When a student enters high school, they start a very important stage of their education that will lead to university or professional life. Those years are an excellent opportunity to decide what they want to do in the future and deepen their knowledge of the subjects that are relevant to them.

The most common high school pathway in New Zealand is NCEA which is set by the Ministry of Education and is available in most public educational institutions. However, that is not the only possible option for New Zealand students.

Those who are interested in pursuing their studies abroad and building an international career may be interested in CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Examinations).

Unlike NCEA peculiar to the New Zealand education system, CAIE is a high school pathway that was created in the UK and is offered by international schools and colleges in over 160 countries around the world.

You can get more tips about high schools pathways in our article.

CAIE consists of three levels: the GCSE or IGCSE, AS and A2. They can be taken by students in years 11, 12 and 13 respectively and the grades obtained to determine what universities students can apply to.

In this article, we will look in more detail at the first stage of CAIE, the IGCSE, and identify the best strategies to prepare for IGCSEs with success.

But first, let's find out the difference between the IGCSE and the GCSE.

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Are the IGCSE and the GCSE the same thing?

First of all, CAIE is based on the British high school curriculum, including the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), AS and A2 levels. In the UK, GCSEs are usually taken by students in year 11 and are a preparatory stage for A-levels.

Now, the IGCSE stands for International Certificate of Secondary Education and is basically the international version of the GCSE that is available in numerous countries around the world.

IGCSE exams are a good way to prepare for university
Start revision in advance to prepare for IGCSE exams without stress | Unsplash - Element 5 digital

When it comes down to it, GCSEs and IGCSEs are pretty similar. Students choose 5 subjects they want to follow and sit end-of-year exams that determine their GCSE or IGCSE grades.

The main distinction of the IGCSE is that it may be adapted to the context of the country where it is offered. For instance, the IGCSE history course can give more importance to local history instead of focusing on the UK, as is the case for the GCSE.

The IGCSE also offers a bigger choice of subjects than the GCSE. That's particularly relevant in the case of languages because students living outside the UK may need to keep learning the language of their country along with English.

You can learn more about NCEA exams in our article.

Another small difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs is the exam boards. There are 5 GCSE examination boards in the UK: AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, CCEA, and WJEC.

The IGCSE, by contrast, is managed by two exam boards: Cambridge Assessment International and Edexcel. The exam board is chosen by the school offering the IGCSE in the country and doesn't have great importance, except for the website where the results will be published.

Altogether, the difference between the IGCSE and the GCSE is rather insignificant and the two are considered equivalent by most international universities.

Which IGCSEs to choose?

Students take IGCSE exams in year 11 and ideally, they should be related to the area they want to specialise in later on. However, it can be very difficult for school children to decide what profession to choose at that point.

The CAIE system takes account of that problem and allows students to drop subjects and take new ones from one year to another. So, don't be afraid to experiment at the IGCSE level.

Especially, it's important to keep in mind that students need IGCSE exams only to move on to the AS level and they will have no importance for your university entrance.

The only two mandatory IGCSE subjects in year 11 are English and Maths because they are essential for your general literacy. Apart from them, the choice is completely yours.

Private tutors can also help you prepare for AS levels.

For example, you can try out scientific and humanities subjects at the IGCSE level and then focus on one or the other at the AS level.

Of course, GCSE subjects are meant to prepare you for the AS level, so AS-level courses will be more advanced than GCSE ones. Some schools may even require students to have completed the GCSE course in a subject to move to the next level.

What you should also know though is that nothing prevents you from taking an IGCSE course in year 12 or revising an IGCSE subject during the summer and then taking a test to prove your readiness for the AS-level.

To conclude, Cambridge Assessment International Examinations are pretty flexible and give students a lot of freedom in their choice of subjects. That can be a great opportunity to try out different things or focus on something precise if you already have a career in mind.

Plan your IGCSE revision to achieve more
Try to focus on more difficult IGCSE subjects during revision to get ready for each of them | Unsplash - Jeswin Thomas
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When start preparing for IGCSEs?

One of the particularities of GCSEs, as compared with NCEA, is that students are assessed only by a final exam. That form of evaluation may be unusual for year 11 students who may not have had the opportunity to sit external exams before.

As a result, you should prepare for IGCSEs especially thoroughly because there will be a huge amount of stress to deal with on the day of the exam.

In our article, you can find useful information about the IB.

IGCSE exams in New Zealand usually take place at the end of the school year, between October and November. If you are confident with a subject, you may start revising it in June or July. You will mainly need to have a look at GCSE sample papers and make yourself an idea of the assignments you will need to face.

Students who centre on particular types of exercises such as series of multiple-answer questions, essays in English or math problems during revision can deal with them more efficiently on the day of the exam without getting stressed.

On the other hand, if you don't feel at ease with an IGCSE exam and have theoretical gaps, we recommend that you start revision much earlier. For example, you can read up on the topic and start doing series of exercises during the summer holidays before year 11.

Why past IGCSE papers are so important?

The final objective of any exam is to test your level of knowledge but knowledge alone is not enough to achieve the best possible results. Students who centre on just reviewing theory may easily get confused by the concrete papers they will be handed in their exams.

By contrast, if you use papers from previous exams, first, you can evaluate your current level of knowledge and, second, identify the abilities you'll need to hone.

For example, an English exam may contain series of questions about the language along with written assignments, such as essays. Before starting revision, students can familiarise themselves with the evaluation criteria set by Edexcel or Cambridge Assessment International and have a look at exemplar scripts to know what's expected from them.

Most schools offering the IGCSE pathway organise mock exams and work on exam sample papers in class but doing that on your own in addition to the training at school will help you improve your results even further.

What's the IGCSE timetable for 2022?

Like other years, 2022 IGCSEs are scheduled for October and November. For each exam, there may be from 1 to 3 papers that will be marked separately by Edexcel or Cambridge. Then your final grade will be calculated as the average.

There is no particular order in which the exams are organised, so the different subjects don't necessarily come one after the other. For example, you may have a math exam between two English exams and then chemistry right afterwards.

As a result, it is important to start preparing for the exams long before October because you will not have enough time for revision between them.

As for the IGCSE results, they will be released in January after the exams have been externally marked by Cambridge or Edexcel. The grades will be published on their official websites and you can access them with the login provided by your school.

Use IGCSE online resources in your revision
IGCSE past papers are a useful tool that can be found online | Unsplash - Jeshoots com

Prepare for IGCSEs with a private Superprof tutor

For a lot of students, year 11 is the first time when they take external exams, so they may have difficulty preparing for them on their own. Luckily, private tutors are there to help them with that.

If you are not sure to get through it on your own, just visit the Superprof website and you will find numerous tutors from all across New Zealand who will be ready to give you a hand.

You can earn excellent A-level grades with a Superprof tutor.

We will provide you with information about their classes, so you can decide which is better for you. Then, you can get in touch directly with the tutor and book your first lesson with them.

Finding an IGCSE tutor with Superprof is extremely easy, so excellent grades are waiting for you!

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