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Beginner's Guide to CIE Education

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Guides, CIE
Beginner's Guide to CIE Education
  1. Introduction

Today, parents have a variety of educational boards to choose from, to enroll their children, it is not just the traditional SSC (Secondary School Certificate), CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) or ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education). Just International Schools presents a beginners guide on the University of Cambridge International Examinations.

University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is a major provider of international qualifications for students ideally between the ages of 14 and 19, offering examinations and qualifications in more than 160 countries across 9000 schools. It is an Examination Board under Cambridge Assessment, founded in 1858 as a department of the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge qualifications include international Advanced Level (A-level), Ordinary Level (O-level), Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge Pre-U. Examinations are open to students at registered CIE centers.

CIE first developed the Cambridge IGCSE more than 20 years ago for an international student body. Today, CIE offers more than 70 subjects for Cambridge IGCSE, benchmarked to UK GCSE standard. It also offers more than 50 A-levels. For countries that choose to make use of O Level examinations, Cambridge provides a wide variety of subjects: for example, in addition to examinations in what might be regarded as core subjects, examinations are available in a number of first languages, additional mathematics, additional combined science and many other subjects. CIE qualifications are recognized for admission by UK universities (including Cambridge) as well as universities in the US, Canada, European Union, Middle East, West Asia, New Zealand, and around the world.

CIE also offers 'N' (Normal) Levels, which are taken before O Level in Singapore. It also offers Cambridge Pre-U, an alternative to UK A Level. Cambridge International Education for 5–19 year olds is divided up into four stages the Cambridge Primary, Cambridge Secondary 1, Cambridge Secondary 2 and Cambridge Advanced. The detailed description on the curriculum of Cambridge International Examination at various levels will be covered in the CIE Beginners Guide. Schools can offer the full Cambridge Education for learners aged 5–19 years or choose a stage for the age or level of learners. Each stage builds on learner’s development in the previous stage.

  1. About Just International Schools

Just International Schools was started with an aim to making life simpler for parents. It started with a common goal of providing in-depth, relevant and true information about international schools, to all parents of school going children. JustInternationalSchools.com offers various online and print publications & services to international schools in India and across the globe. JustInternationalSchools.com provides a unique platform for parent-school interaction.

Ambarish Verma, Proprietor of eduFYI, the parent company of JustInternationalSchools.com says,” International education develops and encourages vital educational skills, including oral skills, problem solving, team work, recall of knowledge, smartness and initiative. It is recognized by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) as being at par with CBSE, ICSE and other state boards. The curriculum of CIE vast board is balanced between education and co-curricular activities and tends to give an international perspective to studies. There are a good number of schools offering various CIE programmes, distributed across geographies of India and other countries which offer quality international education”.

JustInternationalSchools.com will be coming up with information directory services and would be adding different service verticals in near future. JustInternationalSchools.com covers all international schools in India and plans to venture into global markets as well.

  1. Affiliations

University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is a part of Cambridge Assessment, which is Europe’s largest assessment agency. Cambridge Assessment is the new name bestowed for the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) which has developed and promoted qualifications around the world for over 150 years.

Cambridge Assessment is a department of the world-renowned University of Cambridge and a not-for-profit organisation. CIE is part of Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge and just like the other it is a not-for-profit organisation. CIE is one of Cambridge Assessment’s three examining bodies. The other two sister organisations are:

  1. University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations: provider of the world’s leading range of certificates for learners of English
  2. Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR): one of the UK’s leading providers of qualifications
  1. CIE Partner Organizations around the World

To deliver Cambridge International Examinations-qualifications and programmes CIE works in partnership with organisations around the world. Below are some of CIE’s International Partners.

  1. Association of Cambridge Schools in New Zealand (ACSNZ)

ACSNZ is made up of schools affiliated to University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). These schools offer Cambridge IGCSE and/or Cambridge International ‘AS’ and ‘A’ Level qualifications.

ACSNZ provides a network of support for member schools and keeps them informed about developments related to CIE. ACSNZ liaises with academic bodies and institutions on university entrance and related matters. The development and administration of courses specially developed for New Zealand students is also coordinated by ACSNZ. ACSNZ holds a regular conference, along with an annual awards ceremony called Brilliance in New Zealand. ACSNZ also arranges training in conjunction with CIE.

  1. British Council

The British Council offers examinations services in around 95 countries and has been working closely with CIE for a number of years. One of the British Council's prime responsibilities is the impartial administration and conduct of Cambridge examinations, ensuring that CIE regulations are upheld and examination integrity is constantly maintained.

