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Is igcse science a lot harder than GCSE science

(136 Posts)
Worried61 Fri 17-Feb-17 18:46:07

If a young person has studied GCSE science and got a d grade before. Will they have covered most of the igcse stuff

Allthebestnamesareused Fri 17-Feb-17 19:11:05

It will depend which board they have done and will do. Can you get copies of the syllabus so you can compare what is covered?

DS's (super selective school) does iGCSEs as they consider there to be less of a step up when you move on to A level.

Waterfeature Sat 18-Feb-17 00:08:55

Igcse is considered harder.

user1471467016 Sat 18-Feb-17 00:16:32

I gcse is considered harder, however all the research shows that they are significantly easier (used by super selective schools, create an elite myth). State schools started to use them and its one of the reasons national results increased. To prevent this erosion of 'standards' they are no longer valid for school performance tables. They certainly aren't harder, in fact you can get a u grade in the examinations, and with coursework still achieve a grade c or even b. This is not something that is now available to state students. Science has many routes (core, additional, extended, separates, synergy, trilogy etc...). You would really need to check the overviews for what is covered, though the general themes are likely the same.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 18-Feb-17 00:33:59

My DD's school (a GS)for some reason did igcse chemistry but aqa for physics and chemistry. I've just taken a look at last years results; there were significantly more A* in the chemistry ( 46%, the highest percentage of the compulsory subjects), but also higher percentages at C or below than there were for the others. So it looks like it isn't (in terms of results) harder for the more able pupils but may be tougher for some.

I'm not sure the comments user made re igcses v gcses necessarily apply to the chemistry- I don't remember DD having any coursework for it at all, and the content seemed good (though rather 'dry') compared to the physics and biology (dh and I have a few chemistry degrees between us so took an interestgrin)

TheSecondOfHerName Sat 18-Feb-17 01:34:49

The CIE iGCSE science courses that DS1 did last year were much harder than the new AQA GCSE science courses that DS2 is currently studying.

Waterfeature Sat 18-Feb-17 09:06:47

There's no coursework in igcse science user.

user1471467016 Sat 18-Feb-17 09:46:10

The comment is about igcse generally - but science does have a practical test option (more similar to coursework/controlled assessment or isa that was previously done), the reformed gcse don't have this.

catslife Sat 18-Feb-17 11:04:53

I think most posters are commenting on the 3 separate Sciences. Have a look at the Edexcel iGCSE Science Double award.
It depends on which GCSE Science was taken if they just have the core Science then there will be more work to cover the rest of the material.
I think the general verdict on iGCSE vs GCSE is that it is easier to obtain a grade C for iGCSE but slightly more difficult to obtain the higher grades i.e. A/A*.

Draylon Mon 20-Feb-17 20:15:27

An important feature regarding iGCSE is that it's designed for DC who don't have English as a first language.

I cannot speak for science, but I have experience of Maths, as my DS1's school, good comp, did an experiment where they took higher, middle and lower achievers in Maths and they say both GCSE as their 'proper' qualification, and iGCSE, internally.

They found that most DC did better in iGCSE. Like catslife says, more passed, but, interestingly, more got the top grade, too.

We weren't party to the research findings in any depth, but the long and short could be summarised as follows:


Tariq's pencil cost 66% more than Abel's. Abel's pencil is 50% shorter that Amaya's. Pietor's ruler is 30cms long. It is green.

What did Ulrike's eraser cost? Show workings.

(Some of us may recall Hannah's Sweets...).


Here are a bunch of equations, here are the formulae. Answer them.

i.e. know stuff. Don't seek to interpret stuff.

Had Gove not decided to turn secondary education on its head, and had the iGCSEs been acceptable/not acceptable year and year about, DS1's school were seriously thinking about adopting them in at least Maths.

waterfeature is right in saying 'iGCSE is considered harder'.......

cakeisalwaystheanswer Mon 20-Feb-17 22:12:32

The top private schools in the country and some of the top state grammar sit IGCSEs because they think they are a better preparation for A levels. If you look at the top performing schools nationally at A level all of them sat IGCSEs, so maybe they have a point. Schools like Westminster and SPGS are not looking for an easy route, they are looking to challenge their pupils.
DS sat a language GCSE after 2.5 term of study and got an A*, he is still fuming about how much easier it is than his proper languages he studied for years at IGCSE.

EmpressoftheMundane Mon 20-Feb-17 22:14:45

Interesting. If iGCSEs are so much easier, why do top universities accept them? Why don't they "mark candidates down" for taking iGCSEs rather than GCSEs?

shortwriter Mon 20-Feb-17 22:15:21

Not any more for science. Kids from Y10 and below are doing a new spec GCSE science which is a lot like iGCSE which was definitely harder than the old spec GCSE.
It's no longer relevant in science.

user1468175625 Mon 20-Feb-17 22:19:18

There is no coursework. The practical test option is only available to overseas schools (Edexcel). The GCSE and IGCSE exam questions are written very differently to test different skills.

user1468175625 Mon 20-Feb-17 22:20:22

Shortwriter is spot on.

EmpressoftheMundane Mon 20-Feb-17 22:51:10

Are you saying that iGCSEs are not easier?

