بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Alhamdulillaah, our homeschool journey is nearing the examinations qualification stage by the grace and mercy of Allaah. Maimoonah is 11 now and with time passing so fast we are drawing up our IGCSE road map so that we know where we are heading inshaa Allaah.
Many sisters have messaged me asking questions on IGCSE. I will be blogging our general road map here and consequently sharing my reviews of each resource we are planning to use individually for each subject inshaa Allaah. So watch out this space with links and resources and tips and tools that would aid us homeschoolers to successfully complete the IGCSE inshaa Allaah.
This is a long post but I feel it makes my life and yours easier to have everything in one place where you can refer back as and when you want. Inshaa Allaah. Let's get started.
What is IGCSE
IGCSE stands for The International General Certificate of Secondary Education. This is a UK certified Examination offered to International students. The Qualification is equal to the UK GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education).
If you are following the UK curriculum then this is the minimum qualification needed to pursue higher studies or any other professional studies. Most colleges and Professional Institutes depending on the field of study you have chosen, ask for at least a Credit pass in English and Mathematics for IGCSE to continue higher studies.
These exams are usually done in schools when the child is 16 years old. The children prepare for the exams at 14 years. But the flexibility here is that these exams can be done at any age, young or old as private candidates and there are no prior qualifications needed to sit for these exams.
There are several Exam Boards that offer IGCSE for International Students to be taken from wherever they are. These are the two popular exam boards
1. Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
2. Edexcel (Pearson)
Both these Exam Boards are primarily catering to the schools but we homeschoolers have the opportunity to sit for the exams as private candidates. However, some subjects are NOT available for private candidates. Additionally, you may also find some subjects that are available for private candidates are NOT offered at certain exam centers. We will get into this a little later in detail Inshaa Allaah.
You may ask what is the difference between these two Boards.!
Well, then nothing much.
"Exam boards are organizations that offer qualifications to students, and it’s their job to produce exam papers, mark your work and award your grade."
If you look for the difference on the net these are the few results you will get,
"CIE is Cambridge International Examinations and is a sister company to OCR, which offers GCSEs and A-levels etc. Edexcel is a subsidiary of the publisher Pearson, and it offers IGCSEs alongside the full range of UK qualifications. They are both respected bodies in the UK and their qualifications have equal value."
"Edexcel and CIE are both examples of UK examination boards which provide a range of exams and qualifications. All exam boards operate under the guidelines produced by the JCQ (Joint Committee for Qualifications) and according to the regulations laid down by Ofqual (the government department responsible). There is no difference in the level or degree of difficulty between the IGCSE offered by Edexcel and CIE. The differences are only in the way questions are asked and the format of the exams."
"Both Cambridge International Examinations and Edexcel International Examinations are the most renowned international boards offering different qualifications to students such as IGCSE, GCE O Level, AS level and A Level. The specifications of syllabuses might differ but both of them are recognized by colleges, universities, and employers all around the world."
The difference I noticed is
1. The cost - CIE (Cambridge Exam Fee seems less)
2. The availability of subjects
3. Specifications of the Syllabus (slight variations)
4. Examination Questions and Style
We used the Cambridge Primary and Secondary Curriculum throughout our homeschool since Maimoonah was 5 and we have decided to go forward with the Cambridge IGCSE Inshaa Allaah. Therefore I would be sharing information ONLY of Cambridge IGCSE throughout Inshaa Allaah.
So let's get started.
What do you do first? The first thing I did was talking to Maimoonah. Explaining to her about IGCSE and the subjects, understanding her interests and preferences. Taking into consideration her age, she needs more guidance in deciding what subjects to choose. So we spoke about her likings and she spoke to her father and got his naseeha too. She still does not know what she wants to be or take as a career. But we spoke about her strengths and weaknesses and identified them. So she concluded that she is strong in language and like professional skills and not very interested in sciences. Alhamdulillaah fine. What next?
Identify the Opportunities for Higher Studies
You do not have to look for universities or colleges and confirm a career field at this stage. But it is good to check out the opportunities available which are suitable for your family and religious values and the boundaries of Islaam. Then check with those establishments what they require as minimum or maximum qualification to pursue higher studies and qualifications. This way you will have an idea to go forward. This really helped us to choose the right subjects and made it a lot easier to draw up this road map. Of course, interests and situations may change but at least you have a rough idea.
Choose a Center for the Exam
This is very important, especially for Homeschoolers. So usually for International private candidate students who sit for both exam board examinations, the center is the British Council
in your city or country.
