What is the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?

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The IGCSE Qualification was originally created in 1988 as an overseas qualification, only 2 years after the GCSE qualification and has steadily increased in popularity due to it being used in many independent or private schools and colleges. As an example, 78,000 pupils sat the IGCSE English Language exam in 2013 compared to only 17,000 the year before.

This increase in popularity has led to it becoming a source of confusion, however. 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. It is usually only taught at schools in the UK, with only a few exceptions and it’s designed for students aged 14+ who want to progress to A-levels before entering UK university. The two-year course can consist of practical assessments, coursework, oral presentations and examinations. Grades were traditionally marked from A* to G, but a new (9-1) grading system was introduced in 2017.

GCSEs have always been important for academic progression, but they are also requirements for many careers with English Language, Maths and Science often being cited as prerequisites for job roles.

GCSE Exams in sat in the Summer of each year with a resit paper available in November, although this is only available for anyone who sat exams in the previous Summer.

The Distance Learning Centre offers a selection of GCSE courses including English Literature, Maths, Psychology and Sociology. You can find more information on our GCSE courses Page.


The International GCSE or IGCSE are the same level qualification as GCSE and has the same 9-1 grading system and it can also act as a gateway to further academic study in the UK and beyond for those progressing on to A-levels (or other international equivalents), before entering university.

The IGCSEs syllabus includes many of the same elements that are found within a GCSE course but traditionally most IGCSEs did not have coursework, and they were usually assessed by examination only. This was often mentioned as being a big difference between the qualifications although in recent specification changes many GCSEs have removed or reduced coursework elements while some IGCSE Qualifications have actually introduced some practical work.

The main difference is that while GCSE exams can usually only be sat in the UK, IGCSE exams are available in over 150 different countries. There are a few different Awarding Organisations offering IGCSEs however so whether you can find a centre will often depend on whether that organisation cover the location. The IGCSE courses we offer are all Pearson Edexcel specifications and they are the UK's largest awarding body.

Pearson Edexcel specification exams can also be sat in January for some subjects, although there tends to be less options available for centres in the UK.

The Distance Learning Centre offers a large variety of IGCSEs including English Language, Maths and Science as well as languages such as French, Spanish and German. Here is the full list of IGCSE courses provided.


Due to recent changes any differences between GCSE and IGCSE are minor are IGCSEs are largely accepted as ‘equivalent’ GCSE qualifications by the vast majority of universities, sixth form colleges and other independent schools.

Most universities and companies accept IGCSEs as they have been accredited by Ofqual. Any that don’t will be down to personal preference so it’s always worth checking with whoever you intend to apply to, although if Oxford and Cambridge accept them, it's safe to assume most will.

Distance Learning Centre is dedicated to making education accessible for all and we offer a range of IGCSE and GCSE courses so whichever qualification you choose; we have something for you.