Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Secondary Maths - IGCSE Maths qualifications

Until 2010 IGCSE could not be taught in state schools in England and Wales. That restriction was lifted in June 2010 and some maths teachers are wondering if the exam might be a good option for them. To help them decide, here is a brief guide to Mathematics IGCSE.

The first point to clarify is that because of restrictions in the use of the term GCSE in England and Wales (it has to conform to certain subject and qualification criteria) the qualification is referred to as a Level 1 or Level 2 Certificate. It is identical to the qualification the rest of the world is happy to call an IGCSE.
Edexcel and Cambridge both offer a version of IGCSE Mathematics accredited for use in schools in England and Wales. Here are some features that have in common.

• Both have two terminal examination papers. There is no modular option.
• Calculators are allowed in all papers. There is no non-calculator paper.
• The specification (Edexcel) or syllabus (Cambridge) contains topics that are not in the normal GCSE.
• Both will be recorded in school performance tables and will count towards the English Baccalaureate.

Here are more details of each one separately
• The Edexcel Certificate (IGCSE specification A) is a two-tier exam (Foundation: C-G grades and Higher: A*-E grades available). Each tier is examined by two two-hour papers, each carrying equal marks. Each paper covers all aspects of the specification. The Higher tier includes calculus.
• The Cambridge syllabus has two tiers called Core curriculum (C-G) and Extended curriculum (A*-E). In both tiers paper 1 is shorter than paper 2, consists of short-answer questions and has a weighting of 35%. Paper 2 has structure questions and a weighting of 65%. The Extended curriculum includes matrices (Note: there is also a version of this syllabus with coursework but that is not accredited).

One final point: AQA has an accredited Level 2/IGCSE specification for Additional Mathematics. It is not an alternative to Mathematics; it is intended as an extra qualification for students who will gain at least a level B in Mathematics. The specification includes topics that would normally be found on an A level course. It might be a useful option for students making early GCSE entry.

Chris Pearce

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