International GCSEs (iGCSEs) are alternatives to GCSEs. iGCSE Maths can only be taken at Independent schools nowadays.

Examination Boards

Independent Schools can choose from 2 possible examination boards for iGCSE Maths in England and Wales:

  • CIE (also known as “University of Cambridge International Examinations”).
  • Edexcel.

There are 2, very different, specifications for Edexcel: A and B. I have never come across any student taking Edexcel specification B; it is very similar to the “O Level” specification from the 1970s; this only has one tier and does not offer grades below D.

iGCSE at State Schools – No Longer Possible from 2017

The Edexcel iGCSE specification “A” could, since 2011/12, be taken at state schools as an alternative to GCSE. For reasons that I’ve never fully understood, state schools which used iGCSE Maths took it under a different name – the “Level 1/Level 2 Certificate”. However, this name isn’t widely used by the general public or by schools – the exams are generally known as iGCSEs.

Similarly, the CIE iGCSE could be taken at state schools but I have never come across this exam in state schools in our area.

Many of the state schools which took Maths iGCSE were selective, but not all.

BUT from summer 2017 the iGCSE was no longer allowed to contribute to state school GCSE Maths statistics. So no state schools does iGCSE Maths nowadays.


The commonly used “A” specification Edexcel iGCSE comes in 2 tiers – Foundation and Higher, just like GCSEs.

The wording with CIE is different but the intention is the same as for Edexcel “A” specification. There is the “core” curriculum offering grades C to G and the “extended” curriculum offering grades A* to E. CIE provide the option to include coursework as part of the iGCSE qualification but this option is rarely taken by UK-based schools/students.


Exam Reform – Edexcel iGCSE specification A

iGCSEs have never offered the now-discredited “modular” options that were offered at GCSE; similarly they have never offered coursework, so there was no urgent need to reform them.

However, they were reformed recently and students born after 31 August 2001 took these reformed exams in summer 2018. The iGCSE is being brought into line with the GCSE grading system (9-1 instead of A* to G). This reform also includes a small amount of new content.


Maths Content

iGCSEs are significantly different to GCSEs. For example, the Edexcel Higher iGCSE omits quite a lot of the harder, newer bits of the GCSE and adds in Calculus which doesn’t appear in the GCSE.

In my opinion ten years ago the iGCSE had tougher Maths in it than the GCSE. Now (2019) when both are reformed, the reformed GCSE has tougher Maths than the reformed iGCSE. This leaves independent schools in a difficult situation:- a reason (sometimes explicitly stated sometimes implicit) for doing iGCSE used to be that they were tougher (by implication better); now that this situation is reversed the reason for doing iGCSE vanishes.

Exam Timetable

  • CIE iGCSE exams are available in May/June and November
  • Edexcel iGCSE exams are available in May/June and January

 Martin Procter – June 2019

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