All-Inclusive Guide to Cambridge IGCSE: Complete guide for parents

Written By Pragya | Edited By Varsha & Adi | Updated on 24th Jan, 2024

Choosing an international curriculum like IGCSE is a popular decision, but often, it feels like there’s a lack of clear information out there. Navigating through the options and understanding the curriculum can be confusing. That’s where this guide steps in! We are here to help you understand everything about the IGCSE education. 

We want to make the journey less confusing and give you the insights you need to make smart choices for your IGCSE school journey. Let’s make it simple and clear together!

Quick Summary

All-Inclusive Guide to Cambridge IGCSE

  1. What is the IGCSE Board?
  2. IGCSE Syllabus
  3. Grading System
  4. What comes next?
  5. Tips for Success in IGCSE
  6. FAQs about the IGCSE Board

1.  What is the IGCSE Board?

1. What is the IGCSE Board?

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education, commonly known as IGCSE, is a globally recognized qualification similar to the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). 

The IGCSE education, made by Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), is a top-notch recognition for doing great in studies. In the United Kingdom, it’s considered just as good as the GCSE, showing that students have done exceptionally well in their academics.

Key Features of the IGCSE Board

  • Global Education: Crafted by Cambridge Assessment International Education, the IGCSE is a strong secondary education qualification acknowledged worldwide.
  • Examination Boards: Various examination boards, including Cambridge IGCSE, Edexcel, Oxford AQA, and LRN, offer their versions of the International GCSEs, providing students with diverse options.
  • Syllabus and Study Timeline: Students typically commence studying the IGCSE syllabus in Year 10, reaching up in examinations at the end of Year 11. However, some international schools may begin the syllabus as early as Year 9.
  • Subject-Based Qualifications: Unlike a singular certificate for all subjects, IGCSE awards a qualification for each subject undertaken. Core subjects often include First Language, Second Language, Mathematics, and Sciences.
  • Examination Sessions: Cambridge IGCSE exams occur in two sessions: May/June and October/November. The results are released in August and January, respectively.
  • International Certificate in Education (ICE): Cambridge IGCSE offers an ICE group qualification for candidates excelling in seven subjects across five groups, fostering a well-rounded academic achievement.
  • Known Everywhere: Widely recognized globally, the IGCSE is considered comparable to various secondary school curricula worldwide. It serves as a foundation for further academic pursuits and is valued by institutions and employers worldwide.

How does IGCSE stand out?

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) distinguishes itself from other educational boards in several ways:

  1. Flexibility in Subjects: Unlike some boards that offer a fixed set of subjects, IGCSE provides a broad range of over 70 subjects. This flexibility enables students to explore their interests and craft their education based on their interests and career aspirations.
  2. Assessment Approach: IGCSE employs a comprehensive assessment model, including written, oral, coursework, and practical evaluations. This multifaceted approach ensures a more holistic understanding of a student’s abilities compared to some other boards.
  3. International Focus: IGCSE places a strong emphasis on international perspectives, preparing students to thrive in a globally interconnected world. This is a unique feature not always present in national educational boards.
  4. Future opportunities: The IGCSE qualification opens doors to various educational pathways. Whether students choose A-levels, the International Baccalaureate (IB), or other routes, IGCSE equips them with a solid foundation for further studies.
  5. Cambridge ICE Group Qualification: Cambridge IGCSE offers the International Certificate in Education (ICE) group qualification, allowing students to showcase their excellence across multiple subject groups, further highlighting their academic versatility.
  6. Year of Commencement: Students usually start studying IGCSE in Year 10, reaching up to examinations at the end of Year 11. However, in some international schools, students can commence the syllabus in Year 9, providing an earlier start to their academic journey.

2. IGCSE Syllabus

2. IGCSE Syllabus

The IGCSE curriculum, which stands for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, is your pathway to a globally recognized qualification. Let’s dive into the layers of the IGCSE syllabus and understand it in detail.


Developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, the IGCSE course is a two-year program specifically designed for students starting at the Class 9 level. This curriculum provides a broad and flexible study plan covering subjects from various areas, including Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, and Creative, Technical and Vocational disciplines.

Primary Curriculum: Ages 5 to 11

Cambridge IGCSE Primary Curriculum caters to young learners aged 5 to 11, focusing on English, Maths, and Science. This personalised program is designed to meet the unique needs of each student. While assessments are optional, teachers often recommend taking the Cambridge Primary Progression Tests, conducted internally by the school, to record progress comprehensively.

Secondary 1 Curriculum: Ages 11 to 14

For learners aged 11 to 14, the Cambridge Secondary 1 Curriculum concentrates on developing skills and knowledge in English, Mathematics, and Science during the initial three years of secondary education. This adaptable curriculum can be customised for studies in English or as a second language.

Secondary 2 Curriculum: Ages 14 to 16

The IGCSE Secondary 2 Curriculum targets students aged 14 to 16 (Class IX & X), offering two distinctive learning paths. Students can opt for either the Cambridge IGCSE Certificate or the Cambridge O levels, providing flexibility in their academic journey and preparing them for future pursuits.


The IGCSE curriculum is organised into five subject groups, offering students a diverse range of learning opportunities:

Group 1: Languages

  • First Language, Second Language, Foreign Language, etc.

Group 2: Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Geography, English Literature, History, etc.

Group 3: Sciences

  • Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.

Group 4: Mathematics

  • Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, etc.

Group 5: Creative, Technical & Vocational

  • Accounting, Business Studies, Computer Studies, Music, etc.

Students are given the flexibility to choose a minimum of 5 or a maximum of 14 subjects based on their interests and academic goals.

IGCSE Extended vs. IGCSE Core

Recognizing different student abilities, IGCSE offers a choice between Core and Extended levels in some papers:

  • Core Curriculum: Easier, targeting the majority of students (Grades C to G).
  • Extended Curriculum: More challenging, targeting academically able students (Grades A* to E).
  • Flexibility: Students can choose different levels for different subjects.
  • Grading Considerations: No compulsion to follow the same level for all subjects. If a student doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, the result will be ‘UNGRADED.’

Exam Format

Exams are typically scheduled in May/June for the main session, with an additional session in November for some subjects. The examination format is designed to comprehensively assess students’ knowledge, understanding, and skills in the chosen subjects.

3. Grading System

3. Grading System

The Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) employs a comprehensive grading system that provides a detailed assessment of a candidate’s performance across various subjects. Let’s delve into the grading overview and the calculation process to understand the Cambridge IGCSE grading system.

Grade Scale

The Cambridge IGCSE adopts a letter-based grading scale, ranging from A*(a*), the highest grade, to G(g), the lowest. Each letter grade corresponds to a specific level of achievement, offering a detailed evaluation of a candidate’s understanding and proficiency in the subject matter.

  • A* = 90-100%
  • A = 80-89%
  • B = 70-79%
  • C = 60-69%
  • D = 50-59%
  • E = 40-49%
  • F = 30-39%
  • G = 20-29%
  • U = 0-19%

For instance, if a student achieves an A grade in IGCSE English, it means their percentage falls within the range of 80-89%. Similarly, if a student attains a C grade in IGCSE Mathematics, their percentage would be in the 60-69% range.

It’s important to note that this method is just one way of converting IGCSE grades into percentages, and different methods may be employed depending on the educational institution or country.

Special Indicators: X, Q, UNGRADED, and TO BE ISSUED

  1. Grade X (‘NO RESULT’): This signifies that a candidate has not completed all components of the assessment or that a decision has been made not to issue a result for some other reason. It serves as an indicator of an incomplete evaluation.
  2. Grade Q (‘PENDING’): Issued when a result cannot be provided immediately but is anticipated to follow in due course. This grade reflects a temporary status pending further review or assessment.
  3. UNGRADED: This designation is used when a candidate fails to reach the standard required for a Grade G(g). It signals that the performance is below the minimum acceptable level.
  4. TO BE ISSUED: For certain Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses, this notation is used to indicate that the result will be awarded in the November series. It reflects a deferred outcome, allowing candidates to receive their grades at a later date.