Each country has a designated British Council website. You will have to check in that particular website for subjects offered for Private Candidates for the respective exam boards. The staff at the British Council are usually friendly and helpful around the world. You can email or call them or visit them and inquire about the availability of the subjects. Accordingly, choose your IGCSE subjects.
Alternatively you can look for a Cambridge School in your area who will accommodate private candidates to sit for the exam. List of Cambridge schools can be found here
Choose your IGCSE Subjects
The number of subjects required for IGCSE generally in a school is 6 or above. Some schools have their own standards and specify the number of subjects. But as homeschoolers, we are free to determine the number of subjects.
The Cambridge IGCSE offers more than 70 subjects. Students are required to take a minimum of 5 or a maximum of 14 subjects. The core subjects are English, Mathematics, and Sciences. Again as private candidates, you are allowed to sit these subjects one at a time as and when you are ready. You do not have to sit for all 5 or 7 subjects at the same time in the same year.
So choose your subjects from this link
Cambridge IGCSE Subjects
Points to keep in mind when choosing the subjects
1. Check with your British Council/ Exam Centre if the subjects are available to sit as private candidates locally. Use the number code provided for each subject as a reference when checking. Same subjects have different number codes.
2. Some subjects have two specifications. One is called the core and the other extended. You have a choice to choose.
Here is the explanation according to Cambridge
"To take account of differing abilities, there is a choice between Core and Extended papers in some IGCSE subjects. This allows teachers to decide on the most appropriate level of papers for their students.
The Core curriculum in each subject is within the ability range of a large majority of students. It provides a full overview of the subject and is targeted at students expected to achieve grades C to G.
The Extended curriculum, made up of the Core curriculum and the Supplement, has been designed for the more academically able and leads naturally into higher education or professional training. It is targeted at those expected to achieve grades A* to E. The Supplement describes the extra topics or depth which must be added to the Core curriculum to produce the Extended curriculum."
So basically the best choice is to go for the "Extended" subject inshaa Allaah if your child is normal and an average student as this has more scope for higher educations.
3. Check if the subjects you are choosing are available for the year you are planning to sit for the exam. Some subjects may not be available if so it is indicated.
When you go to the Subjects Page and you click on a specific subject you will see this screen with all details for that subject.
After you choose your subject, download the Syllabus and the Learners Guide (if available, some subjects do not have the Learner's Guide). Scroll down the same page and you will find the PDF for syllabus and Learners Guide. Screenshot below.
Resources - Text Books/ Online Courses/Programs
On the same page you will also find "Published Resources"
for each subject where different Text Books are listed for you to choose from. You can buy these textbooks from the publishers for which you will find the links on the same page. Screenshot below
Please also know there are other textbooks in the market for some subjects that are not listed in the site probably because the publishers still have not got them endorsed, especially for subjects like English. Overall it is better to get the Cambridge endorsed books to make your life easier.
Most of the textbooks that are endorsed by Cambridge cover the full syllabus Alhamdulillaah and you really do not have to keep checking the textbooks against the Syllabus you downloaded.
The other alternative is to look for Online Tutors or Websites or Apps or IGCSE Courses offered and choose accordingly. Most of Online Programs come with Materials. So do a little bit of research and spend wisely. I will be sharing some of the findings later on Inshaa Allaah.
The next important thing is to have the past papers ready in hand for each of the subjects. Doing the past papers are very very important. Most of the Past Papers could be downloaded for free from the various website. This is one website
that has all the latest past papers for all the Cambridge IGCSE Subjects. All the past papers come with Mark Scheme which has the answers and gives you the guideline as to how examiners mark and what the answers should be.
Printing and arranging all of these past papers can be a little bit of a hassle, alternatively, some British Councils offer this service of printing and delivering the past papers you order for a small fee. This really saves time and energy.
Join Some Support Groups
Throughout this journey, you will need some help Inshaa Allaah. It is best to look for local or international Support groups online or offline and join them. It is a tremendous relief to be part of such informative and helpful groups Alhamdulillaah. There are many Facebook, WhatsApp Groups around the world. Look for such groups and join. It will really benefit you.
Plan your Study Schedule
Now that you have all the information and resources, plan your study schedule. If your child is young have a rough goal as to when you want her or him to sit for the exams and which subjects are you going to do first. You have the freedom to space the subjects and sit for them over a period of time. Plan out the schedule accordingly. For Example, if you hope to sit Maths within 1 year then you will have to plan out your study schedule accordingly. If you plan to do Business Studies in 2 years then you can go slow and make your schedules for 2 years.