  1. The English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate (ESSARP)

The English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate (ESSARP) was founded in 1926. ESSARP is responsible for the administration of all Cambridge examinations in schools in Argentina including Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge AICE and Cambridge ESOL examinations in bilingual schools in Argentina.

  1. International Networking for Educational Transformation (iNet)

iNet (International Networking for Educational Transformation) works with schools and other organisations to transform education through the sharing of best practice and innovation. iNet offers a range of online and face-to-face support - including workshops, study tours, conferences, online forums, publications - to make this possible.

Over 3,000 member schools in more than 20 countries are members of iNet, including most secondary schools in England. iNet has also developed close links with partner organisations and academics in a number of countries.

iNet is an initiative of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), an independent, not for profit organisation that supports school networks focused on innovation and student achievement. CIE schools can join the iNet network, and CIE and iNet work together on a number of initiatives to benefit CIE schools.

  1. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization

In 2001, CIE began working with the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization, a leading Global Professional Services organisation, who established the Abu-Ghazaleh Cambridge Information Technology Training Center (AGCA).

The Center delivers online training courses in IT together with additional learning resources to prepare prospective candidates for the International Diploma in IT Skills, developed by CIE. Those who successfully complete the course are awarded the International Diploma in IT Skills.

The Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization has exclusivity for the International Diploma in IT Skills (Arabic version) and also offers the International Diploma in IT Skills in English on a non-exclusive basis.

  1. Vellum Global Educational Services

Vellum Educational Services provides solutions to bridge the gap between educational programmes and assessment procedures in Greece, Cyprus and the Balkans. The company has been a Cambridge associate partner since 2002. Vellum, in partnership with CIE, offers schools and colleges a complete educational programme focusing on application of knowledge and leading to assessments that certify ICT skills.

There are many CIE Vellum-attached Centres across Greece and Cyprus where Cambridge assessments are taught and exams are entered. In 2003, Cambridge IT Skills and ICT Career Awards – Greek versions – were approved by the Greek Ministry of Labour to certify unemployed ICT trainees, whose training and certification is funded by the European Union Support Framework and the Greek government.

  1. Eligibility Criteria

More than the assessment body, parents need to think about which school is better for their child. CIE is the world’s largest provider of international qualifications for 14–19 year olds. However, CIE candidate ages range from age of 5 to over 70 years.

  1. CIE Subjects and the Curriculum

Cambridge International Education for 5–19 year olds is divided up into four stages:

  1. Cambridge Primary
  2. Cambridge Secondary 1
  3. Cambridge Secondary 2
  4. Cambridge Advanced.

 

Exhibit 6.1 – CIE subjects & the curriculum                                   Source:  CIE Website


The detailed description about the curriculum of Cambridge International Examination at various levels is given in exhibit 6.1 above. Schools can offer the full Cambridge Education for learners aged 5–19 years or choose a stage for the age or level of learners. Each stage builds on learner’s development in the previous stage.

6.1. Cambridge Primary for children between 5-11 years

Cambridge Primary levels has the following two programmes

  • Cambridge International Primary Programme
  • ICT Starters

The Cambridge International Primary Programme, typically for 5–11 year olds, gives schools a curriculum framework to develop Mathematics, English and Science skills and knowledge in young children. Cambridge Primary provides guidance for curriculum development and classroom teaching and learning. It enables teachers to assess children's learning as they progress with two optional assessments: Cambridge Primary progression tests and Cambridge Primary Achievement Tests. CIE has a modular nature of Cambridge Primary, which means that it can either be used as the central teaching curriculum or to complement other curricula.

Curriculum: Similarly, Cambridge Primary can be used for teaching and tracking the core skills in English, Mathematics and Science while another curriculum is used for any other subjects that may be taught. In addition, Cambridge ICT Starters develops key skills in Information and Communication Technology.

Classroom Teachings: First-class teaching and learning resources aid the delivery of Cambridge Primary. These include curriculum frameworks, teaching schemes and recommended textbooks and workbooks, teacher training events and Professional Development Qualifications.

Assessment: Cambridge Primary provides an optional testing structure. Schools must access the students performance either throughout the year or at the end of each year. Thus giving schools the flexibility to access learners in the best way that suits their needs.

6.1.2 About Cambridge ICT Starters:

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is now part of the educational experience of children in most parts of the world. Cambridge ICT Starters is designed to introduce students, within Primary and Lower Secondary Education, to the key ICT applications they need to acquire that literacy and to understand the impact of technology on our daily lives.

