Many private schools in the UK opt to do the IGCSE, the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, a 2 year course undertaken in most subjects with exams taken only at the end of two years, ie in the summer of Year 11. So they are more like the older O’ level system. These exams are thought to be more academic by some people perhaps because a whole 2 years worth of work is examined at one go and individual sections cannot be resat to improve an overall grade.
GCSE’s (undertaken by many but not all British Curriculum schools in the UAE) are much more modular in the way they are taught and examined. For example the Edexcel GCSE Science 360 exam covers Physics, Chemistry and Biology for the first year with multiple choice exams taken twice during the year. The final grade is an amalgamation of these scores and an average of internally assessed activities (IAA) marked at school. This IAA part of the exam is not simple to revise for. Each element of multiple choice may be resat once. A good level of vocabulary is essential for the multiple choice questions which some people think are often designed to catch out rather than show off knowledge. I understand though that this exam will be scrapped in favour of more short answer question papers where students get credited for what they do know.
Additional science is undertaken at the end of Year 11 and again covers Physics, Chemistry and Biology, so at the end of 2 years, most students gain 2 science GCSE’s, Science and Additional Science. Some students are invited by their school to undertake a third science GCSE, Extension Science. The IGCSE however would be 3 Individual science exams leading to 3 IGCSE’s Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Some schools do a mixture of both IGCSE and GCSE. It’s rare to be able to choose once you are in a school which route you want to take, this is pretty much set by the school.
The AQA English GCSE 4704 course is also modular in how it is taught and examined, with exam type assessments starting as early as October of year 10 for some routes. Schools can choose to teach English, English Language and English Literature side by side over the course of 2 years and may follow a range of different texts and aspects of English to study. It does feel however (at least from my experience) that the whole of year 10 is a constant exam year as far as English is concerned. Resists are not easy to do and impossible for some modules such as the long essays written over 4 mornings at school under exam conditions involving quite in depth analysis.
Apparently the UK Government has agreed to pay state schools (non fee paying) to do English IGCSE from this year despite the GCSE AQA 4704 exam being very new therefore many more schools will opt for the conventional 2 year course leading to a separate IGCSE for English Literature and Language.
Make sure you choose the right route for your child and familiarize yourself with the exam board for each examination, Edexcel, AQA and OCR seem to be the most popular.
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