IGCSEs vs GCSEs: Which is Harder and Why?

Deciding between a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and an International General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is a tough choice. You must consider all the factors before choosing them. This is because you may get your A-levels or the universities based on them. Therefore it is important to have a comparison between IGCSEs vs GCSEs so that you can have a better understanding.

Quick Takeaways

  • GCSEs are the qualifications that are only acceptable in the UK and are generally evaluated on the basis of both coursework and exams. 
  • Whereas the IGCSEs are the exams that are evaluated based on only exams that are highly recognized in the world. 
  • Thus there is no specific answer to which one is hard. It is because you may find IGCSEs easy if you can deal with the pressure of the exam. 

Further, we have discussed more on GCSE and IGCSE in detail for your better understanding.

What are GCSEs?

GCSEs are the qualifications that you take during years 11 and year 12. These are the qualifications that are generally taken when you are between 14-16. There are a lot of courses that you can take up during your GCSE qualifications. These are the qualifications that are widely accepted all over the UK. You will need to have these qualifications to get into the sixth form or sometimes even into universities. This exam is evaluated on the basis of both the coursework and also the examinations. These GCSEs also never expire and thus can be used in universities or even when you are applying for a job. When you are taking up compulsory subjects, you must know how many GCSEs will you get for each of the subjects.

What are the IGCSEs?

As the name suggests IGCSEs are the qualifications that are designed in such a manner that they are worldwide accepted. They are almost similar to GCSEs and there is a slightly small difference between them. In this qualification, you may find some of the optional topics that are compulsory to study in GCSE. To pass this type of examination you need to focus entirely on your exams, unlike the GCSEs. 

Which is harder – IGCSEs vs GCSEs?

You will get mixed opinions on which one is harder which shows that it will depend upon your capabilities. You may find IGCSE more difficult because of its evaluation process as it is solely based on how well you did in your exams and not on coursework.

On the other hand, you may find IGCSE easier because it has less course content than the traditional GCSE qualifications. Therefore if you are not a person who is very good at exams, you will find IGCSEs more difficult than the GCSEs. However, we have further discussed the benefits and drawbacks, and differences between both qualifications to make you understand better. If you are unable to get both Qualifications, you will still get a high-paying job.

What is the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?

The following table shows the differences between GCSEs and IGCSEs

Course ContentThe course content of some of the subjects in GCSEs is different from IGCSEs. If you are taking up the traditional GCSEs, you will have to study more amount of course content than IGCSE. You may also find some topics in GCSEs which are optional in IGCSEs. 
Course StructureAs the name suggests, IGCSE is a qualification that is accepted at a worldwide level. Thus the structure of the course in it is designed in such a manner that it is widely accepted. However, the traditional GCSE course structure is designed in such a manner that it is only accepted in the UK. 
Exam datesGenerally, the exam dates for the GCSE exams are in May and June. And if you want to resit the exams, then they will take place in November. However, the exam dates for IGCSE are in November and January for some subjects and also from May to June.
EvaluationGCSEs are generally evaluated by both coursework and also through exams. Whereas IGCSEs are only evaluated on the basis of exams.

Benefits and Drawbacks of GCSE

The following are the benefits of taking GCSEs-

  • You will be accessible on both coursework as well the exams. Thus it gove you some flexibility while preparing for the exams.
  • As they are the first qualification that you will be getting they will help you to prepare for your A-levels and the universities easily.

The following are the drawbacks of taking GCSEs-

  • Traditional GCSEs are ideally only considered in the UK. Thus if you are thinking of going out then it may not be that worthy. 
  • Many people believe that keeping maths and English compulsory subjects may not help students to choose the subjects they want. Also as they have to choose so many subjects it may become difficult for them to cope with it.

Benefits and Drawbacks of IGCSEs

The following are the benefits of taking IGCSEs-

  • As you already know that IGCSEs are internationally recognized. This means if you want to study outside of the UK, taking up IGCSEs will make it easy for you.
  • It has a more practical approach to the syllabus and will help you to develop skills like communication, analytical, problem-solving, etc. 

The following are the benefits of taking IGCSEs-

  • They are only evaluated on the basis of examinations. This means that you will have to study hard to pass the exam. 
  • The course content is hard and it is difficult to understand the reference or the textbooks. 
  • As it is only evaluated on basis of exams, they do not value the creativity level of the students.


Both GCSE and IGCSEs are the first qualifications that you take in the years 11 and 12. The course content of both subjects is equal. Though in IGCSEs, you may not find the topics that are covered in the GCSEs. This is because the course content of GCSEs is basically focused on the UK. IGCSE on the other hand focus on course content that is acceptable all over the world. If you are a student who is good at handling the exams then you must take IGCSEs as it is widely accepted and also is evaluated on the basis of exams. However, if you are not good at doing exams, then you may choose GCSE. This is because it is evaluated on the basis of coursework and exams. 

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