Students use ICT to communicate, handle information, model and control. They develop key ICT skills in a range of applications including: word processing, computer graphics, databases, spreadsheets, email, internet, presentations, video/animation and web authoring. Through Cambridge ICT Starters, students learn ICT practical skills; also they learn to consider wider issues such as adapting their work according to the audience and internet safety.

The qualification offers a structured scheme of assessment, operating at three levels:

  • Initial Steps
  • Next Steps
  • On Track

At each level, a Cambridge ICT Starters Stage 1 or Full Certificate is available. Cambridge ICT Starters programme has been mapped against prescribed ICT standards in a number of countries, so that the skills and knowledge assessed reflect the competencies required internationally.

6.2. Cambridge Secondary 1 for children between 11-14 years

  • Cambridge Lower Secondary
  • Cambridge Checkpoint
  • ICT Starters

Within Cambridge Secondary 1, schools use the Cambridge Lower Secondary Programme to build on the foundations of the Cambridge Primary (it is not essential to have completed Primary before beginning Cambridge Secondary 1). The programme, typically for 11-14 year olds, develops learner’s skills and understanding in Mathematics, English and Science for the first three years of secondary education and provides excellent preparation for Cambridge Secondary 2 and qualifications including Cambridge IGCSE.

Curriculum: Cambridge Secondary 1 sets clear objectives for the first three years of secondary education in English, Mathematics and Science. In addition, Cambridge ICT Starters develop the key skills required in Information and Communication Technology.

Classroom Teachings: A wide range of teaching and learning resources aid the planning and delivery of the programme. These include curriculum frameworks, teaching schemes, recommended textbooks and workbooks, teacher training events and Professional Development Qualifications.

Assessment: Cambridge Secondary 1 provides an optional testing structure to assess children’s learning, compare individuals and classes, and report progress to learners and parents. Schools can also use Cambridge Checkpoint to assess learning at the end of the Cambridge Secondary 1 stage.

6.2.1 About Cambridge Checkpoint:

Cambridge Checkpoint tests are for use at the end of Cambridge Secondary 1. They are marked by CIE and provide schools with an external international benchmark for student performance. Cambridge Checkpoint enables feedback to be provided on a student's strengths and weaknesses in key curriculum areas. Feedback of this kind is an invaluable source of information. Schools and colleges will be able to make strategic decisions, drawing upon a pool of information and specialist reporting tools built into Cambridge Checkpoint. Learners at international schools will have a transferable indication of their academic progress.

Cambridge Checkpoint tests are available in English, Mathematics and Science and can be offered at two sessions during the year. The tests cover all major areas of learning required in the first years of an international secondary education. The diagnostic reports of the Checkpoint come in four forms. The first three - reports to learners, reports on teaching groups, and the report on the school - will be sent within four weeks of the date when scripts are received at CIE. The fourth report - the end-of-session report on the entire cohort of candidates - will be issued after all of the learners' marks have been processed.

The report on a candidate gives:

  • a Cambridge Checkpoint score for the whole subject
  • a Cambridge Checkpoint score for each main topic/skill
  • a list of the questions (and the sub-topics/skills) where the candidate's performance was particularly strong or particularly weak
  • an attractively presented statement of achievement

The report on a teaching group gives:

  • an average Cambridge Checkpoint score for the whole subject
  • an average Cambridge Checkpoint score for each main topic/skill
  • a list of sub-topics/skills with comments on the performance of the group
  • the Cambridge Checkpoint scores of each candidate on the subject and on each main topic/skill
  • the marks scored by each candidate on each question

The report on a school gives:

  • an average Cambridge Checkpoint score for the whole subject
  • an average Cambridge Checkpoint score for each main topic/skill
  • a list of sub-topics/skills with comments on the performance of the learners

The end-of-session report gives the results of the whole cohort, from all schools, broken down by age and first language, so that schools may compare their own results with those of similar learners from elsewhere. The report will also give the examiner's comments on the test.

6.2.2 About ICT Starters

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is now part of the educational experience of children in most parts of the world.

The syllabus provides a curriculum framework in which ICT competence can be developed. Modules can be delivered according to the needs of each learning situation and age of the students – across the curriculum or as a separate course of study. Students use ICT to communicate, handle information, model and control. They develop key ICT skills in a range of applications including: word processing, computer graphics, databases, spreadsheets, email, internet, presentations, video/animation and web authoring.

The qualification offers a structured scheme of assessment, operating at three levels (a) Initial Steps, (b) Next Steps & (c) On Track.

