IGCSE and A Levels

The most popular secondary school qualifications are the International General Certificate of Secondary Education followed by A Levels, which are attained in the final year of secondary school.

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There are two examining boards for the IGCSEs – Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Pearson Edexel. The curriculum is spread over two years and begins in Year 9 (aged 14) with exams being taken in Year 11 (aged 16). The academic programme aims to improve and enhance problem solving, creative thinking and enquiry leading to the A Level curriculum. The IGCSE course is also a good foundation for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

The Cambridge IGCSE offers over 70 subjects covering everything from languages and the sciences to literature, art and humanities. Pearson Edexel offers almost 40 subjects from maths and statistics to physical education and sport. Most schools offer exams from both boards to ensure students have the best choice possible. The two-year syllabus has been created for an international student, which means that subjects are taught with an international outlook and local relevance. Students are encouraged to be curious, apply knowledge learned to new situations, be flexible, improve communication skills and be culturally aware. This ensures that the course is not just about studying and gaining top grades, but also prepares them for college / university and beyond. 

Grade thresholds are published after each exam series and these are the minimum number of marks needed to obtain a specific grade. These thresholds are decided on after each examination has been marked and are set to ensure that grades are no more or no less difficult to achieve compared to the previous year. 

Grades are worked out by taking the marks for each of the components and combining them to get a total for the subject taken. This mark is then compared to the grade thresholds, e.g. if a student scores 75 marks and the threshold for an A is 80 marks and a B is 70 marks, the students gets a B. In 2017, the grading system changed from an A-G system to a 9-1 grading system. This addition of two more ‘grades’ means that a student’s grade is a better reflection of ability and gives credit to high achievers – the 9th grade is top tier A*. 

A Levels 

Advance level qualifications are taken at the end of the last two years of secondary school. They are subject-based and form the basis of what students will study at university or pursue as a career. Most students take three A Levels in subjects that are related to what they will pursue at university, e.g. for architecture a mixture of science, or maths and humanities or arts subjects is preferred. 

Common A Level subjects include English language and literature, modern foreign languages, economics, the sciences, history, geography and maths. Grades are mainly based on written exams taken at the end of the two-year course, with some marks given for coursework also included in the final grade. Grades are awarded from A* to E and it is important to note that students must work consistently throughout the course and be prepared to complete their papers during the timed exams.

Tags: News & Features, Feature, Secondary, IGCSE, A levels, Exams, Qualification
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