School Guide

IGCSE in Malaysia: All the Basics You Need to Know

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Apr 14, 2022

One of the many concerns of parents is education, that is, making the best educational choice for their children based on the existing options available to them at every stage of their academic lives.

It is undeniable that Malaysian parents invest greatly on the education of their little ones to ensure a safe future for the latter.

The Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) is the main national examination that credits candidates with secondary school qualifications, provided they pass. The examination is taken in Form 5 after 11 years of schooling. SPM is one of the pathways to tertiary education for Malaysian students.

There is also a difference between SPM and IGCSE and many parents have been seeking alternative pathways towards tertiary education and have been leaning towards the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) otherwise known as IGCSE Malaysia or IGCSE in Malaysia.

This article provides you with a thorough insight on IGCSE.

What is IGCSE?

If you are wondering what IGCSE stands for, here is the IGCSE meaning. IGCSE is the abbreviation for International General Certificate of Secondary Education.

It is considered to be the most popular international certification for the end of secondary school and is the equivalent to the British O-Level, UK GCSE, fifth form or year 11.

The exam is taken before a student proceeds to Advanced Level (A-Level or sixth form or year 12 & 13) or pre-university studies in respective countries and schools.

The duration of the programme is 5 years, starting with Year 7 (the equivalent of Form 1) and ending with the Year 11 examinations which are set and marked by the Examination Board. If you want your child to take IGCSE, it is important to know which schools that offer IGCSE in Malaysia.


Many universities worldwide require a combination of Cambridge International A Levels and Cambridge IGCSEs to meet their entry requirements. Moreover, countries like the UK, US or Canadian colleges and universities allow admissions to students holding a successfully passed IGCSE Certificate. Furthermore, this program creates a pathway for the local students from Malaysia to study abroad. 

When students complete their education and move on to the next step, that is, joining the labour force, those holding an IGCSE certificate will greatly benefit from the programme as many of the leading companies worldwide accept and recognise this programme.

IGCSE is popular among homeschoolers and adult students. Though IGCSE is mostly undertaken by students typically in the age group 14-16 or 15-17 depending on primary 1 entry age, it also allows students from alternative education and adult students to sit for the exam and continue personal education advancement at any age.

IGCSE Subjects

n terms of IGCSE subjects Malaysia, IGCSE offers more than 70 subjects where students are required to take a minimum of 5 or maximum of 14 subjects.

The core subjects are English, Mathematics and Sciences. Nevertheless, students can also choose other subjects ranging from Social Sciences (commonly Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Sociology) to Arts & Technology (commonly Computer Studies, Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Art & Design).

Students are awarded with one IGCSE certificate on each subject. If you take 5 subjects, you will be awarded 5 IGCSE certificates. The number of subjects that need to be taken is varied from school to school, and also depends upon individual preference.

In Malaysia, it is compulsory for all Malaysian students to sign up for their SPM Bahasa Malaysia when they are in Year 11 (the Form 5 Year).

IGCSE Examinations

If you are wondering “what is IGCSE exam”, unlike the Malaysian Certificate of Education (or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, aka SPM) which offers examinations once a year, the Cambridge IGCSE offers examinations twice a year, in June and November. The IGCSE issues the results in August and January every year. Parents and students should also be aware of the exam fees as IGCSE exam fees Malaysia can be expensive for some families.

Moreover, the IGCSE graduates can quickly apply for scholarships or be admitted into college and/or university earlier as compared to the SPM graduate.

Cambridge IGCSE Grading System

The IGCSE is graded from A* to G, with U stated as “Ungraded”. Students are required to obtain minimum grade C for the 5 core subjects in order to proceed to the next advanced level or further education.

The IGCSE grading system aims to maintain the standard of grading such that the same level of achievement will receive the same grade from one year to the next. This means that grades should reflect a consistent level of achievement between different syllabuses within the same qualification and in different years. All of this will be taken into account for IGCSE result 2021 Malaysia.

IGCSE grading overview is as below:

IGCSE in Malaysia

In whichever step parents take for their children on alternative secondary school qualifications, it is crucial to refer to various resources on the internet, speak to teachers, parents and students with some experience, visit and take trial classes (if possible) at the schools and learning centres and ensure that it is the right choice for the child and his future.

Advantages of taking IGCSE

The IGCSE can be completed by those of almost all levels of ability. Oftentimes, the exam boards separate the questions based on difficulty to meet the needs of students of all academic abilities. It gives more time for students whose English is their second language, more time to learn before their exams. This is because most examinations take place at the end of the course. If your child has strengths in gathering knowledge and demonstrating this knowledge in exams, IGCSE might be a good option for your child.

Another big advantage of IGCSE is their status with many universities. In the absence of A-levels or IB Diploma results, universities can take your IGCSE results into account to offer placement. IGCSE results have value as an international qualification by European universities and North American colleges. These institutions will take your results into account alongside the A-levels or IB Diploma results.

Disadvantages of taking IGCSE

The IGCSE may not be suitable for every student because there is no coursework. Students may want to consider other programmes like the IB Middle Years Programme due to the time bound recall required for the exams. The MYP has more diverse coursework style assessments and the assessments are spaced regularly throughout the course. This gives students freedom to go after their own interests through the Personal Project. If your child is aiming for a well rounded, deeply international focused education, then MYP may be the better choice. It can also be the better option if your child wants to study for the IB Diploma. Also, if they need to practice their organisation skills, time management, reflection on learning and self-led inquiry. IB and IGCSE programmes are quite different so a good comparison must be made between them.

Choosing IGCSE is something to consider as it is a good and plausible choice that one can make if one can afford it!

what you need to know about igcse

Click here for differences between IGCSE and SPM Examinations in Malaysia

Click here to find out what educators, parents and students think of IGCSE

Click here to check out schools that offer IGCSE in Malaysia

Click here to get access of the past IGCSE exam papers