What is the Difference Between IGCSE and GCSE?


  1. IGCSE
  2. GCSE
  3. What is the difference between IGCSE and GCSE?
  4. Is IGCSE harder than GCSE?
  5. What is the best option – IGCSE or GCSE?


It's easy to feel confused between IGCSE and GCSEs. In this article, we’ll walk you through what these tests actually are, and clarify the difference between them.

For some pupils, planning for the future when you are in year 10 and 11 sounds like it may be a bit early in your schooling career but the reality is that this is exactly the time to start to plan what path you may be interested in taking and whether or not you should consider the different options available to you. 

So, no matter where you are on the path to taking your IGCSE or GCSE exams, we are here to help you get to get a better understanding of what they’re all about. 😊igcse-gcse-2

The terminology around these qualifications is constantly being discussed, so you may find yourself wondering - what exactly are IGCSE and GCSE? Well, you don’t need to wonder anymore - GoStudent has the answers! 💯

Both of these tests are typically taken by students at the end of their eleventh year when they are about 16 years of age. The GCSE is taken in school whereas the IGCSE can be done at any age and can be taken remotely from anywhere. 🌎

Since the GCSE is embedded in the school system, students living in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland take the test as part of their curriculum. 📚 

The international factor to the IGCSE creates more access to students around the world allowing it to be taken remotely at any stage. The IGCSE is also offered in private schools in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland so it can technically be taken as part of the curriculum like the GCSE too. 📖 

Other similarities and differences are listed below, and this should help you get a better grasp on the situation when you begin planning for your future. 




IGCSE stands for “International General Certificate for Secondary Education”. It’s called the International GCSE because it’s available in countries across the world 🌎

The IGCSE is available to students in independent or international schools, and it is not widely available for students in state schools. You can read more about the IGCSE here




GCSE stands for “General Certificate for Secondary Education”. It’s a course taken by most secondary students in the UK between years 10 and 11.

Students in other Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and India can also take the GCSE. You can read all about the GSCE curriculum here, and you can see the current subject-level conditions here


What is the difference between IGCSE and GCSE?


Well, besides the obvious difference listed above ☝🏻 there are a few more differences to note. Regardless of the differences, these two tests are equally important. 

The curriculum is taught to all students at some point during their educational careers and the test is intended to measure how innovative and intelligent students are.  

  • IGCSE is tested at the end of the course with an exam
  • Compulsory course content differs between IGCSE and GCSE
  • GCSE is available in November and January
  • GCSE is available in May and June
  • Grading for the GCSE is done on a numerical scale ranging from 9-1, where 9 is equivalent to an A

If you’re going to take the GSCE, you’re in luck – we’ve put together a helpful study guide for GSCE Maths!


Is IGCSE harder than GCSE?


IGCSE qualifications have traditionally been perceived by some people as “harder” than GCSEs because the final results were solely based on the examinations, rather than offering the opportunity for students to complete coursework to contribute to their final grades. 

However, recent changes to the GCSE course format in the UK which were introduced in 2017 mean that this difference is no longer relevant.


What is the best option – IGCSE or GCSE?


 You may be wondering which is a better option considering the IGCSE and GCSE are almost equivalent and the differences aren't that big. 🧐 

Well, technically they are both very reputable when applying to universities. The rigorous studying and testing that is done to complete either IGCSE or GCSE require a lot of studying and hard work. 📚

Both IGCSEs and GCSEs are highly-regarded high school qualifications that are universally accepted by top-ranking universities and other educational institutions both in the UK and beyond.

Many international colleges will offer a combination of GCSEs and IGCSEs based on the syllabuses that they find works best for their students in each subject.

Your achievement of 9’s or A is recognised as outstanding work and equally respectable. The grades you get on these tests are pretty important for your future in academia. Good luck!