University of Cambridge

Cambridge highlights dual exam entry as misguided


Over the past year, we have seen significant growth for Cambridge IGCSE in the UK, with exam entries more than doubling, rising from 51,945 in 2012 to 115,071 in 2013 and the number of schools offering it rising from 712 to 1384. 

We have seen a threefold rise in English language entries – 18,000 in 2012 rising to 63,000 in 2013, and the number of schools rising from 394 to 1030. Science entries, while fewer in number than English language, have more than doubled from 4,000 to 9,000. 

Around 10 per cent of all UK students who sat exams for IGCSE or GCSE English Language in June 2013 took Cambridge IGCSE English Language. Therefore UK results for Cambridge IGCSE English Language are of wide public interest. For the first time we have decided to publish the UK results for this qualification taken in June 2013 separately from the rest of the world (see below). 

We’re pleased to see an increasing number of schools adopting Cambridge IGCSE. Even as numbers grow, we note that in Science, for example, performance is in line with 2012. However, reflecting on what we’ve seen this year in English – a threefold growth in one year – we are somewhat concerned about the practice of dual entry, where schools enter students for more than one examination in the same subject. The increase of entries in English has been accompanied by 20,000 late entries. From what schools tell us, this can reflect late decisions to enter students for IGCSE in addition to other exams in English, and so preparation may start as late as March before exams in May and June. 

Commenting on these results Michael O’ Sullivan, Chief Executive, Cambridge International Examinations said: “It is very pleasing to see that more schools find that Cambridge IGCSE meets their needs. We understand the importance which is often placed on achieving grade C. However, we believe that entering for more than one examination in the same subject is misguided. It is not a sustainable way of improving performance or helping students learn – and indeed, our grades in English are down. We believe it is better that students enter one examination for which they prepare over the full length of the course.” 

Students who take Cambridge IGCSE are assessed at the end of the two-year course. This linear structure gives more uninterrupted teaching time. Cambridge IGCSE is valued by schools in the UK and worldwide, in countries such as the US, India and China, because it is recognised by leading universities and employers worldwide and incorporates the best in international education for learners at this level.

UK grade distribution for Cambridge IGCSE English Language June 2013


Number ofcandidates Cumulative percentages by grade
A* A B C D E F G
June 2013 63444 7.4 17.8 31.3 61.1 84.7 94.7 96.5 97.2
June 2012 18302 21.6 46 63.7 83 92.9 97.3 98.4 98.9

Notes to editors 

  • 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. 
  • Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds and is recognised by universities around the world. Students first sat exams for Cambridge IGCSE 25 years ago in 1988 and it is now taken by over 3700 schools in 140 countries. 
  • Worldwide entries for Cambridge IGCSE have increased by 27 per cent over the past year. They look likely to rise further given the continuing growth of schools in our worldwide network.