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Please assume every reference of GCSE mentioned below, the same information will also apply for iGCSE qualifications.

What are GCSEs?

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is part of the British national curriculum taught to students between the ages of 14 and 16 years old during academic years 10 and 11. They are the earliest internationally recognized qualification you can achieve when following the British Curriculum and require students to follow a two year course.

How can we help?

The passing requirements for each course are high and we understand that juggling many subjects is challenging, particularly with the added pressure of sitting internationally moderated exams. But we are here to help! Whether it is securing those final fee concepts to secure your level 9 in mathematics or knowing how to structure a 12-mark essay in History. Our expert tutors are on hand to help and guide wherever possible.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between GCSE and iGCSE?

In essence the iGCSE and GCSE courses and qualifications are incredibly similar and are accepted as equivalent qualifications by the world’s leading schools, universities and colleges.


iGCSE stands for the International GCSE, where the iGCSE courses are designed to have more of an international focus. This can be seen through the course content particularly for subjects such as Literature, Geography and History. When taking the GCSE course the content will have a larger focus on UK or British based topics such as Shakespeare or British coastlines. The iGCSE equivalent of the same course will instead cover a more internationally focused curriculum referencing global geographical, historical and literature texts.


Previously the iGCSE courses did not include a coursework element to ease the process of international moderation. They were designed for students who did not necessarily have english as their first language and hence in some aspects were seen as being slightly more challenging. However, recently the coursework requirement for the GCSEs has been significantly reduced creating even more synthesis between the courses.

How old are you when you begin to study your GCSEs?

Usually students begin the official GCSE course at the beginning of year 10 when they are 14 or 15 years old. Schools may choose to begin some of the content heavy courses, such as mathematics and the sciences, early in year 9 so that there is sufficient time to complete the full course without needing to be rushed.


The course is designed to take two years however some students will be ready to take the exams early. If this is the case schools or independent organisations, such as ourselves, can help to arrange for the exams to be sat early. This can be beneficial as once the exam has been taken it will allow the student to focus their time on their other subjects and it reduces the number of exams needing to be sat during the final summer examination period. We would however, only recommend exams to be sat early if the student is confident they are able to achieve the highest score possible (a grade 9 or an A*), if this is not the case then the exams should not be rushed and instead we would recommend the student takes the exam at the regular time a few months later.

How many subjects do you study?

Students are usually required to take at least 7 subjects at GCSE level, where many choose to take up to 12.

Every subject has its own course requirements including a final examination, coursework and in some cases core practical demonstrations.

Are there any compulsory subjects?

It is compulsory for all students to take at least one English GCSE, either English literature, English language or both. Mathematics and Science are also compulsory.

For students who struggle with mathematics there is the option for them to take a foundation tier paper as opposed to a higher tier paper. The expectations of the foundation tier paper are slightly lower as less content is assessed, however it is important to bear in mind that the maximum possible grade a student can be awarded is a level 5, a C grade or a pass, even if they score 100% on this paper. Please feel free to contact our experts for further clarification on this matter.

Science is also compulsory. Students can choose to complete a triple science qualification, where they will be awarded a separate GCSE grade for Biology, Chemistry and Physics, alternatively the double award is often available where just two ‘General Science’ grades are given. It is important to note that if the double award is chosen this reduces the students chances of being accepted to study a science at either A level or at a Higher Level for the IB, however this does vary between institutes.

Certain schools will also have other mandatory subjects, such as a language, physical education or religious studies, however this is largely at the discretion of the school.

Once the student has selected their choice from the above listed options there are usually between 3 and 8 other subjects they can choose from to complete their selection of GCSE’s. These include the humanities, languages, the arts, social studies etc. The availability of each subject will depend on the schools facilities and specialty.

Are there any requirements to be accepted onto a GCSE course?

In short, no. Most schools will accept students onto any of the GCSE courses irrespective of their previous academic grades. If students are of a lower ability the school could recommend a foundation tier course to help them manage their understanding but this is not always the case.

How are you examined?

All GCSE and iGCSE exams are moderated externally requiring all students to complete a number of examinations that are scheduled by the exam boards for specific times and dates. The examination period is May to June.

There is no option for your exams to be rescheduled to another day, if they are missed for any reason the student will need to apply to sit them during another examination period, usually November or the following January.

Most GCSE results are released later in August, the date varies slightly between exam boards, after they have been marked and moderated externally.

As mentioned above, certain GCSE subjects will have a coursework or practical requirement which will be completed, assessed and submitted in the months prior to the summer examination period. These often contribute to a small proportion of your overall grade, usually up to 20%.

What is the GCSE grading system?

As you may be aware the GCSE grading system is currently going through a transition. Historically GCSE have following the traditional A* to F grading system where a C grade is considered as a Pass. However, gradually these lettered grades are being replaced with a 9-1 numbered system. You can use the approximate equivalence below to understand the new system.

Numbered grading Lettered grading
High A* (previously unavailable)
High C
Low C

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