What is the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?

students studying GCSE's

In 2013, 78,000 pupils took the IGCSE English Language exam compared with 17,000 the year before. The IGCSE is becoming more popular, with some schools even enrolling students on both traditional GCSE and the IGCSE. However, they can also be a source of confusion. So what exactly is an IGCSE? And how does it compare to a traditional GCSE?


The General Certificate of Secondary Education is an academic qualification awarded in a specific subject. In the UK (excluding Scotland), 14-16 year-old’s study around 10 GCSE’s during their time at secondary school. The two-year course consists of practical assessments, coursework, oral presentations and examinations. Grades are marked from A* to G, but will be replaced with grades 9-1 within the next couple years.
In essence, a GCSE is a more rigid assessment than the IGCSE. This is due to the fact that it is controlled and governed by the national curriculum. This can be great for students who didn’t get the grades they desired when they attended secondary school or students who prefer a clear, modular assessment. 
The Distance Learning Centre offers a selection of GCSE courses including Law, Maths, Psychology, Sociology and Religious Studies. Here you can find more information on GCSE courses.


The International GCSE was created specifically for international students whose first language isn’t necessarily English. First introduced 25 years ago, the IGCSE’s syllabus includes many of the same elements that are found within a GCSE course but most IGCSE’s do not have coursework. 
The QCA noted that there is less reading for English in the IGCSE, no speaking test for French and no non-calculator exam in maths. As this qualification is available in more than 100 countries it has to have flexibility within the curriculum and so is a more linear assessment. Instead of pupils taking exams after each module, exams are at the end of the course. This stops exams being time-consuming and tiresome. 
The Distance Learning Centre offers a large variety of IGCSE’s from Business to English Literature. Here is the full list of IGCSE courses we provide.


There are some major differences between the IGCSE and GCSE, and therefore choosing between them is all about knowing your personal needs. The IGCSE does not have to adhere to the national curriculum, so it offers more adaptability to its students. The GCSE was more closely bound to the programme of secondary school learning and therefore can work better for an English speaking student who has not completed an 11-16 learning programme.
Most universities accept IGCSE’s as they have been accredited by Ofqual. Those who don’t are down to personal preference so we’d recommend researching, though if Oxford and Cambridge accept them, it’s safe to assume most will. You can find a list of Universities that do accept IGCSE’s here.
Here at The Distance Learning Centre, we are dedicated to making education accessible for all. We offer a range of IGCSE and GCSE courses – so whichever qualification you choose; we have something for you.


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