IGCSE Vs ICSE : Which is a Better Choice?


Different nations have different systems of education and examinations for students under various boards. Education boards are responsible for setting the rules, regulations, and teaching systems for a specific academic session or institution. The board ensures that it provides quality education and inculcates necessary skills in the students. But nowadays national institutions are also inculcating internationally recognized examinations into their systems, which provide a broader range of perspectives of academia.

The IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)

The International General certificate of Secondary Education (IGSCE) is an English language examination and a globally recognized certification developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). This program was introduced first for teaching in 1986 and was first examined in June 1988. Cambridge IGCSE assessment takes place at the end of the course and usually includes oral, written, coursework and practical assessment. This broadens the opportunities for the students to demonstrate their learning especially when their first language is not English. The examinations are taken by students at the level of standard 10th of the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) board or ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) board. After the successful completion of the examinations, students are eligible to apply for ‘A’ level qualification in the US or the UK. The curriculum is further divided into the Core level and the Extended level for some subjects. Right choice of the levels can be chosen by the students depending on their learning abilities.

Cambridge Assessment Internal Education (CAIE) and Pearson Edexcel are the two examination boards that offer IGCSE. Schools have the choice of examination board through which they prefer to offer the IGCSE curriculum.

Grades are benchmarked using eight internationally recognized grades – A* to G, which have clear guidelines to explain the standard of achievement for each grade- A* being the highest grade and G the lowest one. The examinations occur twice a year- June and November. Results are issued in August and January.

IGCSE offers up to 70 subjects to its students, including more than 30 languages. Students can take them in any combinations. The groups under which the subjects are ordered are

  • Group 1 – Languages
  • Group 2 – Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Group 3 – Sciences
  • Group 4 – Mathematics and Business
  • Group 4 – Creative and Professional and Vocational

Students have to choose 2 languages, one subject each from groups 2 to 5. The 7th subject can be chosen from any group 2 to 5.

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ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education)

India has a private, non-governmental board of education called the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE). It conducts two examinations in India. The Indian Certificate of Secondary Certificate (ICSE) and the Indian School Certificate (ICS). The CISCE was set up in 1956 at the meeting of the inter-state Board for Anglo-Indian Education and a proposal was adopted for setting up of an Indian Council to a administer the University of Cambridge Local Examinations in India. It is an all India but not a government sponsored board and is based in New Delhi.

  • If follows a school education of a period of 10 years – Class, I to Class X.
  • Private Students are not allowed to appear for the examinations
  • ICSE supports a vast syllabus of consisting of multiple mandatory subjects and various optional subjects
  • ICSE follows an application base training approach and emphasizes more on practical training along with theoretical notations-project and lab work
  • The board prepares its students for various competitive exams
  • The board has been recognized at the national level and at the international level as well.

We can look at the detailed comparison

Governed by Council of the Indian School Certificate Examination Governed by the University of Cambridge International Examination
National Level Examination International Level Examination
Has a fixed curriculum with respect to taking up subjects and provides opportunities for future in-depth study of each subject Students can choose subjects based on their interests from the broader spectrum of subjects with an in-depth understanding of the subject chosen
Private students are not allowed to take up the examinations Private students are allowed to take up the examinations
It is focused mainly on the English, which is the medium of instruction It allows to choose from a combination of more than 30 languages
Weightage given for internal and external assessment is 80% and 20% respectively Based on maximum marks secured in 5 subjects out of 6, where English Language is compulsory
It grades in terms of numbers 1-9 where 1 is the lowest and 9 is the highest It grades on a scale of A-G, where A is the highest and G is the lowest
Duration of 2 years Duration of 2 years
National Level Examination is taken by students Standardized International curriculum
Around 2650 schools in India affiliated to ICSE Around 500 schools in India affiliated to IGSCE
Not recognized by Foreign Universities Recognized by Foreign Universities

As we can see, both the examinations have their advantages and disadvantages, and the challenge is to pick up an examination aligning to the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and preferences.


Which is a Better Choice for Your Child – ICSE or IGCSE?

The IGCSE is accessible to those of almost all levels of ability. The exam boards often sperate questions by difficulty level to meet the needs of the students of academic abilities. For the students whose second language is English, the board offers more time to learn for the exam. This is because the assessment is conducted. Thus, IGCSE is a good option for students good at assimilating knowledge.

In case of the absence of IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma or A-Levels results, Universities in the UK consider the IGCSE results to offer placement. The IGSCE help to provide universities with a rounded picture of the student in case he opts to study in the UK.

But the IGCSE has its own disadvantages. It does not suit all students as there is no coursework. Students who find the time -bound recall of the subjects challenging may want to consider the ICSE instead.

It is a wise to consider the answers to the following questions before you decide on the better board for your child.

Your child’s strengths and weaknesses: Is you child a source of knowledge in a particular subject? Can he excel in a content-based learning? Can he pace himself through a variety of subjects and type of tasks?

Does he have a clear idea on what and where he would like to study? Then a carefully selected IGCSE’s could be an asset to his application portfolio in the UK

Favourite subject or passionate about a specific subject: For example, if Mathematics is not his favourite subject and he is not opting to pursue this subject in future, then there is no point in studying, whatever is the most demanding subject. The grades are the important criteria for admission process rather than the demands for the different courses.

To put it in simple words, ICSE is a better option for students who are looking to pursue higher studies within the country. Moreover, compared to the other Indian boards, ICSE is more similar to IGCSE, it would become easier to transition to IGCSE in the longer run or if the students decides to have an international academic qualification.


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Is ICSE better than IGCSE?

In terms of Indian education quality, ICSE is a good option, however, IGCSE offers greater topic variety and a higher academic standard internationally. The importance given to the English language by these two boards also shares certain commonalities.

Do Indian colleges accept IGCSE?

Yes, it is accepted as a requirement for admission to Class XI or other upper secondary education programs by the CBSE, CISCE, and state education boards in India.

Who is eligible for IGCSE?

Students of age 14 to 16 years or in Grades IX and X are eligible for two-year IGCSE Program.

Is IGCSE a good qualification?

IGCSE is one of the most prestigious degrees around the world. IGCSE program are famous for developing key academic abilities such as memory retention, oral communication, problem-solving, initiative, teamwork, and research skills.

Is ICSE accepted in US?

The ICSE is well-known throughout the world. If a youngster wants to pursue higher education, ICSE will be the only thing they need to prepare for studying abroad at the foundational level.

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