6.3. Cambridge Secondary 2 for children between 14-16 years

  • Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
  • Cambridge O Level
  • Cambridge ICE (Cambridge International Certificate of Education)

Cambridge Secondary 2 is typically for learners aged 14-16 years. It builds on the foundations of Cambridge Secondary 1 and also supports schools using learner-centred and enquiry-based approaches to learning. Cambridge Secondary 2 mainly offers two options for Cambridge learners: (1).Cambridge IGCSE and (2). Cambridge O Level - both globally recognised qualifications. Cambridge Secondary 2 provides excellent progression to the next stage of Cambridge International Education i.e. Cambridge Advanced for 16-19 years - as well as for higher education.

Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE is the world's most popular international curriculum for 14-16 year olds with currently more than 70 Cambridge IGCSE subjects available. Similarly, Cambridge O Level is one of the most recognised and respected qualifications with more than 50 Cambridge O Level subjects to choose from.

Classroom Teaching: A wide range of teaching and learning resources are available for Cambridge Secondary 2. They include Cambridge IGCSE resources, syllabuses and past papers and Cambridge O Level resources, syllabuses and past papers, teacher training courses and Professional Development Qualifications. Learners have access to the Cambridge Students website.

Recognition: At the end of Cambridge Secondary 2, learners gain Cambridge IGCSE qualifications or Cambridge O Level qualifications respectively. Both are recognised by universities and employers worldwide as equivalent to the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). Assessment takes place at the end of the course.

6.3.1 About IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)

Cambridge IGCSE is the world's most popular international curriculum for 14-16 year olds, leading to globally recognized and valued Cambridge IGCSE qualifications. It is part of the Cambridge Secondary 2 stage.

Schools worldwide have helped develop Cambridge IGCSE, which provides excellent preparation for the Cambridge Advanced stage including Cambridge A/AS Levels and Cambridge Pre-U, as well as other progression routes.

IGCSE Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE encourages learner-centered and enquiry-based approaches to learning. It develops learners' skills in creative thinking, enquiry and problem solving, giving learners excellent preparation for the next stage in their education. Schools can offer any combination of subjects. Each subject is certificated separately. Over 70 subjects are available, including more than 30 language courses, offering a variety of routes for learners of different abilities.

Cambridge IGCSE develops learner knowledge, understanding and skills in:

  • subject content
  • applying knowledge and understanding to familiar and new situations
  • intellectual enquiry
  • flexibility and responsiveness to change
  • working and communicating in English
  • influencing outcomes
  • cultural awareness

Cambridge IGCSE Subjects: The subject options in the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum are given in the exhibit 6.2 below.

Accounting

Computer Studies

Food and Nutrition

Japanese - First Language

Physics

Afrikaans - First Language

Czech - First Language

French - First Language

Japanese - Foreign Language

Portuguese - First Language

Afrikaans - Second Language

Design and Technology

French - Foreign Language

Kazakh as a Second Language

Portuguese - Foreign Language

Agriculture

Development Studies

Geography

Korean (First Language)

Religious Studies

Arabic - First Language

Drama

German - First Language

Latin

Russian - First Language

Arabic - Foreign Language

Dutch - First Language

German - Foreign Language

Malay - Foreign Language

Science - Combined

Art and Design

Dutch - Foreign Language

Global Perspectives

Mathematics

Sciences - Co-ordinated (Double)

Bangladesh Studies

Economics

Greek - Foreign Language

Mathematics - Additional

Sociology

Biology

English - First Language

Hindi as a Second Language

International Mathematics

Spanish - First Language

Business Studies

English – Literature

History

Mathematics (with coursework)

Spanish - Foreign Language

Chemistry

English - Second Language (oral endorsement)

Indonesian - Foreign Language

Music

Spanish - Literature

Child Development

English - Second Language (count-in oral)

Information and Communication Technology

Pakistan Studies

Thai - First Language

Chinese - First Language

Enterprise

Information Technology

Physical Education

Travel and Tourism

Chinese (Mandarin) - Foreign Language

Environmental Management

IsiZulu as a Second Language

Physical Science

Twenty-First Century Science

Turkish – First Language

       

Exhibit 6.2 – The Cambridge Secondary IGCSE Subjects                                       Source: CIE Website


Cambridge IGCSE Assessment: Assessment for Cambridge IGCSE usually takes place at the end of the two-year course and includes written and oral tests, coursework and practical assessment. Schools have the option of assessing learners using only external examinations or, in most subjects, combining examinations with coursework. Coursework is set and marked by the teacher and externally moderated by CIE.

Each learner’s performance is benchmarked using eight internationally recognized grades. There are clear guidelines which explain the standard of achievement for different grades. Cambridge IGCSE examination sessions occur twice a year, in May/June and October/November. Results are issued in August and January.

