The British vs. American Education Systems: Reference to IGCSE vs. SAT Exams

British vs. American Education

The British vs. American Education Systems: Reference to IGCSE vs. SAT Exams



This article is about British vs. American Education Systems: Reference to IGCSE and SAT.

It is a result of the countless online questions and common confusions.

What are the British and American Education Systems like?

How does the SAT exam compare to the IGCSE exam?

We at Tutopiya find that this question is a common query amongst students, parents, and teachers.

This article aims to fill the gaps in the lack of information on British vs. American Education Systems with reference to IGCSE and SAT exams.

A read through this article will provide the following information:

  • What are the British and American Education Systems
  • With a focus on the two most widely recognized assessments: IGCSE and SAT exams
  • How these two examinations are not comparable, in contradiction to popular notions.
  • Information about the IGCSE and SAT exams.
  • Why Tutopiya is a trustworthy source of support on Online Tuition and Information for the above exams.

Both the British and American Education Systems boast a rich history of a tradition in education and assessments.

Their assessments, curriculums, and educational support to centres and schools are recognized around the globe.

Aspiring university students sit for exams that can facilitate their entry into universities in the United States and the United Kingdom even today.

So what exactly are these two Education Systems all about?

That too in the reference of IGCSE and SAT exams

How do the IGCSE and SAT compare to one other?

Especially, since they are the most widely sought after exams worldwide from the British and American education systems.

All students having the confidence to answer all questions

British Education System:


The British education system has been a pinnacle of providing a world-class education for many years.

This education system boasts a global reputation for excellence in education.

As a result, it is a very popular choice among international students as well.

The United Kingdom is home to some of the prestigious universities in the world.

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities are historical monuments that have paved the way for intellectual and scientific advancement from early times.

These universities and several others in the United Kingdom are first-hand choices of many students across the world.

The British education system can be classified into Foundation, Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Education levels.

Each education level has a Key Stage the students have to pass.

Children in the UK have the option of attending either state-funded or private schools.

Generally, students start school from the age of 3 until they are 16 years old.

It is legally mandatory for children to complete their Secondary Educational Level.

After which if they wish to quit schooling they can and join the workforce.

They could also join state-owned vocational training centres.

Or they could follow the education system and complete their Further and Higher Education.

If you are planning to enrol your child into an international school that follows the British curriculum then its best you enrol them by the age of 3.

Structure and depth of knowledge are important aspects of the British education system.

Additionally, it has a well-designed structure or ‘Key Stage’ program that contains the major learning milestones.

These milestones or ‘key stages’ help a child develop a holistic education at every stage in life.

As a result, it propels brighter students and supports students with special learning or different teaching needs.



As mentioned above the British Education System contains different educational levels.

These are Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Educational Levels.

The educational level and key stages will be discussed in this part of the article

  1. Primary Education

Primary education in the British education system starts at the age of 3 and continues till age 11.

Within this level, the Foundation/Reception Level and Key Stages 1 and 2 are completed.

Foundation/Reception Level: 3 to 5 years

Key stage: 1 is from 5 to 7 years

Key stage: 2 is from 7 to 11 years

  • Foundation or Reception

Foundation is the name given to the commonly known Playgroup or Nursery education.

As mentioned above the Foundation stage takes place from the age 3 to 5.

It is at this level that students are introduced to preschool education through both indoor and outdoor play activities.

These activities guide the child’s personal, social and emotional development and create an awareness of the environment they live in.

As a result, the foundation stage acts as a stepping stone to the further educational levels.

The key stages 1 and 2 are completed at Primary Education level, in the Primary school.

  • Primary Education

Primary Education introduces students to basic numeracy and literacy.

Foundations to science, mathematics, languages, geography/history, arts and crafts, literature, and health and wellbeing are also established.

Students will be assessed through several assessments created by the teacher at the end of every Key stage.

A range of assessments are utilized and teachers make profiles/ report cards of each student to mark progress, summarize achievements and constructive feedback.


