Difference Between ICSE and IGCSE

In India, both ICSE and IGCSE are Education Boards recognized by The Government of India, Higher Education Department and Ministry of Human Resource Development. Most citizens trust anything that has been endorsed by the government or any other relevant body. Both the Boards differ to a great extent in terms of curriculum, assessment modes and in many other factors. In India, the education system follows three stages – Primary, Secondary and Senior Secondary Levels. Each of these levels caters to a different and crucial role in building a child’s career goals and achievements. Both the Boards cater to the development and growth of a child.

Overview of ICSE

The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education popularly known as ICSE is an examination conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination popularly known as CISCE which is a private board of school education in India. The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education has been designed to provide an exam in a course of general education, according to the New Education Policy 1986, through English medium. The ICSE Board focuses on a student’s overall growth, so it provides a balanced curriculum to all its learners.

Overview of IGCSE

IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It offers English language curriculum to students for them to get prepared for the International Baccalaureate, BTEC Level 3, and A-Level curricula. It is based on the GCE O-Level. It is also recognized and regarded as equivalent to the GCSE and other international curricula.

It was developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations. For the students in the curriculum, the ages are from year 10, which is Grade 9, and the test is taken at the end of year 11, or Grade 10.

The IGCSE is regarded as an international alternative to many national curricula. Its qualifications are usually based on the individual subjects of study, which means that a student receives IGCSE qualifications for each subject that they take.

ICSE and IGCSE both have their own pros and cons. The major differences between ICSE Board and IGCSE educational system in India are mentioned in detail in this article.

Difference between ICSE and IGCSE

1. Meaning of ICSE and IGCSE

ICSE stands for Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an examination offered by the Council of the Indian School Certificate Examination which is a private board of school education in India. ICSE was designed to offer an exam in a course of general education. This is in accordance with the New Education Policy 1986 (India) recommendations.

IGCSE, on the other hand, refers to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. This is an English language curriculum offered to students to prepare them for the BTEC Level 3, A Level, and International Baccalaureate curricula.

2. Subjects of ICSE and IGCSE

ICSE Subjects

Students of ICSE Board have to study six subjects divided into three Groups 1, 2 and 3. Group 1 comprises compulsory subjects, from Group 2 students should choose any 2 subjects out of 4 options and Group 3 students should choose only one subject out of 11 options. The results of ICSE are calculated from the best five of six with English marks being compulsory.

The ICSE subjects are categorized as below:

  1. Group 1 (Compulsory Subjects)
  • English
  • Second language
  • History/Civics & Geography.
  • S.U.P.W
  1. Group 2 (Any two subjects from the group)
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Economics
  • Commercial Studies
  1. Group 3 (One subject from the lot)
  • Technical drawing
  • Computer applications
  • Art
  • Dance
  • Carnatic music
  • Drama
  • Yoga
  • Economic applications
  • Instrumental music
  • Mass media and communication.
  • Modern foreign language.

IGCSE Subjects

The core subjects under the IGCSE are:

  • First Language
  • Second Language
  • Mathematics
  • One or more Sciences subjects.

The subjects are categorized into the following groups:

  • Languages
  • Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Creative, Technical, and Vocational.

The students can also choose several extra courses ranging from Creative Arts to Social Sciences.

3. Difference Between ICSE Syllabus and IGCSE Syllabus

ICSE Syllabus

The Syllabus followed by the ICSE board is more comprehensive and complete, which gives all fields with equal importance. (ex: science, maths, language, arts, home science, agriculture, fashion design, cookery). Overall ICSE syllabus (like languages) will give slight upper hand in English to their students. This will help them with some exams which are based on English. But then one has to read Shakespeare.

IGCSE Syllabus

IGCSE are more practical and application-based. It provides students with an opportunity to select courses according to their interest in the subjects of science, humanities, languages, mathematics. The courses also provide them with an opportunity to mix these subjects with components of fine arts, visual arts, theatre, technical drawing, music, film making, community service, etc. The syllabus put emphasis on developing critical thinking, analytical skills, communication skills, investigative abilities, problem-solving techniques, teamwork, independent research and other qualities valued by all international universities. They have a broader spectrum of subjects that lead to all-round development and are more challenging than Indian educational boards and test student knowledge, not their memory and speed.

4. Private Students

The curriculum of ICSE does not allow private students to sit for the examination while IGCSE has room for private students.

5. Localized Content

The curriculum of IGCSE prescribes localized content to be taught in the respective regions while ICSE is focused on a common goal of study with common contents.

6. Level of ICSE Vs. IGCSE

The ICSE is a national level exam offered in India while IGCSE is an international standard curriculum.

7. Grading in ICSE Vs. IGCSE

IGCSE merits students based on a three-tier grading system. The grades are Distinction, Merit, and Pass while ICSE merits students using marks. The merits in ICSE are awarded from Grades 1 to 9 spread out from 100 – 0 marks respectively.

8. Existence

The ICSE board has been in existence since 1986 while the IGCSE board was formed in 1988.


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