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IGCSE Exams at BCB

Mr.Zbynek Loebl
Mr.Zbynek Loebl (5 posts) Head of Maths View Profile

In most international schools, Year 11 is considered to be one of the most important years on a student’s learning journey.

 

 

This is the year in which students complete their Cambridge IGCSE exams. These exams can seem extremely formal but this also makes them rigorous and fair - in fact, they are often the first (but not the last) externally assessed exam that students take on their educational journey.

 

Around March, Cambridge sends us sealed envelopes with exam papers inside them. We cannot open these envelopes until the exam time starts. The completed exams are then sealed and sent back to Cambridge in May to be externally assessed.

 

Students gain a lot from this relatively challenging experience: they gain an understanding of how to sit formal examinations, they gain a sense of achievement as their work is assessed in an objective manner, they gain an understanding of where their abilities lie in key subjects and this can help them decide on their IB choices. Most importantly, they also gain a sense of purpose that often helps students accelerate their learning.

 

As a teacher, you can really see students grow in Y11 as they start to take responsibility for their own learning - they really do start to handle themselves in a more adult way and this is a great transformation to see.


However, the IGCSEs are not the end of a students’ learning journey - in fact, we want students to love learning long after they leave university. Closer in the minds of our Y11s, however, students will start their IB diploma program in Y12 and so we should also see the IGCSE examination as a direct preparation for this important course.

 

In fact, the IB builds on the knowledge and the learning profile that was developed in the IGCSE years - students come into the IB with good revision techniques, an understanding of where their academic strengths lie and a good, solid foundational understanding of key concepts in every subject. Without the IGCSEs, an effective start of the IB studies would simply not be possible in Y12.

 

Some students find the IGCSEs disappointing or overly stressful as they realise that their expectations do not measure well in the IGCSE grading system. This is especially the case as some subjects are split into core and extended classes.

 

BCB Grades

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

IGCSE Extended

U-G

E-F

D

C

B

A

A*

IGCSE Core

U-G

E-F

D

C

     

 

Core classes are less challenging, but they have a maximum grade of C from that particular subject. This is still considered a passing grade and the decision between core and extended is made by the subject teachers, not the students.

 

Receiving a 4 (or equivalent of C) is a good passing grade that will not disadvantage students when they apply to universities. It is not the case that everyone can get a 7 (or A*) and we encourage that each student has their own target for each subject as that will maximise their learning.

 

With this in mind, I am very proud of the way the Y11s (and the Y10s) are preparing for their IGCSE courses. It has been a hard year, returning to school after the pandemic, and their improvements are so far great. If they keep up with the great work that they are doing, we will surely have a very successful IGCSE cohort. Well done Y11!