While Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and Cambridge O-Level both are equivalent secondary level qualifications, there are a few differences between the two. Further, there is always confusion to choose the better one. Let us explore the features of both curricula and compare them to understand the key differences and look at the right choice between the two.
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The IGCSE offers over 70 subjects, and the syllabus has both international and local elements. There are interesting topics like Food and Nutrition, Travel and Tourism, Design, and Technology to name a few. There are five subject groups to choose subjects from: (The parentheses give a few examples for the respective subject group)
Assessments are conducted at the end of the course, and they include oral presentations, coursework, and practical assessments. To prepare for the assessments, students can access past papers and the model questions and answers available online. The assessments are conducted two times a year – May/June and October/November and in India, IGCSE exams are conducted in February/March.
The Cambridge O Level curriculum enables teaching to be placed in a localized context. The students can choose from more than 40 subjects in any combination. The curriculum emphasizes broad and balanced study across a wide range of subjects. It develops the student’s skills in creative thinking, inquiry, and problem-solving and is designed to build practical skills and theoretical knowledge.
The assessments are held twice a year – June and November.
Cambridge O Levels and the IGCSE both develop learner’s knowledge, understanding, and skills in:
|Cambridge IGCSE||Cambridge O Level|
|Duration of 2 years||Duration of 2 years|
|Grading from A* (highest) to G (lowest)||Grading from A* (highest) to E (lowest)|
|Coursework options available in many subjects allowing flexibility for students and schools||Fewer coursework options are available|
|Two study levels are available – Core and extended keeping in mind the varied abilities of the students||No such levels are available|
|More than 70 subjects to choose from including 30 languages||More than 40 subjects to choose from|
|IGCSE focuses on oral skills, initiative, and problem-solving skills, knowledge and understanding skills||Skills offered are reading, writing, comprehension, and logical thinking skills|
|Assessment includes oral, written, and practical examinations. Also, coursework assessment is included||Assessment includes oral, written, and practical examinations|
Another difference is that the O Levels are more decentralized. The Singapore – Cambridge General Certificate of Secondary Education Ordinary Level Exam was for the first time held in Singapore in 1971. In 2006 it was delinked from the O-level exams in the United Kingdom. The reason was that the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) wanted to introduce greater flexibility into the curriculum and gain greater control over how the examination process was managed. Overall, the O-level syllabus in Singapore leans heavily towards the supporting local curriculum. One of the ways MOE initiated that was by allowing the educational institutions to offer OSIE (O Level School Initiated Electives) in order to fill the gap in the niche areas.
Three bodies – The Singapore Examination and Assessment Board, the Ministry of Education, and Cambridge Assessment International Education preside over the examinations in Singapore.
Singapore students wanting to continue the post-secondary course in Singapore will find the curriculum benefiting them. On the other hand, IGCSE is specially and specifically designed to avoid cultural biases in international settings.
It cannot be said that one curriculum/exam is harder or easier than the other as they are curated for different purposes. Cambridge International Assessment Centre even provides teaching materials, school support, and professional development for the teaching staff in order to maintain a high standard of education for both the IGCSE and the O Level. Although it is evident that both IGSCE and the Cambridge O Level are extremely popular and globally recognized, from the comparison discussion given above, the differences – wider grade range, Core and Extended Levels of study, better course work availability, a wider range of subjects available and the assessment parameter, IGCSE enjoys one notch higher popularity in the international settings.
Choosing the right curriculum – IGCSE or Cambridge O Level requires an understanding of the child’s interests and abilities in various subjects, his future goals, and the learning support, in terms of tuition and coaching that are available.
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