IB vs IGCSE: Comparison In Depth



1.The IB (International Baccalaureate) System
2.The IGCSE (International General Certification of Secondary Education)
3.Depth of the IB and IGCSE

By an education system we refer to all the institutions which are concerned with imparting education to children, young adults and adults right from a preschool or a kindergarten to a big university. The structure of the education systems varies based on various parameters, between nations and at times within the nations in different regions/states.

We are very aware of the standard boards in our country. But over the past few years, several new education systems have emerged here and with these appendages, it is challenge for the parents to decide a good board mapping with the achievement goals of the children.

What we are looking at here is the comparative outlook of the two major boards – IB and IGCSE. Both are education systems and international school education programs.


The IB (International Baccalaureate) System

At the start when it was founded in 1968, IB was known as International Baccalaureate Organization and now simply International Baccalaureate (IB). It is headquartered at Geneva Switzerland. It is an education system operating at the international level in almost 159 countries. It offers four different programmes for children in the age group 3 -19 years, operating at different levels.

  • IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) – for students between the age 3 and 12 years
  • IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) – for students between the age of 11 and 16 years
  • IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) – for student between the age of 16 and 19 years
  • IB Career Related Programme – for the students between the age of 15 and 19 years

This board does not have any formal examinations. Certificates are issued to students who fulfil their standards at the different levels. Also, there are no prescribed textbooks nor there is a curriculum. Hence present is the flexibility for the teachers to personalize it and make the teachings for each concept as per the requirements of the students. The advantage lies in increasing the creativity and imaginative skills to maximize the learning outcomes. After completing the diploma programmes, the students can look forward to getting admissions in universities and completing their graduations.

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The IGCSE (International General Certification of Secondary Education)

IGCSE or the International General Certification of Secondary Education, as the name suggests is one of the Cambridge Pathway and covers

  • Cambridge Lower Secondary – for students between the ages of 11 and 14 years
  • Cambridge Higher Secondary – for students between the ages of 14 and 16 years

This can be perceived like the IB MYP, only difference being that IGCSE follows a specific curriculum whereas IB just provides the framework.

Hence IGSCE is taken under the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).
After completing the IGCSE levels- grades 6th to the 10th, IGCSE gets replaced by “AS” level (11th grade) and “A” level (12th grade)

The students need to clear the exams conducted by Pearson Edexcel

International or CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) to be able to take the “AS” or the “A” levels. They have an option to take the IB Diploma programme too. After the completion of IGCSE examination in the 10th grade, a student gets either a CIE certification or an IGCSE certification, which entirely depends on the school he/she is attending.


Depth of the IB and IGCSE

School can opt for IB board or IGCSE board or a combination of both. For example, a school can have IB PYP for the primary levels and then IGCSE for secondary levels. Once opted for IB board, the school becomes a IB World School. Schools here in India have opted for the IB board and around 201 schools are at present offering the IB board with at least one programme.

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) includes the following subjects

  • Language
  • Social Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Arts
  • Personal, Social and Physical education

The IB MYP is a 5-year program and requires a teaching of at least 50 hours/year for each of the following eight subjects covered during the programme.

  • Language Acquisition
  • Language and Literature
  • Individuals and Societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Arts
  • Physical and Health Education
  • Design

Students in the DP programme choose one subject from each of the six ‘Subject Groups’ listed below:

  • Group 1: First Language (English)
  • Group 2: Second Language (French, Hindi, etc.)
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies (History, Economics, Business and Management, etc).
  • Group 4: Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Systems).
  • Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science.
  • Group 6: Electives (either Visual Arts or a second subject from Groups 3, 4 or 5).

Additionally, all DP students must complete a two-year Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, work on an Extended Essay (EE), and participate in Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS).

After clearing the IB MYP, the students become eligible for the IB Diploma programme or IB Career Related programmes.

The basic differences in these two education systems:

IB Board IGCSE Board
Founded by a group of international educators Forms one of the Cambridge pathway system
Has no fixed textbooks Has prescribed readings
After completion, students can apply to universities for graduation programmes Enables the students for the AS/A levels, Cambridge Pre-University or IB Diploma
Is an education framework and not curriculum Has specific curriculum to be followed 
Guides students towards graduating from a Diploma along with a mastery in certain subject areas Prepares students for examinations to aim for higher levels
More student centric Externally graded certificates have a greater hold than the internally school-assessed qualifications.
Flexible as only a framework is available to work in tandem with another curriculum A methodical examination at the end of the programme. This helps in international comparison of ability and creates a goal for the students to work towards.
Skill based rather than content based Syllabus driven and examination cantered
201 schools in India are offering IB board  Over 400 schools are offering the IGCSE curriculum


On the other hand, the two education systems have their own set of pros and cons.

IB board helps in the development of logical reasoning and analytical skills of the students giving them the edge in the SAT or a GRE. A lot of emphasis is also given to the extra-curricular activities. Yet with the absence of a specific curriculum, the teachers need to adapt to give the latest in education and this leads to errors in judgments. Presently schools in India are finding it tough to implement all the IB programmes and the career related programme has not been implemented yet.

Also, the benefits of an IB board is more applicable to universities in US compared to the other places in the planet. The board requires the students to have a high level of work and study, a great of commitment, organization and initiative. The workload deals not only with the courseware and assignments from the subjects the student chooses, but also with the enormous number of essays and presentations and projects from the three core components-Theory of Knowledge (TK), Extended Essays (EE) and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service).

IGCSE is recognized by most of the universities abroad as compared to the CBSE of ICSE boards in India. The syllabus is uniform therefore making it convenient for students who want to pursue education and settle abroad. The programme as such has a practical approach enabling the students to build good communicative, cognitive, analytical and problem-solving skills. Yet the schools with this education system have enormous fees. The curriculum is vast and demanding thus stressful for the students. Finally, the grading method is strict compared to the other boards.


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What is the difference between IGCSE and IB?

The IGCSE teaches a student with a predefined, country-specific. And a very straightforward exam with a definite content base. While IB teaches in a certain specific way, to help the student achieve the necessary mastery skills in a particular subject. Thus, this is the basic difference between IGCSE and IB. 

Is IGCSE the hardest or IB?

IB is considered the hardest by the large number of students than IGCSE. Thus, The IB focuses more on individual evaluation by enhancing cognitive ability.

Are IGCSE and IB the same?

Yes, IGCSE is a 2-year program and IB is for 15-18 years of age. The IGCSE & IB both are certified by the University of Cambridge.  

Is shifting from IGCSE to IB possible?

Yes. The procedure is very secure and flexible. A student of IGCSE can make a move on to the IB diploma programs easily. Thus, shifting from IGCSE to IB can be done.

Which is better: IB or IGCSE?

IB is considered the best by a majority of the students. The IB focuses on the enhancement of cognitive ability. Thus, IGCSE is based on the specialization of a particular course. 

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