Exploring IGCSE, GCSE and GCE O-Level

Deepika Sodhi
Jun 9, 2023
Secondary school

Secondary school education curricula help set your child up for success at university and in the world beyond. There are various curricula to choose from, including the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O-Level).

It is important to understand your options well, especially when you're trying to choose a secondary school for your child. In this article, we'll talk about different aspects of these curriculum choices to assist you in exploring your preferred option for your child.


What is Cambridge IGCSE?

The Cambridge IGCSE qualification is highly esteemed and popular as it offers a flexible curriculum with over 70 subject choices, available in different combinations. 

This international curriculum offers choices in languages, has core subjects like English, Math and Science, and a range of additional subjects such as Global Perspectives, Economics, Art, Business Studies, Design and more. The IGCSE is offered in many countries all around the world, including Singapore, for the age group 14-16 years. 

What is GCSE?

The GCSE is an academic qualification available to students aged 14 to 16 years in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. It includes core subjects like Math, English, Science and a variety of other subjects, including languages, Business Studies and more.

The GCSE exams have to be taken in the United Kingdom, unlike the IGCSE, which is said to have test centers across the world. Both the IGCSE and GCSE exams are comparable in terms of age ranges, and they both equip students for the A levels.

What is GCE O-Level?

The Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Level exam was introduced in 1971. Aligned with the Singapore school curriculum developed by the Ministry Of Education, the GCE O-Level exam ensures a close integration between the exam and the educational framework of the country.

Breaking down GCSE, IGCSE and GCE O-Levels

● The Cambridge IGCSE is a robust curriculum, widely preferred because of its international outlook and sets a standard for excellence in education. It's recognised and respected by universities around the world and offers a range of subjects for students to study. 

● Students typically take GCSEs at the age of 16. A total of five examination boards administer the GCSE exams in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The standards of the Cambridge IGCSE are aligned with the GCSE qualification undertaken in England.

● The GCE O-Level exam is available to students enrolled in mainstream schools pursuing a Secondary Four Express or Secondary Five Normal (Academic) course. Additionally, private candidates who meet the eligibility requirements can register for the GCE O-Level exam. 

● Both IGCSE and GCSE offer a rigorous 2-year curriculum combined with a range of assessment techniques to gauge student progress. The exams test students on their understanding of a subject, including an oral and practical component. In Singapore's GCE O-Level, students complete the programme in two or three years, depending upon whether they have undertaken Express or Normal stream. 

Why GIIS offers the IGCSE programme

GIIS offers the IGCSE programme for a range of reasons. This Cambridge curriculum truly prepares students for various experiences after their secondary education, including university and a successful career. 

This rigorous programme teaches students the basic, core subjects everyone needs and goes beyond these core academic subjects, extending into a variety of topics. At GIIS, we believe this helps students become well-rounded individuals who are ready to ace university life and beyond.

The international nature of IGCSE is advantageous for our students who come from diverse backgrounds. It promotes the study of many cultures and avoids cultural bias in its curriculum to ensure that all IGCSE students receive a relevant and engaging educational experience.

The variety of assessments under the IGCSE is also very helpful for students as it provides opportunities to students to demonstrate their understanding and mastery over the subject matter. 

Finally, the Cambridge IGCSE is a curriculum that is used all around the world. Students who are in Singapore for a limited time period and later go on to other international schools in other countries have greater continuity of studies and are able to pick up where they left off more easily.

Also read: Cambridge IGCSE: Curriculum strengths, subject choices. Syllabus and grading

Outstanding results

GIIS has witnessed exceptional academic achievements from our IGCSE students, showcasing their outstanding performance over the years. 

Our 2022 cohort marked a significant milestone with 26 students attaining A* grades in all their IGCSE subjects. 84% of our students achieved impressive overall grades of A* and A, with 20 students securing remarkable 9A*s and 6 students obtaining commendable 8A*s across all subjects. 

Additionally, the IGCSE curriculum at GIIS serves as a robust foundation for the International IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Grades 11-12, renowned as a top-tier pre-university pathway.

If you are keen to find out more about the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum at GIIS, please don’t hesitate to contact our admissions team.

Deepika Sodhi

A highly motivated and dedicated educator with nearly 24 years of teaching experience, Ms. Deepika Sodhi is the Academic Supervisor for International Curricula at Global Indian International School (GIIS) SMART Campus, Singapore.

Ms. Sodhi has a rich experience of teaching Physics across curricula such as the IB, Cambridge IGCSE and CBSE. She has served as an Exam Officer for Cambridge Assessment International Education. Currently, she is an IB Assessment Officer, and a member of International Schools Network and International Baccalaureate Educator Network.

In her free time, Ms. Sodhi enjoys writing blogs, creating guiding material for training staff and community service.

Related Topics

More from same author