Sunday, 2 September 2012

IGCSE (Sciences for one) are much more demanding than GCSEs

I do not think it can be accentuated enough that the IGCSEs are more rigorous than the GCSEs taught in most schools.
Apart from a few prestigious private schools, the majority of schools only offer GCSEs.

It is disappointing that such distinctively different courses can be regarded as equal by further education colleges, state schools (who were not granted the funding for them), some Universities and other areas of education.

Using science as an example; if one finds this subject a challenging one, then they can opt for the 'double award' GCSE in school instead of the more ambitious 'triple award'.

I came across this extremely informative article on the intensity of the IGCSE Sciences;

and it reaffirmed to me just how incomparable they are to the GCSE.

In hindsight I wish I had urged my son to not battle through these three exams, but to have been content with one science (he took IGCSE Biology a year early) and concentrated on the subjects he excelled in instead.

A friend and fellow home educator, Sam Martell, is devising the Double Award Science (and also the Triple Award) IGCSE course for home educated children.

 She explained to me it is not as intensive as sitting the three single IGCSEs and the Edexcel board only has two papers. This sounds more accessible (although still challenging) for the student who is keen to study the sciences but has no grand ideas for studying medicine!

For those who are dedicated towards a medical career, then the single IGCSEs would be a valuable prerequisite to further studying.


  1. Being in the process of studying IGCSE Biology, I would definitely recommend a basic knowledge of the subject. I never did any Biology until I picked up the IGCSE book, and it has been quite a struggle. There is also a need to know a little Chemistry too - such as about acids and alkali. I have found the course enjoyable as well, and exceptionally interesting! I have a few friends in school, who have shown me their GCSE Biology, and the difference was astounding!

  2. Thanks for this, Amanda. I think the differences between the two types of exam (in both quantity and quality of material) really show up well in the sciences. With a son who had immersed himself in science since the age of 8, we were a bit too relaxed in our approach as we had looked at GCSE sciences and thought they looked quiet 'easy' (i.e. they could be done in one academic year). We got quite a shock when we realised we would have to do IGCSE and saw the difference! One year was not really enough, given that apart from moral support, scheduling and help with internet research from us, he was studying alone from the textbooks.
    Yes, definitely get an earlier start next time! It's always a shame to end up cramming, but when your children are used to more relaxed,interest-based learning and are facing systematic examinations for the first time, it is particularly problematic.

    All in all, we had a very low opinion of GCSE and thought we'd take them in our stride - it is good that you have warned readers here not to make the same mistake given that they may find themselves with no option but IGCSE. Mind you, with all the proposed changes afoot, and the dropping of coursework/controlled assessment, perhaps GCSES will become more available. But then, if we believe the hype, they will be much tougher too!

  3. I wonder if you've mentioned the Edexcel book and accompanying website for IGCSE chemistry by Jim Clark? Jim Clark is very supportive of home-educators and revised the whole book in consultation with them to make it more user-friendly. Home-schooling even gets a mention on the back page! Jim offers the answers on his site for parents who need them, so no need to purchase an extra answer book. The website also has lots of extra information/explanations of the text. We found his book and site very clearly set out and helpful.

    (Note: having swapped half way through to CIE - long story - I would say there are BIG differences between the two syllabi, so this book might not suit if you are opting for CIE). You think chemistry is chemistry until you start comparing specifications...

    1. That is interesting as Sam Martell said the boards were pretty similar!
      Thank you for reminding me, I will gladly add the Edexcel website to the resources list.
      It is also supposed to be *slightly* easier!

  4. Or any degree or career in science; in fact it's probably more important to study single IGCSEs for these than medicine. I would recommend IGCSEs for any pupil interested in taking 'A' level sciences. The gap between 'A' level and IGCSE is much smaller than that between 'A' level and GCSE, which makes 'A' level much more manageable. (GCSE chemistry isn't even real chemistry; it's a complete waste of time!)

    I realise that this comment is rather late, but I've only just worked out how I can comment on blogs! In fact this is the first attempt, so is a test to see if it does work!

    1. Well done! Many people have had problems actually commenting (see sent comments by myself for others!).

      This is so true. Yet, I also think for medicine too, as it would be worth gaining the three separate IGCSEs in the sciences before embarking upon A levels (Chemistry A level being essential for medicine) as nowadays Unis are demanding 3 As (A*s in redbrick Unis) for medicine! This would be made (slightly) more bearable if the child had the depth of the IGCSE sciences, as you suggest, first...