University of Cambridge

Cambridge IGCSE gets schools’ seal of approval


Uptake of Cambridge IGCSE has continued to rise significantly in UK schools – with a marked uplift in EBacc subjects in particular, including English, History and Biology.

This increase follows the government’s decision in June 2010 to fund Cambridge IGCSE subjects in state schools and for Cambridge IGCSE to count towards the EBacc, as well as the popularity of Cambridge IGCSE amongst independent schools.

Schools in the UK made over 50 000 entries for Cambridge IGCSE this year, seeing a rise of 100% since 2011. Entries for Cambridge IGCSE subjects that count towards the Ebacc*tripled over the same period.

In state schools, which now make up nearly half of the schools offering Cambridge IGCSE, the biggest increase was in English Language and English Literature. State schools made over 10 000 entries for these subjects this year.

Speaking of this trend, Peter Monteath, UK Schools Manager for Cambridge International Examinations said: “The feedback we are getting from schools is that they like the flexibility of these syllabuses, which gives teachers more scope to explore different topics with students.Their linear structure also gives students space and time to study topics in depth. The unseen paper, which forms part of our English Literature course, is particularly popular because it gives students the opportunity to respond creatively and critically to a work they haven’t seen before.”

As exam results season approaches, new research from Cambridge International Examinations also suggests pupils taking Cambridge IGCSE will have benefitted from more teaching time than their counterparts studying for other examinations. 57% of teachers who had experience of teaching GCSE and Cambridge IGCSE feel that teaching Cambridge IGCSE gives them more teaching time**. Similarly a recent Ofqual report found that GCSE teachers feel teaching time is reduced by controlled assessment***. Most Cambridge IGCSEs do not include any controlled assessment and are assessed only by examination.

David Hempstead, Head of French at St Paul’s School, London said:”We have always tried to teach beyond the syllabus and so the time taken up in the past by controlled assessment was a real hindrance. The Cambridge IGCSE’s emphasis on conceptual knowledge and accuracy has also proved to be a far better basis for our students’ further study to A Level.”

Cambridge IGCSE follows a two-year programme with examinations taken at the end. Two-thirds of teachers claim this structure also gives them more freedom than the GCSE to explore different topics with their pupils. Similarly, two thirds of the teachers questioned felt their students would be better prepared for A Level, Cambridge Pre-U or equivalent study as a result.

Ann Puntis, Chief Executive, Cambridge International Examinations said: “With Ofqual’s review of secondary education qualifications underway, it is great to see pathfinder schools offering Cambridge IGCSE. Teachers are opting for a qualification which is tried, tested and trusted by schools, giving teachers time to teach and pupils an excellent preparation for further study.”

Notes to editors

*The English Baccalaureate was introduced by the government as a performance measure in the 2010 performance tables. The measure recognises where pupils have secured a C grade or better across a core of academic subjects. Cambridge IGCSE subjects that count towards the Ebacc are English, English Literature, Mathematics, French, Spanish, German, History, Geography, Biology, Physics and Chemistry.

**Cambridge interviewed 51 teachers with experience of teaching both GCSE and IGCSE. Of those, 31% felt the IGCSE provided 10% more teaching time, 18% that it provided 20% more teaching time, and 8% that it provided 30% more teaching time.

***Controlled Assessment in Modern Foreign Languages commissioned by Ofqual July 12 carried out with 35 GCSE teachers.

Cambridge International Examinations is the world’s largest provider of international education programmes and qualifications for 5 to 19 year olds. We are part of the University of Cambridge, one of the world’s top universities and trusted for excellence in education. Our qualifications are recognised by the world’s universities and employers.

Research was conducted amongst 51 teachers who were teaching both Cambridge IGCSE and GCSE from 28 May – 17 June 2012. Teachers find that Cambridge IGCSE:

  • Is more rewarding to teach (93%)
  • Prepares students better for A-level (two thirds)
  • Allows more freedom to explore different topics with their students (two thirds)
  • Gives more teaching time, (57%)

The most popular Cambridge IGCSE Ebacc subjects are:

  1. English Literature
  2. History
  3. Biology
  4. Physics
  5. Chemistry

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