Do Universities Prefer IGCSEs or GCSEs?

Do universities prefer igcse or gcse

GCSEs or IGCSEs – students have asked this question over the years! Do universities prefer ICCSEs or GCSEs? After meticulously crafting your university applications and personal statement, you would be required to fill in the “qualifications” section.

But then would you highlight the IGCSEs or stick with the classic GCSEs? Despite being famous and recognized globally, relatively few people are aware of the IGCSE. Do universities even care which exam you took? Is there a preferred exam that could impact the admission decision?

In this article, we will share all the information you need to know about IGCSEs and if universities prefer IGCSEs or GCSEs. We will also distinguish an IGCSE from a typical GCSE qualification to see which of these exams is the best fit for you.

What is an IGCSE?

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education is referred to as IGCSE. It provides the same level of education as a standard GCSE but without a curriculum or background that is exclusive to the UK. 

The IGCSE was first created in 1988, just two years after GCSEs were first launched, to increase the relevance of the GCSE qualification for an international audience. Nearly 240,000 students from 146 nations received IGCSE diplomas in 2021.

The IGCSE is recognized as the global counterpart of the GCSE, and the two exams are highly comparable. 

Nearly all pupils will take GCSEs, which are subject-based academic qualifications, towards the conclusion of their required academic course. 

This typically occurs when a person is 16 years old or in the eleventh grade. While GCSEs can be studied for at any stage of life and are especially well-liked by distance learners, they typically require two to three academic years to complete in school. For 16-year-olds, there were 4,810,000 GCSE admissions in total in 2021.

Although both certificates are typically studied by adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18, there is no upper age limit for either qualification, thus students both younger and older than this can take the exams.

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Although the IGCSE and GCSE exams are seen as being quite comparable, there are some significant distinctions between the two exams. Here is a detailed comparison of how the two credentials vary:

  • Only in the UK do they permit GCSE exams, and state, private, and independent schools there provide them. IGCSE exams, nevertheless, are accessible in more than 150 nations. This includes the UK, where students can choose to take IGCSE exams rather than GCSE ones. Both credentials are typically studied beginning at age 16, and both need about two years of study to complete.
  • In contrast to IGCSE subjects, many GCSEs also incorporate coursework as a key component of their evaluation criteria in addition to exams. ‘Hands-on’ subjects like painting and design are more likely to require coursework than other subjects.
  • The new grading system for GCSEs uses numbers, with one being the lowest grade and nine being the highest. IGCSEs continue to use a letter-based grading system, with A* being the highest grade obtainable and G being the lowest (this was also the case for GCSES in the past).
  • IGCSEs and GCSEs might have very different course content. The contextual and cultural variations between each certification are distinct, with IGCSEs having no UK-specific material in their curriculum. This will be more obvious in certain courses than others, with Geography, History, and English Literature serving as three prominent examples of subjects where the IGCSE curriculum will diverge significantly from the curriculum provided to GCSE students.
  • If you do GCSEs, your exams will be in May and June every year. English language and math You can also take your GCSE exams in November. Furthermore, IGCSE students can take their exams in November and January, with certain additional topics having additional exam windows in May and June.

More Information on GCSEs and IGCSEs

Despite these variations, there are many more parallels than differences between GCSEs and IGCSEs. It’s crucial to know that UK institutions will accept both credentials if your intended academic path includes attending college, for instance. 

In reality, the two are recognized equally and without distinction as qualifications when used as part of the admission process for universities in the UK. 

Your ability to use your credentials to enter university should not be a deciding factor in your decision when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of IGCSE vs. GCSE.

You can read this: How Many GCSEs Do You Need For University? |

Is IGCSE Harder Than GCSE?

Is IGCSE harder than GCSE? Whether you choose to be evaluated through coursework or an exam will probably influence your response to the question. 

IGCSEs have traditionally been considerably more exam-based credentials, whereas GCSEs have included more coursework, submitted throughout the study time. 