2. Secondary Education

From ages 11 to 16, students will enter secondary school for Key Stages 3 and 4.

Secondary Education is an important milestone.

It is in this stage that resident students of the United Kingdom, begin their journey towards the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is the equivalent of GCSE in international schools worldwide that follow the British education system

Primary and Secondary education is mandatory in the UK.

After 16 years of age further education is optional.

Students aged 11 to 14 will study a broad range of subjects in the first few years of Secondary school.

Subjects such as Music, Maths, Science, English, together with other subjects they have studied throughout Primary school.

When reaching 14 years, students will usually enter into their first year of the 2-year course known as the GCSE or IGCSE.

In international schools that follow the British education system the IGCSE’s are a vital assessment.

Firstly, it is a benchmark to show that a student has a foundation to study further.

Secondly, the IGCSE’s are a symbol of achievement that shows that the student has the required knowledge to join the workplace.

Here the students will study a combination of subjects.

Usually, it is a combination of 5 to 10 subjects depending on the student

Students have to take up the two main compulsory subjects like Math and English.

The required Science subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology can be studied together or separately.

As well as a preferred combination of additional subjects like French, German, Literature, Business Studies, Design,  Information and Technology and many more.

Once students complete the GCSE/IGCSE exams, they will have completed all required Key stages of the British Education System.

In international schools worldwide students opt to go for the advanced level studies.

Such as the Cambridge or Pearson Advanced General Certificate of Education and the International Baccalaureate.

 3. Further Education

The further education level contains a lot of options for students from ages 16 to 18 years.

These options are:

  • Further Academic Study
  • Vocational Training
  • Joining the Workforce

Every student has the freedom to choose whichever pathway that is most suitable for them.

Students wanting to study further can choose the options of Vocational Training or Academic Qualifications

  • Further Academic Study

Schools in the UK have a ‘6th Form’ for students to enter after they complete the GCSE / IGCSE.

In the ‘6th Form’ students take the Advanced Level Examinations.

Advanced Level Exams expose students in acquiring knowledge that is useful for higher education or tertiary education in a degree program.

Advanced General Certificate Examinations (GCE) is similar to the GCSE/ IGCSE.

Firstly it is a two-year program.

Secondly, students in this stage also take up subjects that they wish to study in-depth.

Depending on the grit and determination of the student, the number of subjects varies from three to five or more.

Generally, students pick three subjects which are compulsory.

However, due to personal preference, they may choose more than three as well, depending on their determination and grit.

  • Vocational Qualifications

For students who are not so academically minded, they still have another option.

Vocational Qualifications!

Students can achieve a more hands-on and more versatile educational experience when studying for a Vocational Course.

Some of the courses that count as vocational courses are Beauty therapists, Stylists, Technicians, and Mechanics.

  • Higher Education

After completing the Advanced Level GCE examinations students prepare to enter University.

The UK has a vast number of Higher Education options for both local and international students.

Higher education is broken down to three levels:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree Program (BSc. Or BA.) 3 to 4 years (Depending on Institution)
  • A Master’s Degree Program or Graduate School (MSc.) 1 to 2 years (Depending on Institution)
  • A Doctorate Degree Program (PhD.) 3 to 4 years (Depending on Institution)

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree, students may complete the other Higher education qualification or choose to join the workforce.


What is this IGCSE Examination?

It stands for the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)

Pearson Edexcel also offers a similar examination called the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

These two are the most popular examinations in the world today.

They are offered around the globe and set a benchmark for assessment, achievement, and recognition.

This standard is accepted by international universities educational institutions and employers worldwide.

IGCSE’s are a multifaceted assessment approach that provides vital education for students from ages 14 to 16.

Furthermore, this approach promotes and helps build an array of vocational skills, encourages critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.

Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel boards of Examinations are two most competitive and highly accredited boards of examinations.

Both these boards offer IGCSE and GCSE examinations respectively.


The Cambridge IGCSE curriculum offers a variety of pathways for students within the ages of 14- 16 years.

