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IGCSE : an alternative to GCSE?. Chair: Paul Baker, GA Independent Schools Special Interest Group Panel: Robert Morris, IGCSE Ning Leader and Geography Teacher, Shrewsbury School; Peter Price, Head of Geography, Charterhouse School and IGCSE Examiner

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igcse an alternative to gcse

IGCSE: an alternative to GCSE?

Chair: Paul Baker, GA Independent Schools Special Interest Group


Robert Morris, IGCSE Ning Leader and Geography Teacher, Shrewsbury School;

Peter Price, Head of Geography, Charterhouse School and IGCSE Examiner

Lianne Aherne, Geography Teacher, Wycombe Abbey School.

the charterhouse curriculum
The Charterhouse Curriculum
  • My personal views; I’m not speaking for my school or any exam board
  • Thanks to Edexcel for use of slides
  • Pre-16 and post-16 almost entirely linear
  • Ethos aiming to maximise learning time and minimise examination disruption
  • Geography Department traditionally offered OCR GCE and OCR C GCSE
  • Pre-16: majority of subjects offer IGCSE
  • Post-16: majority offer Pre-U (only 3 offer A Level)
  • From 2011, Charterhouse will also offer IB
edexcel igcse4
Edexcel IGCSE
  • Key features
  • First teaching in Sept 2009 for exam in June 2011
  • IGCSEs are recognized as equivalent, grade for grade, to UK GCSEs
  • Edexcel Certificate plans?
benefits to teachers
Benefits to teachers
  • Familiar content
  • Uncomplicated, un-tiered qualification
  • Option to localise content
support for edexcel igcse
Support for Edexcel IGCSE
  • www.edexcel.com/igcse2009
  • Electronic copies of Specs, SAMs, TSMs
  • Resources – tied text published (Pearson); we use New Wider World 3 (Nelson Thornes)
  • Training, including online Inset
  • Ask the Expert & Ask Edexcel
  • UK networking (new for Edexcel?)
  • Ning (administered by Rob Morris, Shrewsbury)
key features of the specification
Key Features of the Specification
  • Offers more choice of topics for study and less content coverage (teaching time in international centres?)
  • Integrated assessment of practical skills, including actual and virtual fieldwork
  • Streamlines assessment into a single, common external examination paper with no fieldwork report option
qualification content summary
Qualification Content Summary
  • Nine topics with three in each of three Sections – A, B and C
qualification content summary section a
Qualification Content Summary - Section A
  • Basically physical geography (The Natural Environment and People):
  • 1. River Environments
  • 2. Coastal Environments
  • 3. Hazardous Environments
  • Expectation that teachers will choose TWO not all three to study
qualification content summary section b
Qualification Content Summary - Section B
  • Basically human geography (People and their Environments):
  • 1. Economic Activity and Energy
  • 2. Ecosystems and Rural Environments
  • 3. Urban Environments
  • Again, expectation that teachers will choose only TWO to study
qualification content summary section c
Qualification Content Summary – Section C
  • Addresses contemporary global issues:
  • 1. Fragile Environments, including soil erosion, desertification, TRF de-forestation and global warming
  • 2. Globalisation and Migration
  • 3. Development and Human Welfare
  • Candidates expected to study only ONE of the three topics
qualification content summary12
Qualification Content Summary
  • Amounts to a FIVE topic programme – approximately one topic every ten weeks
  • Each topic has a standard format built around THREE key ideas and specifies practical skills (Sections A and B) and examples (all three Sections) needing to be covered
  • Candidates required to study EIGHT fieldwork opportunities (TWO in each of their FOUR Section A and B topics) as part of practical skill development
  • Sustainable development and future worlds overarch all nine topics/units
  • Candidates required to study EIGHT fieldwork opportunities (TWO in each of their FOUR Section A and B topics), e.g.
  • Measuring river channel features/water quality
  • Beach measurements
  • Surveying peoples’ views on the management of coastlines/a hazard event/renewable energy
  • Collecting and recording weather data
  • Small-scale ecosystem investigation
  • Farm production study
  • Urban Environmental Quality Survey and land use transects
  • Delivery?
    • Charterhouse Year 10s cover these fieldwork requirements in a week-long trip to the south of France in June
    • Shrewsbury do a number of days to cover the requirements in Shropshire and Wales
assessment summary
Assessment Summary
  • Assessment through one common untiered written examination paper
  • June 2011 first paper (only one paper per year)
  • 2 hour 45 minute exam in Q & A booklet format
