The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (abbreviated IGCSE) is an internationally recognized qualification for school students, typically in the 14–16 age group. The IGCSE was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations in 1988. The examination board Edexcel offers its own version, the Edexcel IGCSE. The term "IGCSE" is the registered trade mark of the University of Cambridge and is used under license.
The IGCSE is an international alternative to many popular national curricula. However, unlike many school-leaving qualifications, the IGCSE is not a group award or "certificate of education" as in many countries. It is a qualification based on individual subjects of study, meaning one receives an "IGCSE" qualification for each subject one takes. For this reason, schools worldwide have different expectations for their students as to how many IGCSEs should be taken. Typical "core" curricula for IGCSE candidates include a First Language, Second Language, Mathematics and the Sciences. IGCSE candidates then choose a number of additional courses ranging from Social Sciences to Creative Arts.
The IGCSE is predominantly exam-based, meaning they are not actual certified "courses", but rather exams that test knowledge in individual subjects in the same way as Advanced Placement exams and SAT Subject Tests. For this reason, it is also a viable option for many home-schooling educators or in Adult education, when one is seeking a qualification but has no time to attend full-time school classes.
Cambridge IGCSE provides a broad and flexible study program and covers subjects from a variety of areas: Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Creative, Technical and Vocational. Most IGCSE subjects offer a choice of tiered examination: Core or Extended papers (in Cambridge), and foundation or higher papers (in Edexcel). This is designed to make IGCSE suitable for students with varying levels of ability. In some subjects, IGCSE can be taken with or without coursework. Cambridge IGCSE allows teaching within a localized context, making it relevant in different regions. It is intended to be suitable for students whose first language may not be English and this is acknowledged throughout the examination process.
In 2010, Cambridge IGCSE papers in more than 70 subjects were taken by students in over 120 countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore, among others.