Taken essentially in the Secondary Level of the Education System, IGCSE exams are the most important exams to finish Secondary school.

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) board is responsible for the formation of the IGCSE.

It is a 2- year program which is vexed, verified and reliable by international schools that follow the British Curriculum worldwide.

Cambridge IGCSE offers a flexible and stimulating curriculum, supported with excellent resources and training.

There are over 70 subjects offered in the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum, including 30 languages, and schools can offer them in any combination.

Most international schools following the British Education System in Singapore and around the world offer the Cambridge IGCSE exams.

IGCSE allows for diverse forms of assessment such as written, oral, coursework and practical assessment, thereby providing them with wider opportunities.

The Cambridge International Certificate of Education (Cambridge ICE) certificate is awarded to students who enter and sit for a minimum of seven subjects selected from the five IGCSE curriculum areas:

  • Languages – Group 1
  • Humanities- Group 2
  • Sciences- Group 3
  • Mathematics – Group 4
  • Creative and Vocational – Group 5

Students must take at least seven Cambridge IGCSE subjects.

Including two from Group 1 and one from each of Groups 2 to 5.

A seventh subject may be chosen from any of the groups.

Cambridge IGCSE exams take place at the end of the course and can include written, oral, coursework and practical assessment.

In many subjects, there is a choice between core and extended curriculum.

Making Cambridge IGCSE suitable for a wide range of abilities.

Examination sessions occur twice a year, in June and November. Results are issued in August and January.

Grades are assigned using eight internationally recognized grades, A* to G.

Cambridge IGCSE Core students are assigned grades C to G with C being the highest grade.

Extended students in the Cambridge IGCSE are graded A* to E with A being the highest grade.


Pearson Edexcel International General Certificate of Secondary Education was also previously known as Edexcel IGCSE.

However, it has now changed to Edexcel International GCSE and is equivalent to the Cambridge IGCSE qualification.

These exams are equivalent to UK GCSEs and are accepted by universities worldwide.

Moreover, Edexcel GCSE is only available for United Kingdom schools

There are 40 subjects in the Edexcel International GCSE curriculum.

The international curriculum is for international students in schools following the British Education system around the world.

GCSE’s are aimed at students aged 14 to 16 years in the Secondary Education Level.

Basically, the Pearson Edexcel assessments are a stepping stone to the Further Education and Higher Education levels.

Acting as a backbone for the knowledge the students will gain in the future, GCSE’s are a staple certification.

Students will need this qualification when they choose to stop studying and start working.

  • Assessment & Grading

Assessment in the form of examinations takes place at the end of the 2-year course.

That includes written, oral, coursework, and practical assessment.

Examinations are held in January and June.

Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs are awarded using the new nine-point grading scale (9–1).

Only the final assessment contributes to the final grade.

However, within the terminal assessment, the contribution of components varies between subjects.



Top 5 British Curriculum Schools in Singapore:
  1. Dover Court International School Singapore
  2. Dulwich College
  3. Marlborough College Malaysia
  4. One World International School
  5. Tanglin Trust School


American Education System:


The American Education system is the other most sought after the international education system in the world.

Most of the schools and institutions are governed by state laws and regulations in the US.

Like every education system, there is a basic structure that the American Education System follows.

Boasting a long history of research, innovation and literature the American education system has several accolades to its name.

Many students reach out to the American education system for its diversity and flexibility of the curriculum.

Diversity and Flexibility in terms of the subjects, assessments, and learning approaches are some of the key characteristics of the American education system.

Students are allowed to learn a lot more and explore more subject choices, for instance.

On the contrary to the British education system that focuses on the depth of a particular subject.

Like the British education system, it is legally mandatory for students to complete their education until 16 years of age in Junior High.

A student is only introduced to conventional education at the tender age of 3 years old in Pre School /Pre-Kindergarten education level.

After which the students are introduced to formal education from the age of 5.

