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Deciding what programs to study after your secondary school education in preparation for university life can be overwhelming. As a student, you need to understand these exams, what you can do with them, and also consider what they require.

In this article, we will be explaining all you need to know about A-levels, IGCSE and the IB Diploma programme when exploring options for international programmes.


The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is an international qualification designed for 14-16-year-old secondary school students.

The IGCSE is an adaptation of the British based GCSE. However, it is structured to fit an international curriculum. The IGCSE programme prepares students for university pathway programmes like A-Levels or IB Diploma.

Similar to GCSEs, the IGCSE curriculum runs for two years and allows students to select 7-10 subject combinations from any of Humanities, Creative and Vocational, Sciences, Languages and Mathematics. While GCSEs use a 1-9 grading system, IGCSE uses a G-A+ grading system. With G being the lowest grade and A+ the highest grade.

Currently, two major exam boards organize the IGCSE exams. They are, The Cambridge IGCSE and Pearson Edexcel IGCSE. Universities are not concerned with what academic board you use for the IGCSE exams, rather they are concerned with how high your grades are.

The IGCSE teaches students to build their critical thinking skills and develop a solid understanding of key concepts in individual subject areas through a broad and flexible curriculum.


Cambridge A-Levels Programme

The Cambridge Advanced Level Programme is a pre-university programme designed for students 16 years and above to prepare them for the course programme or career path of their choice after completing their IGCSEs or equivalent qualifications.

The A-Levels qualification is globally accepted as an entry requirement for universities and also for employment purposes.
The Cambridge A-Levels programme is a subject-based qualification with a curriculum that runs for two years allowing students to focus on subjects they are most passionate about.

The programme is split into the first year of study, Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level and the second year of study, A2 level. Typically, students preparing for their A-Levels exam select between three to four subjects that best suit their interests and course programme.

A-Levels are graded A+ – E and are assessed through both coursework and written exams. The AS level qualification gotten after the first year of the A-Levels programme can be presented as a separate qualification or be carried on to the A2 level to complete the full A-Level programme.

Universities in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and other study destinations recognize and accept A-Levels qualifications for their undergraduate programmes. The minimum A-Level requirement set by universities varies with course programmes.

Generally, A-Levels exam preparations are offered by sixth form colleges and in some cases, secondary schools offer preparatory classes for the A-Levels exam. The subject options available for students to choose from will depend on the curriculum adopted by the college. Westerfield College is a top sixth form college in Nigeria that offers the Cambridge A levels programme along with other International foundation programmes.

igcse a level

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP)

The IBDP is another university pathway programme available for 16-19 years students. Popular as an alternative to the Cambridge A-Levels programme, the IBDP is globally recognized and accepted as an entry requirement by universities, colleges and other institutes of learning.

The IBDP operates a robust two-year curriculum that covers six core subject areas and the DP core.
The DP core aims to develop critical thinking, broaden students’ perspectives on knowledge and acquire essential life skills. The DP core elements include; Theory of knowledge, Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay. The six subject areas of the IBDP are Language acquisition, Studies in language & literature, Individuals & Societies, Sciences, Mathematics and the Arts.

The scope of the IBDP prepares students for the university and corporate world by developing skills like time management, discipline and critical & analytical thinking through the programme coursework.

Unlike the IGCSE and A-Levels programme that assigns specific grades to each subject, a student’s performance in the IBDP is assessed on all areas of study as a whole. Students who successfully complete the programme are awarded diploma certificates that can be used during university application.

The IBDP programme is offered by institutions accredited by The International Baccalaureate Organizations. A minimum of 5 credits in IGCSE, GCSE or WASSCE is required to be qualified to begin the IB Diploma Programme.

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