Do universities prefer IGCSEs or GCSEs?

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IGCSEs and GCSEs do sound very similar. However, do not let their similar names fool you! They are completely different qualifications and universities tend to accept both. Regardless, there tends to be much debate about which qualification universities actually prefer. This is an important question to ask, as it can affect which qualifications students wish to take.

Cambridge International Examinations developed the IGCSE. They stated that all universities in the UK treat IGCSE and GCSE qualifications as equal. This means that universities don’t prefer IGCSEs over GCSEs.  However, you need to be aware that this can vary across universities. Some universities see IGCSEs as harder, so may accept them more readily. However, in general, this is not the case.

If you want to find out more about whether universities prefer IGCSE or GCSE qualifications, check out the rest of this article!

Do universities accept IGCSEs?

In general, UK universities do accept IGCSEs. These IGCSEs are accepted if they come from the AQA exam board, Edexcel exam board or Cambridge International exams.

They are often seen as equivalent to GCSEs, meaning they are widely accepted. In fact, all Russell Group universities see GCSEs and IGCSEs as the same as each other.

You can find out about IGCSEs in more detail if you read this article from UCAS.

The differences between these two qualifications are very minor, therefore it is no surprise that universities accept IGCSEs. For example, the University of Manchester states here on their website that they regard GCSEs and IGCSEs equally.

IGCSE and GCSE qualifications prepare students to sit AS and A-Levels. This means that IGCSEs are also accepted by colleges and sixth forms.

Which universities accept IGCSEs?

As already stated, all UK universities do accept IGCSEs. However, it must be noted that IGCSEs is a international qualification.

This means that it is also accepted by many different universities around the world. This includes universities in Australia, India, Pakistan and even South Africa!

You can find out more about where IGCSEs are accepted if you read this article from the Cambridge Assessment International Education website.

Do universities prefer IGCSE or GCSE?

All UK universities treat the GCSE and IGCSE qualifications as equal. This means that in general, universities do not favour one of these qualifications over the other.

Some people view GCSEs as harder and others see IGCSEs as more difficult. However, the truth is that they are as close in difficulty to each other as they can get. If you want to learn more about which is harder check out this Think Student article.

IGCSEs and GCSEs are actually much more similar to each other than different. IGCSEs have always been exam based, with little amounts of coursework.

Due to the GCSE reform, the GCSE qualification followed in the footsteps of IGCSEs. This is because GCSE exams became less coursework based.

This means GCSEs and IGCSEs became even more similar, as they both became heavily exam based. As a result, there is no point worrying about whether universities would prefer you to take GCSEs or IGCSEs. They are both seen as the same.


Over the years, IGCSEs have always been seen as harder. This is because IGCSEs have historically only been assessed using exams. In comparison, GCSEs also included coursework.

This difference was due to IGCSEs being used as an international qualification. By not including coursework, it made these qualifications more flexible and accessible to international students. They would be able to start the IGCSE at any time, without having to worry about coursework deadlines.

However, now GCSEs are mostly assessed by exams, similar to IGCSEs. If you want to discover the main differences between GCSEs and IGCSEs, check out this article from Think Student.

What is the difference in course content between GCSEs and IGCSEs?

The GCSE course content is made for British students. This means that GCSE History and GCSE Geography course content is based in the UK.

Similarly, GCSE English requires students to learn about English authors, most famously Shakespeare. As you can guess, IGCSEs do not base their content in the UK because they are used internationally.

This means that learning about subjects such as Shakespeare is optional. If you take GCSE English, studying Shakespeare is compulsory.

Some people see IGCSE course content as harder than GCSE content. However, this does depend on individual opinion. If you want to discover if one qualification is actually harder than the other, check out this article from Think Student.

What time of the year are GCSEs and IGCSEs taken?

GCSEs and IGCSEs differ in the time that exams are sat. GCSEs are usually taken at the same time every year. This is during the months May and June.

In comparison, IGCSEs are available for a larger amount of time in the year. The exact dates depend on different exam boards.

However, mostly they are available during November, January and also May and June. You can discover more differences between GCSEs and IGCSEs in this article from Kings Education.

Do universities check IGCSE and GCSE results?

When applying to university, most students believe that GCSE and IGCSE results don’t matter. However, even though A-Level results are seen as the most important, these other qualifications do still matter.

Universities do check GCSE and IGCSE results. However, they most likely won’t affect whether you are offered a place at university or not.

This is because getting a place on a university course does mostly depend on your A-Level grades. Still, if you apply to university using UCAS, you will have to fill out the results you got for your GCSEs and IGCSEs.

For example, this article from the University of Edinburgh says that they ask for evidence of your GCSEs or IGCSEs once you accept their offer. This clearly means that they will check your results. However, they don’t play a big part in deciding whether to give you an offer in the first place.

What are the advantages of GCSEs?

Every student in the UK will most likely have to sit a set of GCSEs. Nearly every job requires students to at least have a GCSE English Language and GCSE Maths qualification.

There are only a few jobs where GCSEs are not compulsory. You can discover what these jobs are from this article from Think Student.

However, most high paying jobs do require GCSEs. Therefore, the main pro of taking them is that they can open so many doors up for you!

GCSEs are based in the UK and their content reflects this. This can be seen as a pro or a con. If you want to learn more about the UK, then GCSEs would probably be a better qualification for you to take. However, this may be a con if you want to learn more about the world, rather than only the UK.

GCSEs are also readily available, offered by every high school. There are also a range of subjects available, so there is definitely plenty of choice!

What are the disadvantages of GCSEs?

GCSEs are highly exam based, due to the exam reform in 2016. However, so are IGCSEs. There is no escaping being rigorously examined!

GCSEs could be seen as harder than IGCSEs. However, there is much debate surrounding this. Some people actually see IGCSEs as harder.

GCSEs are not generally seen as an international qualification. This is completely fine if you plan to base where you work in the UK. However, if you don’t, it may be better to get IGCSEs if you are planning to work abroad.

What are the advantages of IGCSEs?

IGCSEs can be seen as easier than GCSEs. This fact has been found in some government reports. You can read the government’s analysis of the difference in grades if you utilise this article from Ofqual.

It could be true that IGCSEs allow more students to achieve top grades easier than GCSEs. However, there is not enough research on this.

You can find out more about the general differences between IGCSEs and the difference in opinions of these qualifications on this article from Online Learning College.

IGCSEs also have a more flexible time frame. This means that you can take them at different points in the year. They are not as restrictive as GCSEs, which can only be taken in May or June.

They are also an international qualification, which is great! This is because it means that this qualification is recognised all over the world.

What are the disadvantages of IGCSEs?

There tends to be less of a demand for students to study IGCSEs. This means that they are not often offered by schools.

Mostly, only private schools tend to offer IGCSEs. This means that they can be hard to come by. GCSEs will certainly be offered by every school, so are a more secure alternative, compared to IGCSEs.

IGCSEs are also hard qualifications to complete. However, this cannot be avoided. In truth, there are very few differences in difficulty between IGCSEs and GCSEs.

They are seen as equal qualifications by universities. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter which qualification you do.

The differences between the pros and cons are marginal. However, if you do really feel strongly about taking one of these qualifications, it is best to thoroughly research them all first.

Any university will be lucky to have you regardless of the qualification you choose!

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