IGCSE vs GCSE: 5 differences you should know

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The GCSE, also known as General Certificate of Secondary Education, is a certificate awarded to students who complete Secondary Education in the United Kingdom. The GCSE is typically taken at the end of Year 11, at the age of 16. IGCSE, on the other hand, stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education. These certificates are offered to students around the world, and outside of the UK. Both certificates are equivalent in level and are typically taken before they move onto pre-university or tertiary education. In this article, we will do a comparison of IGCSE vs GCSE to show parents and students their key differences. 

Read also: What is the GCSE curriculum compared to IGCSE & Cambridge O-levels

IGCSE vs GCSE: 5 Key differences between the two curriculums 



Where they are offered: Availability 

One of the main differences is the availability of the curriculums. The GCSE is mainly offered to students in the UK and can only be taken in the UK. Whereas, the IGCSE is an international certificate that allows students from all over the world to sit for the exam. IGCSE is offered in over 145 countries around the world. 


Both certificates are recognized by the top schools and universities in the world. They are also one of the most common curriculums that students can use as entry requirements to schools and colleges. 


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Course content

The reason why GCSE is only available in the UK is that the GCSE is specially designed for local students rather than an international audience. This is reflected in several course content for certain subjects. For instance, Shakespeare is a compulsory part of the GCSE English Literature whereas it is optional in the IGCSE English. In addition, the History subject in the GCSE is heavily based on British history where the purpose is to teach their local students about the history of Britain. 


This is could be one of the determining factors for students who are choosing between the IGCSE and GCSE. The IGCSE course content is structured to fit the international audience, hence content for certain subjects will be diverse and generic. 



Subjects offered 

For the GCSE, these are the core subjects that are required for the GCSE curriculum: 

  • Maths
  • English Language 
  • English Literature 
  • Welsh (for students who live in Wales) 
  • Science (either single, double, or triple science) 


The three core science subjects for GCSE are Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Students have to choose at least one core science subject as part of their options but are also allowed to choose all 3. Students also have to include foundation subjects for the GCSE curriculum and they are: 

  • Computing 
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship

These are the standard subjects that schools typically require their students to take, however, it can still differ for every school and it is recommended for students to check with their school if there are any other compulsory subjects to be taken. 


Optional subjects for GCSE 

There are also optional subjects that students can take to enhance their portfolio or require them for future studies, then here are four groups of subjects that students can choose from: 

  • Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities subjects 
  • Modern foreign languages 



Students have to take a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 14 subjects for the IGCSE curriculum.  There are no compulsory subjects and students have the freedom to study a range of subjects. Here are 5 subject groups of the IGCSE curriculum that students can choose for their studies: 

  • Languages
  • Humanities and Social Sciences 
  • Sciences 
  • Mathematics 
  • Creative, Technical, and Vocational subjects 


Similar to the GCSE, different schools may have different requirements for students. Hence it is recommended for parents and students to check with their school on the compulsory subjects needed. 



Assessment and Coursework 

GCSE has a mix of exams and internal assessments depending on the subject. Whereas for the IGCSE curriculum, there are no coursework requirements. The IGCSE curriculum focuses on assessing students with written exams at the end of the year instead of having many internal assessments over the semester. However, the GCSE has recently been remodeled to have similar assessments to the IGCSE. Most GCSEs now do not include coursework that contributes to the student’s final grades. Previously, 40% of the English Language was attributed to coursework and this was through assessment of communication, listening, and written assignments. Despite the announced changes, all creative and practical subjects still possess some level of coursework. For instance, there is coursework assessments for art and design subjects.


Here are some subjects in the GCSE that still have coursework as an assessment and its respective contribution to the final grade: 


Subject % Coursework % Exam
Food Preparation and Nutrition 50 50
Drama 60 40
Art 60 40
Music 60 40
Design and Technology  50 50
Physical Education 40 50 



Exam dates 

GCSE exams are sat annually in May – June. Resits are available in November.

IGCSE exams are available in November and January (for certain subjects) and May – June each year.


In a nutshell, there are minor differences between the two after the GCSE has been remodeled over recent years. The only main difference is the course content offered by respective curriculums but they still serve the same purpose of helping students reach their learning goals.

Moreover, for students to get the best out of their learning with GCSE and IGCSE, students should build a strong foundation for the subjects they are studying to pave the way for their tertiary education and Tutopiya can guide you along! Tutopiya is a live online tuition platform that offers students the GCSE and IGCSE curricula to students all around the world. Our tutors are expert and experienced GCSE and IGCSE tutors who are always ready to provide quality online tuition for students! To experience online tuition with our tutors, reach out to us at the chatbox to learn more and get a free trial! 

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