Unlike the British Education system that goes according to the ‘key stages,’ the American education system is different.

The structure and arrangement of the educational levels depend on the individual states of the US.

There are no Key stages in the American Education system.

 Generally, most state-funded schools follow the K-12 System (Kindergarten to Grade 12) that makes up the American education system.


The Preschool/ PRE Kindergarten stage introduces the toddler to all sorts of formal and informal education before actual schooling begins.

Students are roughly 3 years of age when they are enrolled at this level.

Activities or the preschool program generally includes arts and crafts, music, educational games, perceptual-motor activities and listening skills.

Till 5 to 6 years of age students receive their Pre- School or Pre-Kindergarten Education.

After which they move to Primary School.

1. Elementary Education

Elementary education makes up for the majority of a student’s educational journey.

This level of education is also called Primary School.

Starting from Kindergarten all the way to Grade 12, for example, primary school begins from ages 5 or 6 to 10 or 11 years.

Primary school begins with Kindergarten.

After which it progresses to grade 5 in one institution, depending on the structure of the policy created by the local State or County.

Then there is a shift to another section or institution which is called Middle School for Secondary education.

Here, students make the transition from primary education to secondary education.

The basic curriculum of any primary school will cover fundamental concepts in Arithmetic

and Algebra, English language, Sciences, Music, Art, Languages and Physical Education.

  • American Common Core Curriculum

By rule, the local State government is responsible for the school curriculum in their territory.

However, the US federal government has taken several steps to standardize the school curriculums across the nation.

First of all, the American Common Core is an initiative by the government which decides what each child should know.

Math and English are the two core curriculums that are regulated by the State and are standardized across the country.

By the end of each grade level, the State decides how much of the English and Math curriculums the child learns.

This applies to grades from Preschool up until Grade 12.

It seeks to establish steady educational standards across the States.

Furthermore, it’s established to ensure that students graduating from high school have adequate

knowledge to enter conventional colleges, vocational college or to enter the workforce.

2. Secondary Education

Secondary education is the name given to the phase that comes after Primary school.

Pupils entering Secondary education are from ages 11 to 16 years.

Usually, secondary education is divided into two sections.

The first section is called Middle School or Junior High School

This section consists of 6th to 8th grades for students aged 11 to 14 years

The second section is called High School.

Grades ranging from the 9th to 12th grades for students aged 14 to 18 years will be found here

Legally, compulsory education is only till the age of 16 years.

It should be noted that every state or district has its own structure and system.

Even when it comes to education levels and appropriate age categories for those respective levels.

  •  Middle/Junior High School

Middle School includes the 6th and 8th grade.

Due to the difference in the state a middle school can also include grades 5th and 6th as well.

Students are generally around the ages of 11 to 14 years in Middle School.

Speaking of education and curriculum, the secondary school curriculum of a Middle School depends on the different States.

Generally, students in Junior High will be attending several classes with different teachers teaching different lessons.

Some of the subjects that are taught in junior school are the core subjects like English, Mathematics, Social Sciences, History and Physical education.

Moreover, students can also take advanced subjects and foreign languages.

Some of the advanced subjects and languages that students have the option of choosing are:

  • Advanced Math
  • Advanced Science
  • Geometry
  • Algebra 1
  • Pre -Algebra
  • Spanish
  • Latin
  • Chinese
  • French

At the end of Junior High, teacher and State assigned examinations to decide who transitions into High School.

After the successful completion of the Junior High curriculum and assessments, students are awarded a Middle School Completion Diploma.

Unlike secondary school students who sit for the IGCSE, students in the US are assessed through various other assessments.

  •  High School

Students entering High school fall within ages 14 to 18 years.

They progress from grade 9 all the way to 12.

Graduating from High school will give students a High School Diploma.

This is an entry-level qualification for students who wish to apply for University or Vocational College.

Pupils take a few mandatory subjects like English, Maths and Sciences.

Together with additional subjects such as Arts, Theatre, Geography, History, U.S. History, Physical Education, Advanced Sciences, Advanced Math and languages.

