Which Board is Better: ICSE or IGCSE? - Comparison Table included

With a steady increase in internationally affiliated schools in India, parents and students often wonder about which option to pick for the final years of school life. It is needless to say a quality education, among other things, moulds the life of a young individual.

Both boards have very specific merits in terms of their academic reputation and standards. Keep reading this article until you form a complete understanding about the differences between ICSE and IGCSE! To start off, let's look at:

A Brief Overview of ICSE

The ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) is a general examination conducted nationally by the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations).

The examination is designed to test students in a course of general education, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Educational Policy of 1986, and it uses English as the primary medium of language for all subjects except the ones that are specific to language education. All candidates usually enter and sit for six subjects in total.

A Brief Overview of IGCSE

The IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) examination is also an English language based examination, and it was developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations. This qualification is specifically recognised in the United Kingdom. Since it is an international qualification, it is also widely recognised by institutions around the world.

IGCSE is a two-year programme, with a very broad and flexible study programme in which students can choose their courses (subjects) from 6 seperate subject groups. Students are required to pick a minimum of 5 subjects from a variety of areas, but they can also choose up to a maximum of 14 subject if they wish to take on more coursework.

Is ICSE a good choice?

Regarding the course curriculum for ICSE, subjects are evenly distributed across different fields such as languages, arts and the sciences. Subjects also place equal emphasis on each field of interest. This is good since students are welcome to explore their field of interest in detail after their secondary education, while getting a foundation for all general fields while they remain in school.

The practice of analytical skills is encouraged in ICSE, alongside the application of practical knowledge. This is advantageous too, since it urges students to take a small step from their theoretical lessons.

In comparison to other national boards, the ICSE examination can be slightly tougher for students since it requires them to allocate significant effort into the curriculum. However, this usually pays off for the student if they are picking ICSE. The extensiveness of the syllabus ensures a good foundation for students, especially as they enter higher education within their specific areas of interest.

Is IGCSE a good choice?

IGCSE is arguably the more advanced curriculum, with a wider variety of subjects to choose from. Since the curriculum places more emphasis on understanding rather than rote learning, it is comparatively more benefical if the student wants to venture abroad for higher education, or if they wish to enroll for A Levels or the IB Diploma in the future.

The standarised curriculum of IGCSE aims to be as inclusive as possible to students from a wide variety of linguistic backgrounds, and the curriculum does take regional contexts into account, which allows students to continue studying their respective mother tongues.

With over 70 subjects at IGCSE, students have options to pick their own curriculum according to their choices and preference. This flexibility regarding subject combinations allows students to lay their own foundations for their future prospects, with guidance from their schools.

ICSE and IGCSE: Comparison

While it is slightly hard to get a complete understanding of ICSE and IGCSE without exact numbers and explanations, here is a table that will help us get a general understanding of both boards side by side:


ICSE is clearly more well established in India than IGCSE, and it has a regionally-tailored curriculum with a plethora of Indian languages, as you can see.

On the other hand, IGCSE is more standardised, to fit it's curriculum across various countries and promote it's global standard for education.

So which is better?

It is important to know that both examinations have their advantages and disadvantages, and you can pick a syllabus that works with the student's strengths and preferences.

For example, some students are very good at photographic memory, which would be ideal for rote learning - so if they pick ICSE, they will score very high grades and find themselves with excellent scores. Also, an equal amount of students prefer to stay within the country for their higher education, as the ones who prefer getting an international education.

To state it quite simply, ICSE is good for students who are looking to pursue their higher education within the country. Also, since ICSE is more similar to IGCSE compared to other Indian boards, it will be easier to transition to IGCSE in the longer run (for Grades 11 and 12), depending on whether the student would like to pursue higher education abroad, or if they simply wish to gain the additional skills and experience from the differentiated approach of the Cambridge board.

Here is a more detailed comparison table:


Is it easy to transition from ICSE to IGCSE and get good scores?

Shifting boards can always be slightly challenging, whether you are shifting from ICSE to IGCSE, or the other way around.

Since these boards differ from each other, the student's approach towards examinations and other assessments would have to shift slightly for them to score well according to the board's standards. It would normally take around 1 year (Grade 9) for students to adequately get acquainted with the new standards that they need to fulfill.

In IGCSE, Grade 9 is not too challenging, if I may so, because it is the foundational year of the two-year programme. So, if utilized properly, it is the perfect time for you to ensure you transition seamlessly, by absorbing the way the board works, and thus ensure you get the amazing grades you deserve.

Cambridge is a very challenging curriculum, just like ICSE and other regional boards can be, and sometimes you require the help of an expert tutor to help you score the best grade possible. Vidyalai provides live online one-to-one classes from the comfort of your home, with the best teachers, handpicked from across the world. We guarantee 100% satisfaction, or your first lesson is completely free! Request a class in any subject you might require a little extra help with and take the next step towards academic excellence.

Which Board is Better: ICSE or IGCSE? - Comparison Table included
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