Recognition for Cambridge IGCSE: Cambridge IGCSE is taken in over 100 countries worldwide and are widely recognised by higher education institutions and employers around the world as evidence of academic ability. Cambridge IGCSE is equivalent to the GCSE in the United Kingdom. In some parts of the world, schools use Cambridge IGCSE as an international alternative to the local government's examination.

Each learner's performance is benchmarked using eight internationally recognized grades (A*-G). In others, they are widely used as a preparation for A Level, AS, International Baccalaureate and US Advanced Placement courses. Grade C in IGCSE English (both First Language and Second Language) satisfies the English proficiency requirements of many universities in the UK and other Anglophone countries.

 

6.3.2 About Cambridge O Level:

Cambridge O Level, part of the Cambridge Secondary 2 stage, is typically for 14-16 year olds. Cambridge O Level is an internationally recognised qualification equivalent to the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). Cambridge O Level provides learners with excellent preparation for academic progression to Cambridge Advanced including Cambridge A/AS Levels and Cambridge Pre-U.

Cambridge O Level curriculum:

The Cambridge O Level curriculum places emphasis on broad and balanced study across a wide range of subjects. The curriculum develops learners' skills in creative thinking, enquiry and problem solving and is structured so that learners attain both practical skills and theoretical knowledge.

In some parts of the world, schools use Cambridge O Level as an international alternative to the local government's examination. Universities in many countries, including Canada and the USA, will admit learners on the basis of their Cambridge O Level performances alone.

Cambridge O level Assessment: Cambridge O levels are normally taken after completing the two-year course and a variety of methods written, practical and oral used to access learners.

The learner’s performance is benchmarked using five internationally recognised grades (A-E). Grade A is awarded for the highest level of achievement while grade E indicates a minimum satisfactory performance. CIE runs two sessions for Cambridge O Level – May/June and October/November although some subjects are only available in May/June or October/November.

6.3.3 About Cambridge International Certificate of Education (ICE)

Cambridge ICE is the group award of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and it requires the study of subjects drawn from the five different IGCSE subject groups. It gives schools an opportunity to benefit from offering a broad and balanced curriculum through the recognition of achievements of students who pass examinations in at least seven subjects, including two languages, and one subject from each of the other subject groups.

Cambridge ICE Curriculum: The Cambridge portfolio of IGCSE qualifications provides a strong foundation for higher level courses such as GCE A and AS Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma as well as excellent preparation for employment. A wide range of IGCSE subjects is available and these are grouped into five curriculum areas, as follows:

  • Group I: Languages
  • Group II: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Group III: Sciences
  • Group IV: Mathematics
  • Group V: Creative, Technical and Vocational

Cambridge ICE-counting subjects: Candidates hoping to gain the Cambridge ICE group award must enter and sit for at least seven subjects selected from the five IGCSE curriculum areas. The subjects selected must include two (different) languages from Group I (i.e. only one of First Language English and English as a Second Language may count towards Cambridge ICE) and one subject from each of Groups II, III, IV and V. The seventh subject can be taken from any of the five subject groups.

Cambridge ICE Subjects: The languages and subjects for Cambridge ICE are grouped and shown in exhibits 6.3 and 6.4 respectively

Group I: Languages

First Language:

Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Sesotho, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

Second (or Working) Language:

Afrikaans, English, Hindi, IsiZulu

Foreign Language :

Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish

Exhibit 6.3 – Cambridge ICE level Languages                                    Source: CIE Website


Group II: Humanities and Social Sciences Group III: Sciences Group IV: Mathematics Group V: Creative, Technical and Vocational

Bangladesh Studies

Agriculture

Additional Mathematics

Accounting

Development Studies

Biology

Cambridge International Mathematics

Art and Design

Economics

Chemistry

Mathematics

Business Studies

Geography

Combined Science

 

Child Development

Global Perspectives

Co-ordinated Sciences (Double Award)3

 

Computer Studies

History

Environmental Management2

 

Design and Technology

Latin

Physical Science

 

Drama

Literature (English)

Physics

 

Food and Nutrition

Literature (Spanish)

Twenty First Century Science

 

Information and Communication Technology

Pakistan Studies

 

 

Music

Environmental Management2

 

 

Physical Education

Religious Studies

 

 

Travel & Tourism

Sociology

 

 

 

Exhibit 6.4 – Cambridge ICE Level Subjects                             Source: CIE Website


1 These are the subjects available in 2010. Note: Not all subjects are available in both the June and November session.

2 Environmental Management can count as either a Group II or a Group III subject for Cambridge ICE.

3 Co-ordinated Sciences (Double Award) counts as two subjects for Cambridge ICE.

6.4. Cambridge Advanced for children between 16-19 Years

Cambridge advanced, typically is for children between 16-19 years, it helps learners to develop deep understanding and independent learning and critical thinking skills which universities value highly. It builds on the foundations of Cambridge Secondary 2 and leads to entry to universities worldwide. Cambridge Advanced includes Cambridge International A/AS Level and Cambridge Pre-U qualifications; both focus on equipping learners with skills they need to succeed at university, and as such, are recognised by universities and employers worldwide.

