theoretical studies. It teaches students about real-world implications and issues relating to ICT and citizenship. At the same time, students are required to do course work as part of the contribution for each subjects’ grades.

Students are being graded from A*?G, with A* as the highest and G as the lowest. Students will be given a U (unclassified) for failed subjects, and an X grade for incomplete test such as not able to submit their course work.

Further Education

After completing GCSE, students will continue their studies to Advance Level (A-Level) in their current schools’ sixth form, or enroll into Foundation Course in universities or colleges.

Students are required to obtain five or more A*-C grades, including English and Maths to further their studies to A-Level. Most universities are typically required minimum grade C in both English and Maths in GCSE, regardless students’ achievements in A-Level or Foundation Course.

24 Replies to “What is GCSE?”

  1. Hello. I am Umamma Waheed from Pakistan. I gave exams on May/June 2018 of Igcse English. I got my results from the school today and in paper 22 I got 85.6 marks, paper 42 I got 19.5 marks and in paper 52 I got as Level 2 as my marks. I got grade E. Can you please check out how I got grade E.

    • Hi Umamma,

      No one would get back their exam papers. Just apply for re-marking if you feel you should obtain higher marks. Please apply the re-marking with your exam centre.

      If you require exact answer, please write to CIE directly. CIE is the exam board. You can write them here: http://www.cie.org.uk

  2. Hi I am a student of cbse and very eager to switch to igcse board as its better ….So in order to get in, what percentage do i have to get in cbse to enter igcse

    • Hi Mitul,

      You don’t need any scores to sit for IGCSE exams. Just register with your local British Council and you’ll be able to sit for the exam.

  3. Hi
    I got this in my IGCSE 2016
    Is it possible for me to do medicine or any medical course in the UK?

    • Hi Ben,
      Most of the medical courses require minimum Grade B and above for Biology, Chemistry, Maths and English. You may want to check which universities would accept these grades. Otherwise, you might consider to re-sit some subjects.

  4. Hi, I’m a South African & am homeschooling my daughter who will be writing her IGCSE exams in June 2018. One of the subjects she wants to do is Design & Technology but this is not available to private students. Could you please recommend an equivalent subject that will allow her to take Design & Technology in A levels.

  5. Is IGCSE accepted in philippine colleges and universities? Should i change my school? Thank you so much. I’m just worried they might not accept. I’m studying Igcse in Kuwait.

    • Hi Sarah,
      As far as we know, they are accepted. If you would like to know for sure, please write to the universities in the Philippines and find out more.


    It is observed that students and teachers as well are confused whether to write or not to write Title for Summary Writing, be it for IGCSE OR ASL.
    First of all, no body is authorised to scrap or modify rules just to suit their whims and fancy.
    Rules were being followed very strictly as per the earlier Cambridge almost two and a half decades ago, which now is being operated under the name of ICSE in India.and internationally it is IGCSE.
    Keeping in mind that English being a global language, cannot have any disparity. I am very often questioned, being a Profess but also being a Corporate Trainer, when I teach English and Business English as well.
    Presume the Question paper has an extract depicting about Orangutans and Chimpanzees. And the student is asked to extract points related to the behaviour of the Orangutans and the Chimpanzees….
    How does it justify not to give a title to this sort of a summary.
    As per the knowledge gained over the years, it stands right to give a title in Summary Writing.
    If a title is already given (Eg. BATS) and the student has been asked to write about the BATS, in that case, the student can use the same title.
    Kindly confirm facts with evidence and if Cambridge University is scrapping Title for Summary Writing, then confirm on what grounds, and who is authorised to do so and why.
    Just for your knowledge – Father of Grammar and Composition is FOWLER AND FOWLERS.

  7. I’m British and am educating my children at home in the U.S. I would prefer they take the GCSE and A level route. Is there a website where I can find out about the possibility of this and the cost? Many thanks.

    • Hi Rebecca,
      You may check with the nearest British Council, and see if they do offer GCSE in the US. Otherwise, IGCSE is the equivalent to GCSE that you might want to consider. Definitely A-Level is available after IGCSE.

    • Hello Eddy,
      That is very much depending on the entry requirement from the university. Please check with your desired university.

  8. Hi, I am momina from Pakistan. I study in a school that offers o levels. I don’t have good teachers but we are paying a lot of money. I just wanted to ask that can I give my IGCSE the next year privately as my school isn’t providing me good teachers. Can I give the papers without being registered in a school or I have to join a good school to give my papers?

    • Hi Momina,

      You can always sit for the exam as “Private Candidate”. Just register yourself with the nearest British Council.

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