Understanding the Grading Calculation

IGCSE grades are determined by evaluating a student’s performance through both internal and external assessments covering a range of subjects. The grading system employs a letter scale ranging from A* (the highest) to G (the lowest). Students who fall below the minimum requirements for a G grade receive an ungraded U mark.

The assessment process for IGCSE encompasses coursework and written examinations. Coursework, which includes projects, assignments, and practical work, is typically carried out throughout the course. Meanwhile, written examinations, conducted at the course’s conclusion, are created and evaluated by Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), the organisation overseeing IGCSE.

In determining IGCSE grades, the raw marks obtained by students in each subject undergo conversion into uniform marks, considering the difficulty level of each paper. Subsequently, these uniform marks are translated into grades utilising a set of grade boundaries established annually by CAIE. 

These boundaries hinge on various factors, including the collective performance of students in the exam, the paper’s difficulty level, and the expected achievement level for each grade.

4. What comes next?

IGCSE vs ICSE : Syllabus

IGCSE Subjects:

The IGCSE curriculum unfolds with a focus on foundational subjects like First Language, Second Language, Mathematics, and one or more Science subjects. These subjects find their homes in various groups—Languages, Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences, Mathematics, and Creative, Technical, and Vocational. 

Beyond the essentials, students have the exciting opportunity to opt for additional courses, ranging from Creative Arts to Social Sciences and more. The IGCSE curriculum is a canvas waiting to be painted with diverse educational choices.

ICSE Subjects:

ICSE students delve into six subjects, neatly organised into three groups—Group 1, 2, and 3. In Group 1, the essentials take the spotlight. Moving to Group 2, students pick any two from a set of four. Lastly, Group 3 presents a choice of one subject from eleven intriguing options. ICSE grades are calculated based on the top five scores out of six, with English marks holding a mandatory place.

The ICSE curriculum unfolds across the following categories:

Group 1 (Compulsory Subjects):

  • English
  • Second Language
  • History/Civics & Geography
  • S.U.P.W. (Socially Useful Productive Work)

Group 2 (Two subjects from the group):

  • Maths
  • Science
  • Economics
  • Commercial Studies

Group 3 (One subject from the options):

Having successfully navigated the Cambridge IGCSE, students are presented with a wide range of options and pathways for their educational journey. Let’s explore the post-IGCSE landscape and the various career opportunities available for students.

Post IGCSE Paths

  1. A-Levels (Advanced Levels): Many students choose to pursue A-Levels, a two-year program that delves deeper into specific subjects. A-Levels are recognized worldwide and are often a prerequisite for university admission.
  2. International Baccalaureate (IB): The IB diploma programme is another globally recognized qualification. It offers a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to education, preparing students for higher education and beyond.
  3. Vocational Education: Some students opt for vocational courses that provide practical skills and training in specific industries. This can include fields like hospitality, technology, or the arts.
  4. Dual Enrollment Programs: Dual enrollment programs allow students to simultaneously earn high school and college credits. This can be an excellent option for those looking to fast-track their education.
  5. Gap Year: Taking a gap year to explore personal interests, gain work experience, or engage in community service is a popular choice for some students. It provides a break from formal education while developing personal growth.

Career Opportunities

The Cambridge IGCSE not only opens doors to further education but also enhances career opportunities. Some potential career paths include:

  1. STEM Careers: For those inclined towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, careers in fields like medicine, engineering, or information technology become viable options.
  2. Humanities and Arts: Careers in journalism, literature, history, and the arts are accessible to students with a strong foundation in subjects like English, History, and the Social Sciences.
  3. Business and Finance: IGCSE subjects like Business Studies and Accounting pave the way for careers in business management, finance, and entrepreneurship.
  4. Global Opportunities: The international recognition of IGCSE makes it an excellent qualification for students aspiring to work or study abroad. It enhances competitiveness in the global job market.