Curriculum: As part of the Cambridge Advanced stage, the Cambridge International A/AS Level curriculum offers over 60 subjects for learners to choose from and specialise. For Cambridge Pre-U, learners choose from 26 Principal Subjects, in addition to the Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives and Independent Research Report (GPR).

Classroom Teaching: A wide range of teaching and learning resources are available during the Cambridge Advanced Level. These include Cambridge International A Level resources and Cambridge Pre-U resources such as syllabuses, past papers and mark schemes, subject-specific teacher training events and Professional Development Qualifications. Learners have access to the Cambridge Students website.

Qualifications Acquired: At the end of a two-year course learners gain Cambridge International A/AS Level qualifications or Cambridge Pre-U qualifications. All qualifications are internationally recognised and valued by universities and employers worldwide.

6.4.1 About Cambridge International A and AS Levels

Cambridge International A/AS Levels are internationally benchmarked qualifications providing excellent preparation for university education. They are part of the Cambridge Advanced stage.

Cambridge A and AS Levels are taken in over 125 countries and offer a choice of 60 different subjects. Cambridge International A/AS Level qualifications are widely recognised and valued by universities and employers alike. Some US universities give up to a year's credit as a result. Every year, thousands of Cambridge International A Level students gain places at universities like- including the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Schools and learners find Cambridge International A and AS Levels very flexible. Schools can offer almost any combination of the wide choice of subjects available. Learners have the freedom to select the subjects that are right for them and either follow a broad course of study or specialise in a particular area.

Cambridge International AS Level:

Cambridge International AS Levels have half the content of the corresponding Cambridge International A Level and may be completed in one year. Schools can offer Cambridge International AS Level as a qualification in its own right or as a stage on the way to Cambridge International A Level. Learners can study Cambridge International AS Level alongside other subjects to increase breadth in the curriculum and build further knowledge and understanding to other subjects they are studying at Cambridge International A Level.

Flexibility of A & AS Level: Schools and learners find Cambridge International A and AS Levels very flexible. Schools can offer almost any combination of the wide choice of subjects available. Learners can choose from a range of assessment options shown in exhibit 6.5 below.

Assessment Options

Option 1

Take all papers of the Cambridge International A Level course in the same examination session, usually at the end of the second year of study

Option 2

Has a 'staged' assessment route – take the Cambridge International AS Level in one examination session and complete the final Cambridge International A Level at a subsequent session*

Option 3

Take the Cambridge International AS Level only, either at the end of a one-year or two-year course. The Cambridge International AS Level syllabus content is half an Cambridge International A Level programme.

Exhibit 6.5 – Cambridge Advanced A & AS Level Assessment Options                 Source: CIE Website


* The staged assessment route is not possible in all subjects. The outcomes awarded for Cambridge International AS Level language syllabuses cannot be carried forward to Cambridge International A Level.

Cambridge International A & AS Level Assessment: Cambridge International A and AS Level examination sessions occur twice a year**, in June and November, with results issued in August and January respectively.

Cambridge International A and AS Levels use a wide range of assessment processes and techniques to supplement formal written examinations - orals, practicals, projects and coursework of differing types are all used in various subjects where they are the most effective and appropriate means of measuring attainment. Cambridge International A and AS Level syllabuses have been created specifically for an international audience.

** Some subjects are only available in June or November.

Reporting of Achievement: Each subject that a Cambridge international student takes at AS/A Level receives a separately certificated grade. From 2010, the Cambridge International A Level will be reported on a grade scale from A* grade, awarded for the highest level of achievement, to E, indicating the minimum required performance. Cambridge International Centres should note there is no A* grading in the certification of Cambridge International AS Levels, which will continue to run from Grade A to Grade E.