Clavinova Tue 21-Feb-17 09:09:33

As far as I can see most of the new material being added to the reformed higher tier Maths GCSE is already on the old IGCSE higher tier - quadratic inequalities, proving circle theorems, finding the nth term of a quadratic sequence, inverse functions, plus set theory, basic differential calculus etc. The higher tier students are not just given the formulae as you suggest - DS1 has to learn all the circle theorems for example.
If IGCSE Maths is (currently) good enough for St. Paul's School (they have an A-level Chief Examiner on their staff) then it's good enough for me:

Anyway, I thought your ds1's comp was supposed to be one of the top performing state schools in the county - it's just that your ds1 didn't achieve that well and wasn't accepted for A-level Maths. I don't think he would have had an easier ride with IGCSE.

titchy Tue 21-Feb-17 09:19:07

If iGCSEs are so much easier, why do top universities accept them? Why don't they "mark candidates down" for taking iGCSEs rather than GCSEs?

Because universities don't give a shit about exams taken at 16. They care about exams taken at 18.

user1471467016 Tue 21-Feb-17 09:57:28

No one has said they are much easier, but they test different skills, and have options available that aren't open to state schools. These suit learners and this can be interpreted as easier, in reality it is just different. Also as they aren't included in performance tables they are less effected by 'volatility' of the whim of the education minister at that time. When more state school kids did igcse national standards rose, this wasn't expected and to correct it, they are eliminate from tables. A conclusion you can draw is more kids passed as it was easier. These options combined with the fact more students from the independent/private sector get exam concessions, are one of the reasons these sets of students do better. It would be fairer if these chances where extended to state pupils with similar needs, rather than focus on what's harder/easier. The state sector are now 100% pure exams at the end of year 11. This doesn't suit all, this is what is confused with easier/harder. In reality if a test is actually harder they just lower the boundary to pass, the boundaries are only set after the test, based on a preset distribution of how many of each grades are going to be awarded. So the actual hardest of the test becomes less significant- the difference is the opportunities students have. Outside of performance tables, teachers have more choice to meet needs and often this is why those students do better, flourish, get a better start post 16, do better.... get to university etc.

cakeisalwaystheanswer Tue 21-Feb-17 10:08:41

Clavinova - another advantage of IGCSE maths is the huge overlap with AS level. DS has already completed the syllabus because there was so little new to learn and is now just doing practise papers.

User..7016 why don't you give us some real numbers and facts rather than your abstract conclusions based on "more children" ? You keep convincing yourself that IGCSEs are easier but it doesn't account for ALL of the top performing schools in the country at A level all having taken them. Or are you suggesting that they take an easier exam so as to give themselves more work to do in sixth form?

titchy Tue 21-Feb-17 10:24:43

IGCSEs havent been messed around with year after year after year. GCSEs have so obviiusly if private schools can avoid having to change syllabus every year they will.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 21-Feb-17 10:26:30

IME having one twin take IGCSE and one take (old style) GCSE, I would say that it was easier to get a top grade at GCSE, because of the modules, practicals etc ( easy to bank some good marks) and because the course was slightly more broad at IGCSE. Also the grade boundaries for A* at IGCSE were higher.

I think however the grade boundaries for a C were lower at IGCSE. And this is why selective schools chose them for their high ability students and mixed ability schools chose them for their borderline students.

With the new GCSEs it's too early to tell where we will be with grade boundaries. But both now have terminal exams so are comparable in that regard.

Private schools are (mostly) sticking with IGCSEs for consistency.

catslife Tue 21-Feb-17 11:22:36

For Maths and Science, lots of independent schools switched over when these GCSE subjects were fully modular and pupils could resit individual modules to boost their grade. Then iGCSEs definitely were harder. If your dcs took GCSEs (and the OPs dc) prior to 2011 then it would have been this system.
New linear GCSEs for Science and Maths were phased in from 2012 (but in 2012/3 some state schools may have had pupils doing either or both depending on when they started their courses). Under the linear system it was possible for pupils to take Core Science in Y10 and the remaining units Additional Science for double scientists in Y11 and further for Triple Scientists in Y11 as well.
Even under the GCSE system that ended in 2016 all units for core science plus coursework had to be taken in one sitting and if you needed to resit all the units had to be retaken i.e. not just chemistry or just physics etc.
So comments from the previous poster about being able to bank grades haven't been true for a few years now.

Draylon Tue 21-Feb-17 14:37:17

I'm not getting into an argument. I'm just stating that MY DS's experience at his comp was that more DC did better in iGCSE Maths than at GCSE. As detailed.

user1471467016 Tue 21-Feb-17 15:37:53

Cake, I'm not saying they are easier, they give another option. The I gcse are less interfered with, the content doesn't change as often or as much, they give schools better consistency for preparation and therefore better security. This is one aspect of how hard or easy something is, though not the only thing.
If you truly are interested read through the links, however if you are just being goady that private must be better/harder - please just go away.
State kids have less opportunity in the exams/courses they do. One size does not fit all and therefore this isn't an 'easy' option. When state kids where allowed to do igcse more passed, suggesting it isn't as clear cut as you have suggested. Lots of factors effect 'hardness.' The fact that the kids cover stuff that's on the a level specs doesn't automatically make it harder, if in fact you can miss that out /get it wrong and still get grades @-c.

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