During their first three years in the Secondary School at BST, all of our students follow a broad and balanced curriculum – an immersion in a wide range of academic areas. Towards the end of that time, however, just like their counterparts in so many schools around the world, they are asked to start the process of selecting the subjects that they wish to continue through to IGCSE. This is the point at which young people really begin to take ownership of their education. It should be an exciting time for them but for Mum and Dad it can be just a little intimidating – Surely my child’s too young to be making decisions like these?
I hope that parents who attended our Year 9 Options Evening were reassured but, even so, it might be helpful to summarise and share more widely some of the most important points to remember. For those of you whose children are still a little way off IGCSE, what follows might give you – and your sons and daughters – some food for thought and something of a head-start. Please note that, for anyone who is interested in finding out more about the individual IGCSE subjects on offer at BST, our IGCSE Information Booklet is available on our website.
Make balanced decisions
- Any school will have certain core subjects that are compulsory, almost always including Maths, English and one or more combinations of Science; there will also be rules about which other combinations are possible within this framework. At BST we encourage students to maintain a balance of subjects – one of the humanities (History, Geography, Business Studies), a European language if at all possible (Japanese is part of the core) and a practical or creative subject (Art, Drama or Music).
- Many students will choose a good spread of subjects to keep their options open for further study (usually A Levels or the IBDP) or careers. A reasonably broad portfolio of optional subjects is essential as this allows them to demonstrate strengths in different areas – universities and employers value this. However, breadth should be balanced against the need to play to their strengths and interests so as to generate the best possible grades and enjoyment of study. Any student who chooses not to opt for the subjects he or she enjoys most had better have some very good reasons!
- Focus on quality. The IGCSE course is not a paper chase – it is in no one’s best interests to take too many subjects. Students should have the time and opportunity to take up new extra-curricular activities and to continue the ones they already enjoy. Community service, sport, continuing to play a musical instrument or the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award are activities that are all highly rated by the universities; they will be interested in knowing what students have done beyond the four walls of the classroom to broaden their horizons.
Are all subjects equal?
- Yes and No! They are all equal in terms of the weighting attached to them as IGCSE subjects but some subjects are more equal than others. For example, core IGCSEs such as Maths, English and Science are very important in building a substantial, well- balanced curriculum (and these subjects are usually central to a strong portfolio of A-levels).
- Some A-levels require that the subject is studied at IGCSE level (Maths and Chemistry, for example) but others do not (Business Studies and Psychology). Seek advice and check your facts. At BST we work from the premise that optional subjects at IGCSE are not a requirement for A Level study. Thus, in theory, it should be possible to study History in Years 12 and 13 without having taken it for IGCSE.
- While all subjects are essentially equal at IGCSE most would agree that taking too many creative subjects (Art, Drama, Music, Photography) could prove detrimental later on. At BST the timetable blocking system helps to guard against this but, in any case, if these are a student’s best subjects then one or two should not pose a problem – high grades matter too.
- It is important to remember that other qualifications can help en route to A Level. ABRSM grades are often important to musicians and focusing on these instead of adding Music IGCSE to the list of examinations might open up the option of taking another subject.
- Students should also be aware of how much of their own time they will have to give to subjects with a practical component. They are not easy options.
Looking beyond IGCSE
- Young people should not be too quick to see themselves as scientists, or arts or humanities specialists, as combinations of these subjects will be encouraged right up to A Level, and universities will be looking for applicants with breadth as well as depth in their choice of subjects.
- If a student has a particular university course in mind it is essential to check whether specific IGCSEs are required or would be an advantage. For a Psychology degree, for example, an A or B grade in Maths at IGCSE may be needed in addition to A-levels. Finding out in year 11 that it would have been a good idea to have studied History if you hope to take Law at university is a little bit late. Some careers research now can prove invaluable even though university might seem a long way off.
- If students already have a particular career in mind they can find out what is required with some simple online research, and by using the careers sections in the library. It is increasingly important – in careers like medicine, for example – to have a substantial portfolio of work experience as well as academic qualifications. Bear in mind though that by the end of Year 11 the student who dreamt of becoming a vet might have very different aspirations.
- It is also worth remembering that there is life beyond A-levels – and not just university. As tuition fees are being introduced across universities in almost all subjects, many companies and other organisations are offering A-level students direct entry career routes, sometimes onto scholarship and sponsored programmes (the digital technology industry, financial services, the armed forces etc). These can certainly be considered to be valid alternatives to a university degree. Think carefully, however, about the long-term impact of not going to university straight away – again seek advice from staff here at school.
What to do if you can’t decide
- Seek advice from subject teachers, Form Tutors and Careers Advisers. They have the latest advice and guidance to help sign-post you all in the right direction. Be flexible and be prepared to listen. Talk to students in the years above. BST is a friendly, relatively small school – older students will be only too pleased to help.