Subjects in Cambridge A & AS Levels: Cambridge offers a range of Cambridge International A and AS Level teaching support and resource materials for each subject. Parents of students may select from the subjects mentioned in exhibit 6.6 below:

Accounting

Computing

German

Mathematics

Spanish-Literature (AS Level only)

Afrikaans

Design and Technology

German - Language (AS Level only)

Mathematics - Further

Tamil

Afrikaans-First Language (AS Level only)

Design and Textiles

Hindi

Music

Tamil - Language (AS Level only)

Afrikaans-Language (AS Level only)

Divinity

Hindi - Language (AS Level only)

Physical Education

Telugu

Applied Information and Communication Technology

Economics

Hindi - Literature (AS Level only)

Physical Science

Telugu - Language (AS Level only)

Arabic

English - Language

Hinduism

Physics

Thinking Skills

Arabic-Language (AS Level only)

English - Literature

Hinduism

Portuguese

Travel and Tourism

Art and Design

Environmental Management

History

Portuguese - Language (AS Level only)

Urdu

Biology

Food Studies

Islamic Studies

Portuguese - Literature (AS Level only)

Urdu - Language (AS Level only)

Business Studies

French

Japanese Language (AS Level only)

Psychology

Urdu - Pakistan only

Chemistry

French - Language (AS Level only)

Language and Literature in English

Research Projects

 

Chinese

French - Literature (AS Level only)

Law

Sociology

 

Chinese-Language (AS Level only)

General Paper 8001

Marathi

Spanish

 

Chinese-Literature (AS Level only)

General Paper 8004

Marathi - Language (AS Level only)

Spanish - First Language (AS Level only)

 

Classical Studies (8283 to 2010; 9274 from 2011)

Geography

Marine Science

Spanish - Language (AS Level only)

 

Exhibit 6.6 – Subjects in Cambridge A & AS levels                                           Source: CIE Website


Cambridge A & AS level Recognition: Cambridge International A and AS Levels have widespread international recognition as educational qualifications. This recognition is because:

  • Cambridge International A and AS Level qualifications are recognised by universities as equivalent in value to UK A and AS Levels
  • A and AS Levels are rigorous programmes that encourage high academic standards
  • Good A and AS Level grades are vital for admission to all the world's major English-speaking universities and many non-English-speaking universities
  • Good grades at A and AS Level can result in one full year of advanced standing or credit at universities in the USA and Canada
  • It is accepted as an entry qualification by universities of the European Union, on a par with the French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur, etc
  • A and AS Levels have a high profile amongst English-medium international schools around the world.

University courses for which there is not strong demand might accept students with grades between A-E, but typical UK university entrance requirements are closer to three passes at grade C for academic courses in established universities. Minimum matriculation requirements are at least two pass grades. Very popular courses will often require higher grades. For example, medical schools in the UK often require grades of AAB and the highly selective universities of Cambridge and Oxford ask for at least AAB.

Cambridge International A Levels are taken throughout the world, sometimes as the national examinations of certain Commonwealth countries (such as Singapore and Mauritius), sometimes within international schools and sometimes in bilingual government schools alongside the national exams.

6.4.2 About Cambridge Pre-U

Cambridge Pre-U is an exciting new post-16 qualification. It prepares students with the skills and knowledge they need to make a success of their subsequent studies at university.

Teachers feel they want to be able to prepare students for higher education more effectively with exciting syllabuses that are stimulating to teach. Universities also want students who are equipped to benefit from a higher education experience, hence this calls for an independent and self-directed style of learning.

This is why Cambridge Pre-U was developed. It offers genuinely interesting syllabuses which students can study in any combination to gain the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma, or on an individual subject basis. Cambridge Pre-U addresses the needs of teachers, students and universities by:

  • Inspiring, challenging and rewarding students and preparing them for university
  • Reporting achievement in a way that helps universities
  • Enabling teachers to regain a passion for their subjects

Cambridge Pre-Structure

The linear approach of Cambridge Pre-U (with exams taken at the end of the two-year course) provides for coherence and progression, the chance to reclaim teaching and learning time at the end of the first year, and decide the order, pace and depth of teaching and learning most appropriate for students. The exhibit 6.7 shows the pathway for a student taking up the Cambridge Pre-U programme.

Cambridge Pre-U syllabuses can be taken separately and are graded individually. Students may choose to combine them to achieve a full diploma.

Grading: Each Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subject is a qualification in its own right and receives its own grade. These grades are reported on a separate certificate to the Diploma itself. The grades, in descending order, are D1 (Distinction 1), D2, D3, M1 (Merit 1), M2, M3, P1 (Pass 1), P2, P3. The Diploma itself is awarded a numerical score based on an aggregation of the results from the individual components

Exhibit 6.7 – Cambridge Advanced Pre-U programme linear approach                   Source: CIE Website


Candidates qualify for the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma if they pass:

  1. 3 Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects*
  2. Global Perspectives
  3. Independent Research Report

(* up to two A Levels may be substituted)

1. Pre-U Principal Subjects: in-depth subject specialism

• Cambridge Pre-U allows students to choose any combination of subjects to suit their interests,enthusiasms and expertise.

