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What are Edexcel, Cambridge and AQA Certificates? Information on this variant of IGCSEs.

These are modified versions of the IGCSEs which have been approved by OFQUAL for use in UK state schools and count towards school league tables until new 9-1 GCSEs come in for each subject. This is an issue for schools entering their own students, but is mostly irrelevant to private candidates.  State schools were given permission to temporarily use OFQUAL-accredited versions of IGCSEs between 2010 and 2017, pending the reform of GCSEs.  

The Cambridge/Edexcel Certificates are almost identical to the corresponding IGCSE offered by those boards, and generally use the same textbook for most subjects.  Often the exam papers are identical too, particularly in maths and the sciences - the exam paper has two different codes on it, and the only difference is the wording on the certificate you receive at the end. Home-educated students can choose which qualification to enter for.  

Note that the Certificate versions are being discontinued when the GCSE Reforms take effect for each subject (2017 for English and maths, 2018 for most other subjects).  

For some subjects there are minor differences.  All English / English Language Certificates include a compulsory speaking/listening assessment as this is required for the qualification to be approved for UK state schools.  This presents a problem for home-educators as exam centres would not normally accept private candidates for this, because of the preparation time, classroom time and additional paperwork involved.  Therefore for some subjects, the IGCSE (International GCSE) is the only one which can, practically speaking, be arranged for private candidates  

Edexcel Certificate in English Language includes a compulsory coursework element, whereas the Edexcel International GCSE English Language includes a 100% examination option or a coursework option.  

Why were Level 2 Certificates developed? Edit

These qualifications were developed to be a version of IGCSEs for UK state schools.

Edexcel's FAQs on the Certificates and International GCSEs:

Why can't state schools follow the International GCSE course?

Unlike international and independent schools, state schools need to follow the requirements of the Programme of Study for KS4. This means that the content of the Certificate has to be accredited by Ofqual. The Certificates have the same content as the International GCSEs as much as possible, but there are some elements (such as Speaking and Listening) that are compulsory for state schools but optional for international and independent schools.

Why can’t the Edexcel Certificate be called an International GCSE?

The Certificate is the accredited version of the International GCSE (as explained above), so it can be taught in state schools. But because it does not meet all of the Ofqual GCSE criteria in terms of regulatory design and assessment, it cannot have GCSE in its title or on its certificate. 

Ofqual therefore requires that these accredited versions of the International GCSEs have a different title, so they are called the Level1/2 Certificate - for example, 'Edexcel Level 1/Level 2 Certificate in English Language'.

Edexcel's advice for teachers: Edit

"6.1 Introduction
The Secretary of State announced in the summer of 2010 that in future state schools would be able to offer their students International GCSEs...we ..have since been working with the regulator Ofqual to gain accreditation for a selection of our International GCSEs (called Edexcel Certificates) for use in UK state schools.
We have submitted our International GCSEs in mathematics, English, sciences, geography, history, Chinese, French, German and Spanish for accreditation as Edexcel Certificates to reflect the current demand in schools. Our new Edexcel Certificate qualifications are based on our International GCSE specifications’ content."

There is some clarification from Edexcel regarding their Edexcel Certificate in French:

"Why can’t state schools follow the International GCSE course?
Unlike International and independent schools, state schools need to follow the requirements of the Programme of Study for KS4, therefore the content of the Certificate has to be accredited by OfQual. Nevertheless, the Certificates will have the same content as the new International GCSEs including a compulsory speaking exam."

And Mathematics:

"2. Why is it called a Certificate as opposed to an International GCSE?  
The International GCSEs could not be accredited with ‘GCSE’ in the title because they do not conform with the GCSE subject and the GCSE qualification criteria. Therefore, they were accredited and are listed on Ofqual’s Register of Regulated Qualifications as ‘Level 1/Level 2 Certificates’ under Other General Qualifications.  "
"5. Are there any differences between the International GCSE and Certificate?  

The Edexcel Certificate in Mathematics is based on the current International GCSE Mathematics A specification. There are no differences between the specifications in terms of content and assessment. The same examination papers will be issued for both specifications.  "

Which version should home-ed students take? Certificate or IGCSE? Edit

Short version: The IGCSE is more instantly recognised whereas few people know what a 'Level 1 / Level 2 Certificate' is. However, it is unlikely to matter so don't worry too much!

The Certificate versions in each subject are being discontinued when new 9-1 GCSEs are introduced, so this section will only affect people taking exams before 2017 for English and Maths, and before 2018 for other subjects.

Usually, people refer to the 'Certificate' IGCSEs simply as 'IGCSE' and you would only know that somebody had taken the Certificate version if you saw the certificate itself and noticed different wording. For entry to UK universities it will not make any difference, and on a CV you might just write 'IGCSE'.

There are two possible circumstances where it would make a difference which you took.

  • UK funding regulations for state education at 16-19 changed in September 2013 and now anyone going to a state sixth form or college at 16-19 who doesn't have GCSE English and Maths to Grade C or above must continue studying towards that level.  The Department for Education regulations now explicitly say that unregulated IGCSEs (ie regular IGCSEs) will be recognised for these purposes following the roll-out of new GCSEs. However, they don't mention the OFQUAL-regulated Certificates after that date. Therefore the IGCSE is the safer bet.
  • If you are applying to university overseas, they may well not know what a Certificate version of an IGCSE is, although regular IGCSEs are internationally recognised.  You might have to ask the admissions department to contact the awarding body so that they can confirm IGCSE equivalence.


Sometimes, exam officers enter UK students for the Certificate versions automatically - especially if the exam centre is a state school. Please do make it clear to the examinations officer if you want the entry to be for an IGCSE rather than the Certificate version, and specify the code of the exam you want to take. For example, for Edexcel IGCSE maths the code is 4MA0 whereas for Certificate maths it is the same paper but the entry code is KMA0. If you are taking CIE IGCSEs with a Certificate version in the UK, then many exam centres will automatically enter you for the Certificate version.  

For most subjects apart from English Language, at time of writing (2014) generally the Certificate exams are identical to the IGCSE exams - the papers usually have two different codes on the front.      

Edexcel Certificates Final Exams Edit

From the Edexcel page on Edexcel Certificates:

Current arrangements for recognising level 1/level 2 Certificates will end with the introduction of reformed GCSEs, as announced by the Department for Education in January 2015. Once the Edexcel Certificates no longer count in performance measures, they will also cease to attract funding. As a result, the qualifications can no longer be offered to schools and we are therefore withdrawing all our Edexcel Certificate qualifications. This will be a phased process across the Edexcel Certificate subjects.

Edexcel Certificates in English and Maths

  • Final examination will take place in summer 2016.
  • Final recognition of results in performance tables will be summer 2016.
  • There will be no opportunity to sit the examinations in January 2017.
  • From summer 2017 onwards, only the new GCSE (9-1) qualifications will count in performance tables.

Edexcel Certificates in Geography, History, Modern Foreign Languages and the Sciences

  • Final examination will take place in summer 2017.
  • Final recognition of results in performance tables will be summer 2017.
  • There will be no opportunity to sit the examinations in January 2018.
  • From summer 2018 onwards, only the new GCSE (9-1) qualifications will count in performance tables.

Edexcel Certificate in Chinese

  • Final examination will take place in summer 2018.
  • Final recognition of results in performance tables will be summer 2018.
  • There will be no opportunity to sit the examinations in January 2019.
  • From summer 2019 onwards, only the new GCSE (9-1) qualifications will count in performance tables.

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