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What is a GCSE?

“GCSE” stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education; these exams replaced O Levels and CSEs in 1988 and are usually studied in the last two years of senior school in England and Wales. GCSE exams are usually taken during the summer term of year 11, though some pupils do take some or all of their GCSEs early. GCSE grades have historically been from A* to G, but these have been gradually changed to grades from 1-9.

Why was the grading system changed?

The new qualifications are a result of a process of reform which started back in 2011 According to The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the government department that regulates qualifications and exams, the new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities. The new GCSE content will be more challenging, with fewer grade 9s expected to be awarded than A*s They will also be "linear” which means they are exam focused with all exams coming at the end of the 2-year course. This differs from the previous "modular” courses, which assessed using both exam and course work.

How do the two grading systems compare?

Although there is no direct read across from the old to the new grades, grades 9,8 and 7 range from A* to A, 6,5 and 4 range from B to C and 3,2 and 1 range from D to G. The governments definition of a good pass will be set at grade 5.

What is an IGCSE?

IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education. The qualification was developed by the University of Cambridge International Qualifications, but the examining board Edexcel offers its own version of the IGCSE, called the Edexcel International GCSE. The IGCSE is an international equivalent to GCSEs. IGCSEs are taken mainly by international students, though many independent schools now enter students for the IGCSE for a number of different reasons.

What is the difference between a GCSE and an IGCSE?

The main difference between the GCSE and the IGCSE is that the IGCSE often includes some element of coursework, oral and practical assessment, whereas the majority of GCSE syllabuses no longer have these elements, relying solely on an exam at the end of the course.

Grading for IGCSEs is still from A* to G whereas by 2019 grading for all GCSEs will be from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest grade achievable. The IGCSE is available at different levels, and many teachers prefer it because they feel it has more scope for those pupils who are more able.

Are IGCSEs harder than GCSEs?

Actually many people feel that the IGCSE exams are now easier than GCSEs because of the range of assessment and the content of the syllabus. This combined with the fact IGCSEs also have an element of coursework and practical assessment can make them seem more easy and certainly less pressure for those who don’t do well under exam conditions.

Do all independent schools offer IGCSEs?

As a general rule, an independent school will offer either GCSEs or IGCSEs, not both. If you have a particular preference over which qualification your child gains, it is better to speak to the school admissions officer for clarification.

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