Difference Between Cambridge IGCSE and GCE O Levels


The Cambridge IGCSE and the Cambridge GCE O Level (IGCSE vs GCE) (also referred to as Cambridge O Levels) are equivalent qualifications grade for grade. 

Cambridge IGCSE 

Cambridge IGCSE syllabuses are curated to support modern curriculum development. They set international standards (equivalent to British GCSE and GCE O Levels). Cambridge IGCSEs can be taken as individual subjects or as qualifications to obtain the International Certificate of Education. 

The curriculum 

This certificate is awarded for a minimum of seven IGCSE passes from different subject areas. The subject groups are as follows: 

  • I: Languages
  • II: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • III: Sciences
  • IV: Mathematics
  • V: Creative and Professional

Learn more about the Cambridge IGCSE Subjects here


Core and Extended 

The Cambridge IGCSE subjects offered to come in two subgroups namely the Core and Extended subject. Whereas, the Cambridge O Levels subjects are of a standard level. 


For Cambridge IGCSE, the grading for the Core and Extended subjects are listed below. 


Target Grades Grades Available
Core Curriculum   C D E F G
Extended Curriculum  A* A B C D E


For more information about the Core and Extended subjects visit here

The certificate is awarded in three grades, Distinction, Merit and Pass. It requires 2 passes in Languages, and one pass in every other group, while the seventh subject may be in any group to qualify for the qualification. 


After IGCSE O Level 

Students typically move on to the Cambridge A-levels or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) to further their education, and they are also allowed to continue their studies abroad. 

The Singapore GCE O Level 

The Singapore-Cambridge O Level is an annual national examination taken by students and private candidates in Singapore. 


The GCE O Level examinations is offered to: 

  • Students from mainstream secondary schools who are in Secondary 4 Express or Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) course 
  • Private candidates who have met the eligibility criteria to register for the GCE O Level examination. Check your eligibility here

The curriculum 

The GCE O Level examination is curated by the Ministry of Education Singapore where the students learn and develop skill sets accordingly. 


Examined subjects are taken in English and other international languages are set and marked by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. 


Whereas, localised subjects such as Mother Tongue subjects (Chinese, Malay and Tamil) and Combined Humanities (Social Studies) are set, marked and graded locally by the Singapore Ministry of Education. 


After the examinations, papers are sent to the Cambridge International Examination board (located in Britain) for marking. 


After GCE O Level 

Students would typically move on to local Junior Colleges, Polytechnics or Institute of Technical Education to further their studies. Otherwise, students are also allowed to further their studies abroad. 


You can also find out more about a typical Singapore student’s education path here

Key differences between Cambridge IGCSE and Singapore GCE O Level (IGCSE vs GCE)

Cambridge IGCSE  Singapore GCE O Level (or Cambridge O Levels)
Duration to Complete 2 years  4 years (for Secondary 4 Express) 

5 years (for Secondary 5 Normal (Academic)) 

Grading  A* (highest)  to G (lowest)  A1 to F9
Coursework  Coursework option is available in many syllabuses, providing students a wide range of subjects to choose from. GCE O Level offers fewer coursework options
Practical Assessments Provides students a wide range of subjects with practical assessments and tests options  There are more restricted practical test options in GCE O Level sciences 
Second Language Students can choose to take a second language under the category of Languages and Humanities 

Students are offered a range of second languages, find out more about the languages offered here

Mother Tongue language is compulsory and required. 

The three main mother tongue languages offered are Chinese, Malay and Tamil 

Examination Period June and November November 

(national examination conducted annually) 

(Typical) Further Education Cambridge A-Levels or IBDP  GCE A-Levels (Junior College) or Polytechnic or ITE 


Retaking the examinations

Cambridge IGCSE

You may retake Cambridge IGCSE exams to improve your grades at the exam sittings held twice a year in May and November. More information on Cambridge IGCSE retakes is available here.


Please bear in mind that students can qualify for the Cambridge ICE certificate over two exam sittings provided they take place within a period of 13 months. This would mean from June to the following November or June; or from November to the following June or November.


GCE O Level

Students are allowed to retake their GCE O level subjects 

  • In your current secondary school (if you meet the criteria for retaking)
  • As a private candidate


The Cambridge IGCSE and GCE O Levels cannot be said that one curriculum is harder or easier than another since the examinations are curated for different purposes.


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