- The subjects in which you tend to be more successful are generally those that you enjoy most. Two years studying a subject is a long time and you will want to keep motivated and interested to achieve the very best grades you can. It’s not a bad thing to go with your instincts – but remember that we are not always good at the things we like and sometimes do not like the things at which we are good.
- Beware of choosing subjects for the wrong reasons:
- because your best friend is doing it
- because your current teacher is your favourite (that teacher may teach a different class for IGCSE, or even leave the school)
- because someone else – friend, parent, teacher – wants you to take a particular subject (listen to advice but make your own decisions)
- The subject tutors who know you best will be able to give you a really good insight into the demands and challenges of a particular IGCSE subject and help you decide if it is the right fit for you and your future ambitions.
- Consider what skills you enjoy using (using language to express yourself, reading, solving problems, carrying out research) and see how they might be used, developed and challenged in the different IGCSE subjects.
- Think about your preferred ways of working – are you good at coursework or its equivalent? If so, choose those subjects where you might have the opportunity to carry out some personal research. If not, avoid subjects which have heavily weighted components of coursework. Do you like collaborative group-work? If not, then Drama with its particular emphasis on working closely with others may not be the thing for you.
- What do your extra-curricular activities tell you about the kinds of things you like to do: team working, leadership, working on your own, being creative and designing and making things? These skills could help decide which subjects to follow at IGCSE and give an indication of the kind of career path you might choose to follow.
- If all else fails:
- Ask yourself which subjects you could not imagine being absent from your Year 10 timetable.
- Draw up a list of pros and cons for each subject
Finally – remember that these are your choices, not those of your parents, teachers and friends! Do listen to advice, but play to your own strengths not those that others may attribute to you. In the end you are the only one who can make sure that the decisions you make at this point turn out to be the right ones.
Are you a home educating parent? Do you want to know all about IGCSE ICT ? Then this guide is for you.
I teach this subject and get asked a lot of questions about IGCSE ICT, so I’ve put together this handy guide so you don’t have to trawl through lots of websites. If I’ve missed something you want to know then please do let me know. My contact details are at the bottom. I’m happy to help.
This guide assumes you know nothing about IGCSE’s and that you are finding out about them because you or your child is interested in computers, you home educate and you want to know the details of this exam. Note, if you want to know about IGCSE Computer Science, there is a separate blog post about that here.
I.C.T ? What is it short for ?
Information Communication Technology.
IGCSE? What does the “I” mean?
I is for International. IGCSE’s are used in many private schools instead of GCSE’s. They are available to anyone who wants to sit them, and are often taken by home educated children because there is no coursework involved – just exams. Coursework is very hard to get assessed if you are home educated.
Which exam board is IGCSE ICT with?
Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel both offer IGCSE ICT.
Which would you recommend?
I recommend the Edexcel ICT for two reasons:
It has two exams, whereas the CIE has three exams.
2. It is virtually impossible to find anywhere in the UK that will let you sit the CIE ICT IGCSE.
So, from now on all references to this IGCSE will be for the Edexcel ICT IGCSE
What is the difference between IGCSE ICT and Computer Science?
A good analogy is a car:
ICT would be how to drive a car, Computer Science would be the engineering behind how a car works and is put together.
Is it harder to find an exam centre for IGCSE ICT?
Yes, it is harder to find an exam centre for this exam because there is a practical exam. Many schools that allow external candidates to sit IGCSEs don’t want the hassle of setting up a computer for the practical exam.
Where can my child sit the IGCSE ICT exam ?
This is tricky. Because of the practical exam, it is quite hard to find an exam centre. Most people who sit this exam use a dedicated exam centre like 3A Tutors in Bristol or Tutors and Exams in Coventry and the Home Education exam centre Fargos. http://faregos.org
So before you commit to your child studying for this exam, it’s a good idea to make sure you definitely have an exam centre.
What is in the syllabus?
The full Edexcel ICT syllabus is here.
Tell me all about the IGCSE ICT exams….
Edexcel has two exams:
- 50% of the grade is a written theory exam answering multiple choice or short answer questions on the theory of ICT.
- 50% of the grade is a 3 hour practical exam where the student completes tasks in spreadsheets, databases, word processing and presentation software.
The exam can only be taken in the summer each year. There is no option to take it at other times. There is no minimum age for taking it and anyone can take it as many times as they like.
How much does the exam cost?
This differs depending on the exam centre but it’s usually around £200-250. It is more expensive than others because of the practical exam.
Is there an official course book?
Yes here is a link.
Do you have any further advice?
- There is no programming in this course. So it’s great for children who don’t want to program.
- Whilst it’s difficult to find an exam centre for this, it’s not impossible, and the syllabus offres some very valuable office skills that would make your child much more appealing to employers who need those skills.
- Some of the content of the official course book is outdated. But overall, the majority of it is still very relevant.
- It covers almost all the basics and will give them a good grounding in the subject and the world of using computers.
What about the EDCL ICT Driving course?
This is often used as an alternative qualification to IGCSE ICT and is worth considering if you can’t find an exam centre or find the cost of the exam too much.