5. Tips for Success in IGCSE Board

Effective Time Management

Develop a study schedule that allows ample time for each subject. Balancing coursework, revision, and practice exams is crucial.

Understand the Assessment Structure

Familiarise yourself with the format of exams and assessments for each subject. Practise past papers to get a sense of the types of questions that may be asked.

Seek Help When Needed

If you encounter challenges in a particular subject, don’t hesitate to seek help from teachers, classmates, or online resources. Understanding concepts thoroughly is key.

Stay Organized

Keep track of deadlines, assignments, and exam dates. A well-organized approach helps reduce stress and ensures you stay on top of your studies.

Utilize Available Resources

Take advantage of textbooks, online materials, and additional resources provided by the Cambridge International Education board. Supplementing your studies enhances your understanding of the subjects.

6. FAQs about the IGCSE Board

1. Is IGCSE only for students in the United Kingdom?

No, IGCSE is an international qualification designed for students worldwide. It is offered in numerous countries, and its global recognition makes it a popular choice for students aiming for an international education.

2. How does the IGCSE curriculum differ from the CBSE or ICSE curriculum?

The IGCSE curriculum is more internationally focused and offers a broader range of subjects compared to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) curricula. CBSE and ICSE curricula are national boards while IGCSE is accepted worldwide.

3. Can my child pursue Indian competitive exams after completing IGCSE?

Yes, students completing IGCSE can still pursue Indian competitive exams like JEE, NEET, or other entrance exams. However, it’s essential to check the specific eligibility criteria for each exam.

4. Are there coaching classes available for IGCSE in India?

Yes, there are coaching classes available for IGCSE subjects in India. Some students may choose to supplement their studies with coaching to ensure thorough preparation.

5. What to do after completing IGCSE?

After finishing IGCSE, students can opt for local boards like CBSE, ISC, or HSC, which follow a 10+2 format. Another option is to explore international pre-university programs such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the UK’s AS/A levels. These choices provide flexibility and set the stage for students to shape their academic journey based on their interests and future plans.


Wrapping it up, IGCSE is like a key that unlocks many educational opportunities worldwide. It’s known for its global view and fair way of testing. As you start your IGCSE journey, remember it lets you choose different subjects, focuses on the worldview, and leads to various options after IGCSE. Whether you pick A-levels, the International Baccalaureate, job-related courses, or something else, IGCSE gives you a strong base for success. 

Keep a balanced schedule, understand your exams, ask for help if needed, stay organised, and use all the best practices we have mentioned. Whether you choose A-Levels, IB, or other paths, IGCSE sets you up for a bright future. Enjoy the journey, stay focused, and your dreams are within reach!

What’s Next

We suggest asking yourselves, ‘What do you want for your kid in Bangalore?’ Make a list of the ‘must  haves’ and the ‘nice  to  haves.’

Also, don’t be shy, talk to everyone! Friends and neighbours in Bangalore may have some thoughts. Check online too, but remember, reviews are like opinions, everyone’s got one! Oh, school visits! Take a tour, meet the teachers, ask questions, and see if it clicks in Bangalore. Open houses are super helpful too, you’ll learn about what they teach and meet other parents.

And don’t forget the money talk school fees are just the tip of the iceberg in Bangalore. There are uniforms, field trips, and the occasional surprise costs. Stay on top of the applications, they may be followed by an interview. When it comes to interviews, just being yourself is the key, even for kids.

But really, you can’t go wrong with any of these Bangalore schools, as they are the best in Bangalore. Let us know which one you end up enrolling your kid in!

Varsha & Adi

Hi, we are Varsha and Adi, and we’re on a mission to help parents make the right choice for their kids’ education. Picking a school is like a 10-year commitment, and we realized parents needed clear, no-nonsense info. That’s why we created Candid Schools, where you can get the real deal on schools without the fancy jargon. Our goal is simple: to give parents the info they need to make the best choice for their little ones.

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