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Difference Between ICSE and IGCSE

With the growth of the education sector across the globe, many people always get into the confusion on what system to go for. Since the systems are many, it gets confusing for a parent and their students to choose which system will work best for them and which one will meet their particular needs.

Among the systems that confuse parents include the IGCSE and ICSE systems.  They are both educational boards offering different curricula and assessment modes. As such, the question of what difference exists between them keeps cropping up.

In the case of India, the fact that the Government of India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and the Higher Education Department recognize them as certified examination boards equally sums up the confusion. Most citizens trust anything that has been endorsed by the government or any other relevant body. As such, deciding what to go with becomes a hard task. However, there are some differences this post sets out that can come in handy while deciding what board to go with.


Meaning of ICSE

ICSE refers to the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an examination offered by the Council of the Indian School Certificate Examination which is a private board of school education in India.

ICSE was designed to offer an exam in a course of general education. This is in accordance with the New Education Policy 1986 (India) recommendations.

ICSE Subjects

Students preparing for the ICSE have to study six subjects. For each subject, there are one to three papers that test the students on different aspects of the subject. This means each student sits for between eight to 11 papers depending on the subjects that they study. The results of ICSE are then taken from the best five of six with English marks being compulsory.

The ICSE subjects are categorized as below:

  1. Group 1 (Compulsory Subjects)

This group includes:

  • English
  • Second language
  • History/Civics & Geography.
  • S.U.P.W
  1. Group 2 (Any two subjects from the group)

Group subjects are:

  • Maths
  • Science
  • Economics
  • Commercial Studies
  1. Group 3 (One subject from the lot)

From Group 3, a student must choose only one subject, either:

  • Technical drawing
  • Computer applications
  • Art
  • Dance
  • Carnatic music
  • Drama
  • Yoga
  • Economic applications
  • Instrumental music
  • Mass media and communication.
  • Modern foreign language.


Meaning of IGCSE

IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an English language curriculum offered to students for them to get prepared for the International Baccalaureate, BTEC Level 3, and A Level curricula. The IGCSE is based on the GCE O-Level. It is also recognized and regarded as an equivalent to the GCSE and other international curricula.

It was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations. For the students in the curriculum, the ages are from year 10, that is Grade 9, and the test is taken at the end of year 11, or Grade 10.

The IGCSE is regarded as an international alternative to many national curricula. Its qualifications are usually based on the individual subjects of study which means that a student receives IGCSE qualifications for each subject that they take.

IGCSE Subjects

The core subjects under the IGCSE are:

  • First Language
  • Second Language
  • Mathematics
  • One or more Sciences subjects.

The subjects are categorized into the following groups:

  1. Languages
  2. Humanities and Social Sciences.
  3. Sciences
  4. Mathematics
  5. Creative, Technical, and Vocational.

The students can also choose several extra courses ranging from Creative Arts to Social Sciences.

IGCSE Academic Worth

The academic worth of IGCSE is comparable to many and major school curricula worldwide. Its equivalents include:

  • England’s GCSE
  • North American GED or high school diploma.
  • Singapore’s O-Level
  • Hong Kong’s HKCEE.
  • Indian ICSE or CBSE course.


Differences Between ICSE and IGCSE

The following are the key distinctions between the IGCSE and ICSE curricula:

  1. Meaning of ICSE and IGCSE

ICSE stands for Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a country-level recognized board that offers examinations in a course of general education in accordance with the recommendations of the New Education Policy 1986 (India). IGCSE, on the other hand, refers to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. This is an English language curriculum offered to students to prepare them for the BTEC Level 3, A Level, and International Baccalaureate curricula.

  1. Private Students

The ICSE curriculum does not allow for private students to sit for the examination while IGCSE has room for private students.

  1. Localized Content

The IGCSE curriculum allows for localized content to be taught in the respective regions while ICSE is focused on a common goal of study with common contents.

  1. Level of ICSE Vs. IGCSE

The ICSE is a national level exam offered in India while IGCSE is an international standard curriculum.

  1. Grading in ICSE Vs. IGCSE

IGCSE merits students based on a three-tier grading system. The grades are Distinction, Merit, and Pass while ICSE merits students using marks. The merits in ICSE are awarded from Grades A1 to E2 spread out from 100 – 0 marks respectively.

  1. Existence

The ICSE board has been in existence since 1986 while the IGCSE board was formed in 1988.

ICSE Vs. IGCSE: Comparison Table


Summary of ICSE Vs. IGCSE

While ICSE is an Indian national examination, the IGCSE is an internationally offered and recognized examination. They are both offered by different boards and for different grades. Their main differences are based on the content, grading systems, models of teaching, and the type of system. The basic line is that both systems work towards a common goal, that is, wiping out illiteracy and improving the standards of education. They also have a common goal of preparing students to face the world or progress to other levels of learning.


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  1. Can I join my son into IGCSE now he is in the class of third standard kindly suggest me

  2. Hi All,

    Can someone help me with an answer, ICSE & IGCSE syllabus are same or not?

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References :

[0]Image credit: "Difference Between IGCSE Education And ICSE Education". Entrance-Exam.Net, 2018, http://entrance-exam.net/difference-between-igcse-education-and-icse-education/. Accessed 30 Nov 2018.

[1]Education, Current, and Syllabus System. "Syllabus And Marking System - Eon Education". Eon Education, 2018, https://www.eoneducation.com/syllabus-and-marking-system/. Accessed 30 Nov 2018.

[2]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/diploma-certificate-graduation-309947/

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/computer-icon-graduation-diploma-2428146/

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