Checking Your Progress
While you are continuing yout study remember to check your progress using the "Learner's Guide" you downloaded for each subject. This is a very important document as the questions on the exam papers do not deviate from the Learners Guide. Alhamdulillaah. It sticks to the syllabus and the guide provided.
The Learner's Guide also explains how a student should answer different questions and shows with examples how to answer.
Once you have finished a portion of the study check off on the Learner's Guide. This way you will know your study progress inshaa Allaah. Screenshots below.
Applying to Sit for the Examination
You can apply for the examinations at the British Council. Most of the countries allow you to apply online without even attending the local British Council office. Alhamdulillaah it is so convenient. Make sure to check with the British Council with regard to the deadline to apply. Usually, the applications are closed 6 months before the Exams and if you apply late an extra fee is charged. After applying if you want to postpone taking your exam, they do have some criteria and refund policies. You can check with your local British Council. When you apply they will provide you the Exam Centre as well and once you pay the fee you will get all relevant confirmation from them.
Alhamdulillaah now you are set to start your IGCSE learning Inshaa Allaah.
Our Road Map to IGCSE
Alhamdulillaah, since I worked with the British Council personally during my working career it was much easier for me to understand the whole procedure and thus convenient to compile this post.
However, as a homeschooler, I had to look everywhere and get help and support from groups and people who have sat for the exams to lay out our road map. Thus I spoke to students and parents who independently sat for the IGCSE Exams and got their advice and suggestions.
You may wonder why we are getting ready for IGCSE now as Maimoonah is only 11 and she should be starting her KS3 and not IGCSE. Yes, she is still doing her KS3 for most of the subjects, but after looking at the KS3 Syllabus I realized most of it are any way repeating all over again for IGCSE. KS3 is like a lower IGCSE. So I did not want to waste time completing KS3 for another 3 years and then starting IGCSE again. Instead, I wanted to draw up a road map, taking into account Maimoonah's ability and our homeschool, household situation. So this is our Road Map for IGCSE.
Subjects we have chosen
4. Arabic as a Foreign Language
5. Business Studies
6. Travel and Tourism - Subject to availability for Private candidates at the time of the sitting it.
She does not want to do any science subjects. I found out from some of the colleges and institutes if these subjects would be fine for her to continue a degree or higher qualification and they were fine with this, Alhamdulillah.
When will she sit for the exams?
I do not know. our plan is to start a few subjects at a time and decide after a year. We are not starting on IGCSE for all subjects because some subjects need maturity and some subjects need more foundations and basics. Therefore this will be our priority list.
1. Business Studies
6. Travel and Tourism (we may not do this at all)
We have already started Business Studies and Arabic. Will be sharing the resources and programs individually soon inshaa Allaah.
We hope to start Islamiyat after Ramadhaan Inshaa Allaah.
So those are the 3 subjects we will be working on for the next 1 or 2 years.
Meanwhile, she is continuing KS3 (Year 7, 8 and 9) work for English, Geography, Science, and Mathematics.
Geography and Science are done for the joy of learning. Alhamdulillaah for homeschooling. We are using the KS3 Science Courses Online Website
. Maashaa Allaah it serves the purpose of learning. Watch out for the review of this
website and a generous discount for my readers in case you wish to subscribe for the same.
We also use Mystery Science
( a full subscription) a gift Maimoonah received from a dear friend which is great to absorb information and keep the boredom away.
And for Maths we are using MathsWatch
and Khan Academy
for KS3 Maths. They are both really really helping us. Alhamdulillaah. Maths is something that I really fear and likewise, Maimoonah is behind as well. So these two programs alone are helping us to get to IGCSE. Will be sharing our review and how we are using these programs to achieve our goals separately.
She is continuing with Complete English Cambridge Secondary Level Books
and currently starting on Year 8. We will complete year 9 and hoping to start IGCSE English with some online support Inshaa Allaah. Again all resources and programs we intend using will be shared on a separate post as we go on inshaa Allaah.
So this is our current Road Map for IGCSE and we ask Allaah to facilitate for us what is best for this world and the next and give Maimoona success in that which is good. Aameen.
Join me on Instagram Stories
inshaa Allaah, I hope to have a Q and A session there on this topic in another couple of days and you can ask me any question on our Road Map to IGCSE.