Additionally, students are also exposed to Health Sciences.

Health Sciences consists of subjects like Anatomy, Nutrition, First Aid, Drug Awareness, Sex Education and Birth Control.

Moreover, other Advanced Placement (AP) subjects are also available for more gifted students.

Advanced Placement is the name given to subjects or courses that are more challenging than regular High school courses.

These are usually offered in the 11th and 12th grades and mimic courses that are similar in Universities.

On completion of the advanced placement courses, students receive Advanced Placement Honors alongside their High School Diploma Certification.

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

3.  University / College

Higher education in the US is recognized worldwide for its quality and diversity.

Students from around the world flock to the US to study for their undergraduates and graduate studies.

The United States of America is home to some of the most prestigious universities or colleges in the world.

Entry into these Universities is monitored and regulated by the College Board.

This organization prepares, guides, and assesses students before they enter university/college.

One such college preparatory assessment is the SAT exam.

It stands for Scholastic Assessment Test and is a standardized assessment test administered by the College Board.

Furthermore, it is applicable to both local and international students.

Harvard, University of Columbia, Princeton University and Yale are a few, for example.

There are three main levels of higher education:

  • Undergraduate Studies (BSc. Or BA.) 4 to 5 years (Based on Institution)
  • Graduate/Master’s Studies (MSc./ MBA) 2 to 3 years (Based on Institution)
  • Postgraduate/ Doctorate Studies (PhD) 2 to 3 years or more (Based on Institution)

A combination of university-level assessments, course work, assignments both theoretical and practical are used to assess students.

Successful completion of a University Degree or Diploma certifies that the candidate is now ready to enter the workforce.

Top 4 American Curriculum Schools in Singapore
  1. Singapore American School
  2. Stamford American International School
  3. Sir Manasseh Meyer International School
  4. International Community School



The SAT or the Scholastic Assessment Test is a prerequisite for entrance into University.

Universities and Colleges in the US and elsewhere following the American Education System use this test to make admissions decisions.

SAT is a multiple-choice, pencil and paper test administered by the College Board.

Furthermore, the purpose of the SAT is to assess the readiness for university or college.

Along with the student’s high school diploma GPA and the SAT scores are evaluated by college admissions personnel.

Similarly, personal statements recommendation from teachers, extracurricular activities and secondary and high school grades are also taken into consideration.

This assessment has been developed to evaluate the written, verbal and mathematical skills of the candidates.

If the student chooses to sit for an SAT exam for a particular subject then they can choose an SAT Subject Test.

Students are assessed on three main sections: Math, English, Critical Reading and English Writing

Majority of the SAT sections are multiple-choice questions.

However, for the Math section, the students are given a ‘Grid In’ paper.

‘Grid In’ questions are not multiple-choice questions.

Rather, the student must independently determine the correct answer and enter it in the space provided.

For the English writing section students are required to write an essay.

The SAT test is offered seven times per year (November, December, January, March, May, and June).

Most high school students take the SAT for the first time during the spring of their junior year.

  •  Results

Each of these sections is scored on a scale from 200-800.

The total potential score of a student is 2400 on an SAT exam.

Two subscores are given on the writing components:

An essay score (ranging from 2 to 12) and a multiple-choice score (ranging from 20 to 80).

A student’s main score on the SAT is derived by giving 1 point for a correct answer and subtracting

1/4 point for an incorrect answer.

Any question that a student skips is not counted towards the score.

This raw score is then converted into a scaled final score (in the range of 200-800) by a statistical process referred to as “equating”.



Despite the popular notion, the SAT and IGCSE exams cannot be compared.

Reason being, that both these tests have been created for two different purposes and different education levels.

  • Educational Levels

In the Secondary education level, the final IGCSE exams are taken at the end of a 2-year course.

It is taken by children aged 14 to 16 years.

IGCSE exams are a certification of a completed secondary educational level after a period of 2 years.