  • E-marked
  • Candidates answer five of nine structured questions, each carrying 30 marks
  • Answer two from each of Sections A and B, and one from C
  • Variety of question types within each full question. Incline of difficulty from opening short-response to nine mark extended prose finale (stretch and challenge)
  • Section A and B questions contain practical skills/fieldwork parts
  • Past papers from “old” Spec cover most topics
planning and teaching
Planning and Teaching
  • Specification designed for 2-year programme delivery over 5 terms
  • 1 topic/unit per term
  • Teaching time guide = 1.5 hours + 1hr homework per week
  • Teachers free to choose own case studies and contexts for learning
key features
Key Features
  • IGCSEs are recognized as equivalent, grade for grade, to UK GCSEs - part of Cambridge ICE
  • Only one tier for assessment
  • Two or three papers (dependent on whether fieldwork report is done)
  • Papers available in June or November
support for cie igcse
Support for CIE IGCSE
  • Teacher Support website
  • Electronic copies of Specs, SAMs, TSMs
  • Resources – Course specific textbooks
  • Training, including online and face to face INSET
  • Online Community
key features of the specification19
Key Features of the Specification
  • Offers choice of topics for study and less content coverage
  • Fieldwork Report (2000 words) or Fieldwork paper
  • Skills paper
qualification content summary20
Qualification Content Summary
  • Divided into three themes which have been designed to develop an understanding of both the natural and the human environment:
  • Population and settlement
  • The natural environment
  • Economic development and the use of resources
qualification content summary theme 1
Qualification Content Summary – Theme 1
  • Basically Human geography:
  • Population Dynamics
  • Density, distribution, growth, migration and structure
  • Settlement
  • Development, functions, spheres of influence, land use and problems
qualification content summary theme 2
Qualification Content Summary – Theme 2
  • Basically physical geography (The natural environment):
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Landforms and Landscape Processes (rivers and coasts)
  • Weather, Climate and Natural Vegetation
  • Inter-relationships between the natural environment and human activities
qualification content summary theme 3
Qualification Content Summary – Theme 3
  • Economic development and the use of resources
  • Agricultural systems
  • Industrial systems
  • Leisure activities and tourism
  • Energy and water resources
  • Environmental risks and benefits: resource conservation and management
qualification content summary24
Qualification Content Summary
  • Candidates have to study all topics though only 1 question has to be answered on each them
  • The skills paper may ask questions across a variety of themes
  • Centres may offer either the Coursework report (paper 3 ) or the Alternative to Coursework Paper (paper 4) for assessment.
  • The Coursework has to be 2000 words in length and the title approved by CIE
  • Titles are suggested
assessment summary26
Assessment Summary
  • Paper 1 – 1 hour 45 minutes – 45% of marks
  • Tests Themes 1-3
  • Candidates answer any three questions out of six.
  • There are two structured and resource based questions set on each of three themes.
  • Paper 2 - 1 hour 30 minutes – 27.5 % of marks
  • Candidates answer all the questions.
  • The paper is based on testing the interpretation and analysis of geographical information and on the application of graphical and other techniques.
  • One question is based on a 1:25 000 or 1:50 000 topographical map of a tropical area such as Zimbabwe, the Caribbean or Mauritius.
assessment summary cont
Assessment Summary (cont.)
  • and either
  • Paper 3
  • Coursework (Centre-based assessment)
  • Teachers set one school-based assignment of up to 2000 words.
  • Or Paper 4 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Alternative to Coursework
  • Candidates answer all the questions, completing a series of written tasks based on the three themes
  • The questions involve an appreciation of a range of techniques used in fieldwork studies
  • 27.5% of marks
the way forward
The Way Forward?
  • Terminal assessment in both courses
  • Do endless modules make a good education?
  • Broad content with some challenging contemporary twists
  • Broad fieldwork in Edexcel but ‘back to the future’ in CIE
  • Growing support community (“Ask an Expert” gives excellent access to Chief Examiner in Edexcel)


  • Linearity in a modular curriculum
  • Lacks resourcing of a domestic Spec
  • International board on a steep learning curve about servicing increased centres in their home country