What is the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs?

What is the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs? Choosing between a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a very confusing decision. You may be confused because you do not know what is the main difference between them and how they work.

The main difference between both of them is that GCSE is only accepted in the UK, whereas IGCSE is internationally recognized. It is compulsory to take maths and English for your normal GCSEs, and for IGCSE, you will need to take up science along with these two subjects. The other differences like dates of examinations have been discussed further, but let us first see what exactly is GCSE and IGCSE.

What is GCSE?

GCSE is the grading system that is generally taken during your year 11. These are the basic qualifications that help you to get further A-levels and also help you to get into a good university. When you are taking GCSE, you will need to take at least 9 GCSEs for yourself. You must take up two subjects which are Maths and English. The passing grade for them is grade 4 and for a strong pass, it is 5. Grade adobe is considered as a position. 

What is IGCSE?

IGCSE is similar to GCSE but is more focused on the international level. You will need to take at least 4 to 5 IGCSEs depending upon the school you will be studying. However, you must take three subjects that are compulsory i.e English, Science, and Maths. One of the most common IGCSE exam boards is the Cambridge board which offers 70 subjects that involve 30 language subjects. 

What is the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs?

Following is the difference between the GCSE and IGCSE-

1. Course Content

The course designed for traditional GCSE is specifically for students studying in the UK. However, if we talk about the IGCSE, is specifically created in relation to students studying internationally. There may be differences in the topics of the subjects and there may also be optional topics in IGCSE. Also for most of the GCSE subjects, you will find both the coursework and the exam. However, for IGCSE, there is no coursework except for subjects like Art and design. 

What is the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs?

2. Compulsory subjects

If we talk about GCSEs you must take math and English as your GCSE subjects. It is essential as taking both subjects is most commonly required for various colleges and universities. In addition to it when you are going for a job interview, your employer may also look for these subjects in your CV. On the other hand, if we talk about the IGCSE, you need to take Science along with English and math as your compulsory subjects.

3. Exam dates

The exam dates for GCSE are from May to June and if we talk about resitting, it is November. However, if we talk about IGCSE, there are two types of date-time: November to January and May to June. When we speak from November to January, they are specifically for some subjects.

4. Availability in country

As mentioned earlier, the traditional GCSE is for the UK whereas if we talk about IGCSE, it is for the international level. If you go deeper, around 150 countries accept IGCSE. In fact, some international schools in the UK offer IGCSE except for traditional GCSE. 

5. Types of exam boards

There are five different boards for GCSE. You can choose from AQA, CCEA, Edexcel, OCR, and WJEC. If we talk about IGCSE there are three various boards for taking up exams. You can take exams from CIE, Oxford AQA, and Edexcel.

6. Grading system

Almost all boards of both the exams fool the current grading system i.e 9-1 grading system. However, if we talk about the CIE board of IGCSE exams, also offers the old grading system for the IGCSE exams.

What are the disadvantages of IGCSEs over GCSEs?

Following are the different points that show why IGCSEs have a disadvantage over GCSEs- 

  • IGCSEs are mainly focused on the education system based on the international level and are worldwide accepted. Whereas if you want to take GCSE, it will only be focused on the UK nation.
  • The IGCSEs school charges higher tuition fees than the GCSEs. Thus if you live on a budget, then you will not be able to go to IGCSEs school.
  • The course curriculum is wide in nature compared to the course curriculum of GCSEs. However, there are some of the topics in GCSEs that are optional in IGCSE.

What are the advantages of IGCSEs over GCSEs?

Following are the different points that show why IGCSEs have the advantage over GCSEs- 

  • IGCSEs are commonly accepted on the international level. This means that you can use it outside the UK as well. 
  • Though doing GCSEs will also help you in getting good career options, IGCSE will help you to find better options for it.
  • As the course curriculum is designed in such a manner that it is accepted at international levels, you can easily get admission into good universities at the international level. 
  • It will help you to develop the skills that are most useful for getting a successful life.

Are IGCSEs harder than GCSEs? 

If we consider the earlier system of GCSE, they were considered to be less hard than the IGCSE. This is because it involves both the coursework and the exams of the subjects.
However, with the current system of taking the GCSEs, you may consider them equal in terms of difficulty levels. In fact, for many subjects, some people consider IGCSE to be more accessible than the GCSE. Therefore, whether the IGCSE is harder than the GCSE, really depends upon the subjects you want to take.

Is IGCSE equivalent to GCSE?

Both qualifications are generally considered equal and also are accepted in various sixth-form colleges, universities, etc. This is because of the current change in the course curriculum of the traditional GCSEs.


GCSEs and IGCSEs are one of the most common qualifications that you may want to take before doing A-levels. Though both are important and have almost similar course content, there are still some differences in both of them. Starting with you can use IGCSE qualification on an international level whereas GCSEs are only used for the UK.

The compulsory subjects for both of the qualifications are the same with science being an additional subject for IGCSE. Boards in which you give GCSE and IGCSE are also different from each other. If considering the difficulty level, the original GCSE was considered to be more challenging than the IGCSEs. However, with the change in the current system, it tends to be more difficult for some subjects.

William Christie