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Marked differences between IGCSEs and GCSEs, states report

An international qualification being taken up by some independent schools in the UK doesn”t meet the key stage 4 subject criteria in many areas, according to new research.

The IGCSE, which is designed as a qualification for overseas candidates, is currently offered by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel but isn”t approved for use in maintained schools in UK or aligned to the National Curriculum.

To discover whether the IGCSE met GCSE criteria, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) commissioned the report, “GCSE and IGCSEs compared: GCSE and IGCSE examinations in 2005 in English, French, mathematics and science (double award)” which was published last week.

The results, published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), concluded that in all four subjects IGCSE exams didn”t meet the GCSE subject criteria in significant ways. There were also marked differences between the two IGCSE syllabuses. The report stated: “It’s not possible to come to any general conclusion about the utility of IGCSE in England as an alternative to GCSE in a given subject; rather, each time, one would have to consider both syllabuses”.

In English, the reviewers found that the IGCSE had less assessment and was less specific than GCSE. In French, neither IGCSE offered enough material suitable for the assessment of lowest attaining candidates, and in the Edexcel IGCSE, a speaking test didn”t contribute to the overall grade. Neither maths IGCSE had a non-calculator paper or compulsory coursework, and there were differences in content. The Science content didn”t cover key stage 4 and the CIE IGCSE was judged to be more difficult than the other syllabuses.

Four teams of three independent consultants ““ one team for each subject ““ reviewed the 2005 syllabuses of CIE and Edexcel IGCSEs and two GCSEs over a 4-week period in June and July this year. The reviewers looked at syllabus documentation, question papers and mark schemes, and in some cases, examiner’s reports.

The report stated that there were areas in which the research was limited; the reviewers were working to a very tight timescale; student work was not included, and only four subjects were reviewed. Only a single examination series of each qualification was considered and the review protocols weren”t tailored to the specific task.

Annabel Hardy.

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