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Cambridge IGCSE versus ICSE: Which is best for secondary students?

Tusha T Nair
Oct 13, 2022
Schools, Learning
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The schools act as a fountain of knowledge. However, not every board is created equal. Each focuses on a different aspect; for example, Cambridge IGCSE is based on an advanced curriculum that aims to hone the child's understanding rather than making them learn by heart. The best international school in Bangalore offers this curriculum and allows the students to learn the subjects they are interested in. 

What is the IGCSE board? 

The University of Cambridge International Examinations has created the IGCSE board (International General Certificate for Secondary Education board). The board provides students with an international qualification recognized by the United Kingdom; hence it is widely accepted by different institutions across the globe. 

As per this board, the students can select the subjects from 6 different groups according to their interests.  

What is the ICSE board? 

Indian Certificate of Secondary Education focuses on improving students' language, science, and art skills. In this board, every subject is taught in detail to build the foundation skills of the student. The subjects are added keeping in mind the students' overall development. The aim is to encourage their analytical skills. However, it has a disadvantage because much emphasis is placed on theoretical knowledge. 

What is the difference between IGCSE and ICSE?

Both the boards are different, and their focus areas are too. Let's evaluate the difference between both boards and find out which one is the best for your child. 

Here we have made a table to show the difference between them. 


Points of difference IGCSE ICSE
Full form International Secondary Certificate for Secondary Education Indian Certificate for secondary education
Curriculum International-level curriculum offered National-level curriculum
Grades In IGCSE, the teachers follow a 3 tier grading structure; the grades -distinction, merit, and pass are given to the students. While ICSE follows, the traditional marks approach. The students have to secure marks out of 100.
Subjects In IGCSE, the subjects are divided into first language, second language, mathematics, and science. They are further categorised into language, humanity, science, maths, creative, vocal, and technical. In ICSE, the students have to learn six subjects divided into three groups. Group 1 includes mandatory subjects, and in Groups 2, and 3, the subjects are optional. The mandatory subjects are English, History and Civics, Geography, and SUPW; in Group 2, the option is to select between Maths, Science, Economics, and Commercial Studies, and in Group 3, technical drawing, computer, dance, yoga, art, Carnatic music, drama, economic application, mass media, modern foreign language.
Suited for When we compare IGCSE versus ICSE, we know that IGCSE is best for students who want to study abroad or stay differentiated. ICSE secondary curriculum is suited for students who have a photographic memory and wish to learn the subjects traditionally.
Private students It allows private students to sit in the exam. The ICSE board does not allow private students.
Number of languages offered by the board English+18 30
Recognition by foreign universities No Yes

Is IGSCE Harder than ICSE?

IGCSE versus ICSE- Which one is tough? It is the most common question asked by parents. Here's the answer. 

Comparing both boards shows that ICSE has an extensive secondary education curriculum to build a strong foundation among students, but it creates examination pressure. On the other hand, the IGCSE board gives a variety of choices to the students so that they learn without pressure. 

It provides extensive knowledge of subjects that are relevant in the present time. For example, if they teach you geography, the knowledge is not limited to maps; they provide details about the region's economic development. Similarly, history includes topics about India and the international world. 

We can say that the IGCSE board is hard, but it enlightens the students in the right way and gives them exposure to 11 subjects, prompting them to select their career path wisely based on their liking of the subjects. So, the overall learning is enriching and holistic. I hope you got the answer, IGCSE or ICSE, in terms of which is harder. 

ICSE or IGCSE, which is better? 

Though both boards have benefits, IGCSE secures high vantage points based on the student's preferences and interests. It is better for the students who want to gain insight into additional skills and experience and remain differentiated. In this board, the focus is not on rote learning methods but aims to improve you holistically and make you a global candidate.  We can say that the IGCSE Board is better than ICSE.    

Benefits of IGCSE secondary education curriculum 

1. Practical learning 

The IGCSE program focuses on improving the practical learning skills of the students. It aims to improve students' analytical and communication abilities using a holistic approach. The learners are provoked to ask questions and share ideas to make learning easy. The teachers try to make connections with the students to improve their learning.  

2. Variety of subjects

IGCSE board offers a variety of subjects according to the student's interest. These subjects are thoughtfully selected to match the interest of the students. Every learner, according to their interest, can make a choice. 

3. They will learn in a non-threatening environment. 

The students will learn in a fearless environment, and no burden will be created on them. The board encourages continuous assessment and focuses on providing qualitative feedback. This assessment helps the students improve their academic performance and remove stress. The teacher and student will learn hand in hand to improve their grades. It will make the learner feel confident and motivated. 

4. It caters to different students 

IGCSE board provides two types of papers: extended and core. Based on their interest, the student can select their option and gain an in-depth experience of the subject. 

5. The focus is on skill development 

IGCSE board aims at improving skills and creative thinking among the students. Their problem-solving and aptitude skills will increase. The students will become self-confident and will boost their self-esteem. 

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6. The curriculum is globally recognized 

The IGCSE board offers a curriculum that is globally recognized. It is a good choice for a secondary-level child as your child can find a spot in other countries' high schools.  

7. It gives an edge

The curriculum offers insight into subjects like Information and Technology, which helps the students to increase their computer skills. Since technology is growing rapidly, these subjects help students to get a head start. 

8. It makes the student an independent thinker

The curriculum helps the students to become independent thinkers and learners. It is an important trait to possess for secondary-level students.  

9. It will hone their analytical abilities 

The board does not believe in providing rote education; rather, they help the students to build their analytical and cognitive abilities. The aim is to hone their analytical mind and make them practical thinkers. 

10. The board determines your strengths and weaknesses.

The examinations and assessments are created to identify students' strengths and weaknesses. This kind of assessment is great for academically proficient and weak students. By knowing it, they can make advancements in their career. 


The Cambridge IGCSE Board is great for students looking abroad to pursue their higher studies. The course curriculum helps secondary students to learn about their study path and choose the subjects of their interest. If you are looking for the best international school in Bangalore, head to GIIS-Bangalore.

Tusha T Nair

Tusha T Nair, MCA, BEd is a  compassionate, enthusiastic, student-minded Senior School  computer teacher  with 8+ years of experience in developing and promoting creativity and high-order thinking skills in  students  to increase their performances in XII CBSE Board while also managing and co-ordinating annual functions, trips, and other events at GIIS Whitefield.

She always assists and co-ordinates with the teachers regarding CBSE-related responsibilities and had also served as a CBSE Co-ordinator in the past.

Exhibiting exceptional ability to make meaningful contact with students and parents, Ms. Tusha specializes in making the students understand the practical aspect of Technology. She has also been recognized as School Innovation Ambassador By Ministry of Education Innovation Cell (MoE).

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