The fact that many students preferred a mix of coursework and exams led to the perception that GCSEs were simpler; however, with Michael Gove’s reforms as Secretary of State for Education, this perception was altered.

They eliminated many coursework components for various subjects as part of this reform process, which made both credentials more exam-focused.

Some people might assume that IGCSEs are simpler because of the test schedule’s flexible time range. IGCSE exams can be taken in November, January, and May/June, but only the May/June exam window is available for GCSE exams.

Is IGCSE Harder Than GCSE? – More Information

IGCSEs do not satisfy the same high requirements as GCSEs, according to the UK Government, however, this claim has received much support. 

These sources claim that the government thinks it is far simpler to earn top grades in IGCSE exams than it is to earn the same top grades on GCSE exams. 

This has also generated controversy because it is seen to provide pupils in private schools with an unfair advantage.  

According to a Guardian story, “Top universities are providing privately educated youngsters an unfair edge by not discriminating between the hard GCSEs required in the state system and less challenging tests completed in many fee-paying schools.

It is a complete outrage that universities treat IGCSEs and new GCSEs similarly even though it is simpler to earn good results in the former. 

It’s critical to keep in mind that most of this view is unconfirmed, which is why the argument over which of the two qualifications is more difficult to obtain continues to persist.

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Subjects for IGCSE and GCSE Compared

You must take some GCSE subjects if you enroll in a state school in the UK. These are officially referred to as the “core” topics and include English literature, English language, math, and science. 

While there are no hard and fast guidelines about how many GCSEs you should study for, most schools will require their students to complete at least five GCSEs, with the average student taking a maximum of 12 courses. Most students won’t take any more GCSEs than this.

It’s vital to keep in mind that quality is frequently preferable to quantity.

As a result, choosing subjects that will aid in the achievement of your future career goals and studying them thoroughly to the highest levels are likely to be far more productive than studying a large number of subjects and receiving poor grades.

Other GCSE subjects are broken down into four different groups in addition to the core courses mentioned above. These groups include:

  • Arts. This will include subjects such as art, music, and drama
  • Technical Subjects. This will include subjects such as Design and Technology, electronics, and Computer Science
  • Humanities. The main humanities subjects that you can study at GCSE level are Geography and Religious Studies
  • Modern Foreign Languages. The main modern foreign languages offered in state schools in the UK are French, German, and Spanish, however, it is possible to study for a modern foreign language GCSE in almost every world language. It is up to each school to decide which languages they will offer to their students. If you want to study a different language, you may have to do so independently. 

Other Subjects for IGCSE and GCSE Compared

Since they require these qualifications, there are no core IGCSE topics; nonetheless, you can take IGCSEs in the same core subjects, Math, English, and Science.

Study skills, geography, the humanities, ITC, physical education, and disciplines related to the creative arts are additional popular IGCSE subjects. 

To ensure that your options are not limited by the courses offered, both GCSEs and IGCSEs offer an extraordinarily wide selection of subjects.

Whatever your job aspirations or long-term life objectives, there are GCSE and IGCSE topics available to assist you in achieving them.

In the UK, they ask students to select their GCSE or IGCSE subjects at a young age.

This typically occurs during the Spring term of the ninth year of secondary school, when most students are only 14 years old. 

Before this time (during their seventh, eighth, and ninth high school years), those students will have studied every topic offered, allowing them to make a more educated choice about which subjects best suit their interests and abilities. 

However, many young individuals at this age are unsure of what they want to do for a living in the future.

Due to this, many young people don’t graduate from high school with the necessary GCSEs or IGCSEs.

In these cases, returning to college or choosing distance learning courses is a great way to get the credentials you need to get back on track once you know what your future goals are.

You can check this: How to Get a 9 in GCSE English Language

Should I Take IGCSE or GCSE?

So, which exam should you take—a GCSE or an IGCSE? You must make that choice, but you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both possibilities and do so with knowledge.

The first thing to remember is that you cannot enroll in GCSEs if you reside outside of the UK.