SAT exams, on the hand, can be taken by students at different times.

Some students prefer to sit for the exams after the IGCSE or Secondary /Junior High examinations

Others prefer to take it after the British A-Levels or the American High School Diploma Exams.

So, essentially they are taken at different times and at different educational levels.

  • Purpose of the Exam

The main difference between the two examinations is their PURPOSE.

IGCSE exam is a general secondary education qualification.

It certifies that the candidate has sufficient exposure and knowledge to move on to High school.

These examinations are mandatory in the United Kingdom and popular in international schools following the British Curriculum.

It also provides a foundation for students who want to sit for the Cambridge/ Edexcel GCE A-level examinations or the International Baccalaureate.

SAT examination, on the other hand, is a Scholastic Assessment Test.

It is a prerequisite for entrance into university and is related to college readiness and aptitude.

Most students take the SAT to gauge if they are eligible to enter into predominantly American universities and other institutions around the globe.

Amongst other mandatory qualifications to enter University, the SAT exam scores are a deciding factor.

Other required qualifications like the IGCSE’s, a high school diploma or the GCE A-Level or the International Baccalaureate are vital.

Unlike the IGCSE the SAT exams require the student to achieve a particular score.

The achieved SAT score and how high or low it is, decide the student’s position and eligibility to enter University.

Some students start preparing for the SAT exams after their Secondary school Examinations or the IGCSE’s.

Confident students may take the exam right after they complete their preparations

simultaneously filling up college applications as well.

Otherwise, students wait till they complete the High School Diploma, the GCE A-Level or the

International Baccalaureate Diploma.

  • Examination Format

Both the SAT and IGCSE exams are two different tests that are taken at different levels with

different purposes.

Likewise, their structure and nature are also different and incomparable.

IGCSE’s are assessed through several examination papers for each subject at the end of the 2 year course period.

They require a combination of answering techniques by the students.

Every paper has different questions, asking students to describe, calculate, and explain depending on the subject, for instance.

Each paper is assessed through a process and in the end, a grade is given.

SAT exams, on the other hand, are a combination of 3 tests: Math, English Critical Reading and English Writing.

The SAT candidates are required to answer multiple-choice questions, contrary to the IGCSE exams.

A total score is derived at the end of the assessment.

As per the entry criteria or course requirements, a certain score needs to be achieved by the student in the SAT.

As mentioned above both the examinations are popular worldwide

They are the most sought after exams in the British and American education systems respectively.

Their purpose, their format and the level of education at which they are taken are all different.

Making these two exams incomparable qualifications.

In their own ways, both these exams serve the purpose they are required to at the stages they are needed to.

Students cannot substitute the IGCSE for SAT and vice versa.

Candidates sit for both these exams at the appropriate stages for the certification offered.




How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence


Tutopiya is an international online tuition agency.

Offering one to one home tuition for Cambridge and Edexcel IGCSE and SAT curriculums.

It boasts a reputation of supporting students in Singapore and across the globe.

Students from the UAE, UK, US, Australia, India, China, Sri Lanka, and South Africa have found success through Tutopiya.

Expatriate students in Singapore have always found Tutopiya helpful.

With a team of expert researchers, educators and experienced IGCSE & SAT tutors, Tutopiya is your ultimate IGCSE and SAT portal.

This platform offers:

  1. Live tutoring
  2. FREE LIFETIME ACCESS to IGCSE and SAT subject’s, course preparation resources, past papers, lesson plans.
  3. Assessment guides
  4. Recorded lessons made by expert tutors.

To help students achieve their dream grade, a variety of approaches are used:

  • Customized lesson plans based on students’ level of knowledge in a subject.
  • To maximize a student’s strengths and improve grades, tutors carefully understand the student’s abilities and positive characteristics.
  • Tutors identify student’s weaknesses and gaps in their knowledge to cover all aspects of the syllabus.
  • Constructive feedback and support for parents and students.

IGCSE English: Free Writing and Exam Paper Resources 2019







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