IGCSE Curriculum and Exam Changes

By Karin Chun Taite

(Head of Academics and English Literature tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

Goodbye A*s?

If anyone is confused about the recent changes to the IGCSE (International GCSE) curricula and grading systems, this exam wiki is a useful website for seeing collected information about the changes across all the main IGCSE exam boards.

As you may or may not know, the GCSE exams and curricula were redesigned for first teaching starting 2015, and the major UK exam boards, Edexcel, Cambridge, and AQA, have had to decide how they will handle those changes and whether to move their IGCSE curricula and exams into alignment with the new GCSE.

The two areas of changes to the GCSE involve:

  • Curriculum changes
    • More challenging
    • More up to date
  • Grading Scale
    • Numerical 9-1 system instead of the A*-G letter system

New GCSE Grading Structure

The official UK government site explains the reasons for the GCSE changes and the meanings of the new grading system. Essentially, the value of the previous A* and A grades will be distributed across three grades, 7-9. The B and C grades are similarly spread across grades 4-6. A 4 is considered a “standard pass,” and anything 5 and above is considered a “strong pass.” The new grading scale allows for greater differentiation between top performers. It is likely also a measure to reduce grade inflation.

In Hong Kong, many schools choose to run the IGCSE curricula prior to the IB Diploma Program, and depending on what exam board the schools select, we may see changes in course material, assessments, and grading.

As a quick overview, here is what the different exam boards are doing:


Edexcel seems the most organized exam board where it comes to IGCSEs. They have revamped their IGCSE curricula to match the new GCSEs and are introducing the new exams in phases. English and Math had their first exams of this new system in summer of 2018. Other subjects are expected to have their first exams in summer 2019. This means these curricula are already being taught in schools, and we’re having our first look at how these exams work right now.

Edexcel have also adopted the new 9-1 grading system across all curricula.

An Edexcel booklet explaining the changes is available.

New Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs Current Perason Edexcel International GCSE

Cambridge Assessment International Education (formerly CIE)

Cambridge have also adapted their English and Math IGCSE curricula to match the new GCSE. However, they are currently only offering the new curricula in the UK.

Additionally, Cambridge have opted to run the new 9-1 grading system side-by-side with the A*-G system for their other subject curricula, allowing schools and students to choose which system they prefer. This option is available in Administrative Zone 3 from 2019.

Hong Kong is in Administrative Zone 5, and dates for the new curricula and/or new grading system do not yet appear to be set.

The Cambridge Assessment International Education website lists the current available information on dates for exam changes.


Perhaps most surprisingly, AQA have opted not to continue their IGCSE curricula at all once they fully implement the new GCSE. Their official website explains that they believe the new GCSE will be better than the current IGCSE and thus equal to any internationally available qualification.

What does this mean for Hong Kong students?

Now would be an excellent time to confirm which exam board your school is using to see if any of the upcoming shifts affect you and talk to your school coordinators about how they are handling the transition.

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The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained acceptance to schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, Brown, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018 Admissions Results!