In this case, your only alternative is to enroll in IGCSEs, which is a fantastic choice that may help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

When selecting any qualification, it’s critical to consider whether it will enable you to realize your long-term objectives. 

For example, would the qualification enable you to enroll in college? Will it aid you in achieving your career objectives?

IGCSEs may be a better choice for you if you plan to live and work abroad, for instance, since they are accepted all around the world. 

In these situations, IGCSEs can offer all the advantages of GCSEs, plus additional advantages since you don’t need to have your credentials translated to continue studying or working abroad.

Should I Take IGCSE or GCSE?

Studying for GCSEs might be a better choice for you if, on the other hand, your goal is to become a teacher in the UK and earn your PGCE credentials.

Having a solid foundation in these subjects and these credentials would provide you a professional edge when you start your career because most state schools in the UK offer GCSEs and concentrate on UK-based curricula.

There is no right or wrong because the variations between GCSEs and IGCSEs are so slight. Really, what is right or wrong for you depends on you.

The following questions should be asked of oneself before pursuing any certification:

  • Do the colleges and institutions where I’m considering applying to accept the qualification?
  • Will the credentials and courses I’m considering studying enable me to go to the next level in my professional or academic career?
  • Can I fit the study time for this qualification around my current job or my duties in my personal life? Is this qualification appropriate for a distance learning setting if I wish to enroll in a course?

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Do Universities Prefer IGCSE or GCSE?

If the applicants have just completed A-Levels, the IGCSE (or GCSE) is a crucial consideration for admission to UK institutions because pupils often only take three or sometimes four topics. 

So, for instance, a student applying to medical school can have a string of excellent A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math, but the admissions staff can check the student’s previous GCSE scores to see how they did in other subjects (e.g., Does this person know how to write? 

How did he perform in the humanities?   The GCSE/IGCSE results assist in filling in the other gaps and accentuate the A-Level portfolio while the A-Level grades ostensibly show the student’s areas of strength.

Exam results from two years ago are less significant because the International Baccalaureate Diploma emphasizes breadth and depth in different areas over the final two years; it is the IB Diploma outcomes that matter. 

American universities accept students in the spring based on their current grades and the school’s IB predictions, provided they continue in the same academic program and maintain grades at the same level.

This is because they are aware the IB Diploma scores aren’t released until the summer following graduation. 

However, some UK colleges would need the applicant to have taken biology, chemistry, and physics at the A-Level, which you cannot do at the IB level, for such a specialized profession (medical). 

As a result, an IB applicant may be accepted based on having completed bio and chemistry at the IB level, but they may also need to produce an IGCSE or GCSE in physics.  

If the school is prepared to assist, IB students who are interested in studying medicine in Britain may occasionally do a physics GCSE or IGCSE at the same time.

FAQs – Do universities prefer IGCSE or GCSE

Can IGCSE get you into university?

Cambridge IGCSE is accepted as equivalent to Cambridge O Level and the UK GCSE in admitting candidates to institutes of further and higher education. Cambridge IGCSE is widely recognized by higher education institutions and employers worldwide as evidence of academic achievement.

Is IGCSE accepted in the USA?

Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge O Level
Leading universities in the US require Cambridge International AS & A Levels for admissions, but some colleges and universities will accept students with five Cambridge IGCSEs or Cambridge O Levels at grade C or above.

Is an IGCSE Recognised as a GCSE?

Cambridge IGCSE was developed as a GCSE examination for international use and the academic demands and standards of Cambridge IGCSE are equivalent to those of the UK GCSE.

Can IGCSE students go to Harvard?

It is offered by three different exam boards including Cambridge Examinations, Pearson Edexcel, and Oxford AQA. Students with IGCSE qualifications are recognized worldwide including at top universities such as Oxford, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc.


So, do universities have a preference for IGCSEs or GCSEs? Both qualifications are widely recognized for entry into universities. But you will have to demonstrate strong performance in the subjects relevant to your chosen degree.

Focus on achieving top grades and a well-rounded application, and those qualifications will simply become another piece of your academic success story.



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