• There is no upper limit on the number of Principal Subjects candidates may take. Only three are included in the Diploma award but all subjects receive a separate grade so students will receive credit for the full extent of their academic programmes.

• Other qualifi cations may be credited within the Diploma, where tariff values can establish a clear equivalence. For instance, a candidate may substitute up to two A Levels in place of Principal Subjects.

The Principal Subject courses are two years long and all Principal Subject examinations take place at

the end of the course.

There is freedom to choose subject combinations without constraint. To qualify for the Diploma, students study at least three Principal Cambridge Pre-U subjects from a choice of 26. They also complete an Independent Research Report and a Global Perspectives portfolio. Students may take more than three Principal subjects if they wish.

Common core components: coherence, breadth and depth

GPR as a standalone package

The two ‘core components’ of the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma, Global Perspectives and Independent Research, are available as a unified package, and can be certificated as a standalone qualification, separate from the Diploma, and equivalent to a full A Level.

1. Global Perspectives - guarantees breadth of study. It is an opportunity to explore a range of key challenges facing young people, wherever they live or work. Global Perspectives will help to develop critical thinking and research skills that are valued in higher education.

This seminar-based course takes key themes of global relevance that are of interest to young people, and encourages students to explore them in an open, critical, disciplined way. Schools will build their own programme by choosing topics from the different thematic groups.

2. The Independent Research Report gives a student the chance to dig deeper into a particular subject, or to cross boundaries by doing interdisciplinary work, or to make a new departure by investigating a subject not covered by traditional school syllabuses. Global Perspectives and Independent Research are intended to be taught as successive one-year courses, with the Independent Research Report growing out of the skills introduced and developed as part of the Global Perspectives course.

3. Global Perspective: Global Perspectives encourages the ability to follow and deconstruct arguments and assertions, to separate fact from opinion, and to assess and evaluate the truth of claims. This seminar-based course takes key themes of global relevance that are of interest to young people, and encourages students to explore them in an open, critical, disciplined way. Schools will build their own programme by choosing topics from the different thematic groups as shown in exhibit 6.8 below

Ethics

Genetic Engineering, Medical ethics and priorities, Standards of living v/s quality of life, ethical foreign policies, Religious-secular divide

Economics

Globalization of economic activity, Migration and work, Impact of the internet, Global trade, Ethics and economics of food, Economic role of women

Environment

Science and politics of climate change, Industry and pollution, Biodiversity, Challenge of genetic modification, urbanization and the countryside

Technology

Alternatives to oil, Artificial intelligence, Futures, Technology and intelligent buildings, Online and interactive communities

Politics and Culture

China as an emerging superpower, Endangered cultures, International law, Supra-national organisations (UN, etc), New nationalisms, Integration and multiculturalism

Exhibit 6.8 – Cambridge Pre-U-Global Perspective themes and topics                  Source: CIE Website 


 

Global Perspectives - The critical path: Students are encouraged to explore each chosen topic by following the critical path as shown in exhibit 6.9 below:

Deconstruction 

Detailed analysis of a point of view

Reconstruction

Identification and evaluation of evidence for and against competing points of view

Reflection

How have the student’s own views been affected by the enquiry? 

Presentation

An opportunity to address an issue holistically and in detail 

Exhibit 6.9 – Cambridge Pre-U – Topics by critical path                            Source: CIE Website 


Assessment Objectives: The assessment objectives of Cambridge Pre-U are given in exhibit 6.10

AO1

Critical analysis and evaluation of a particular perspective

AO2

Critical analysis and interpretation of the context of an argument

AO3

Presentation, communication and collaboration

AO4

Dispositions: judgement, reason, self-reflection, empathy

Exhibit 6.10 – Cambridge Pre-U – Assessment Objectives                           Source: CIE Website 


 

Assessment Process: The assessment process for Cambridge Advanced is shown in exhibit 6.11

Component Task Assessment Weighting

O1

Deconstruction

Written Paper 1 hour 30 minutes 

25%

O2

Reconstruction & Reflection

Externally addressed 1500 word essay 

30%

O3

Presentation

Multi-media presentation based on pre-release material (max 15 mins)

Externally assessed

45%

Exhibit 6.11 – Cambridge Pre-U – Assessment Process                             Source: CIE Website 


 

  1. The Independent Research Report

Universities research demonstrates the students ability to engage in independent research to be of great value because it demonstrates skills of collecting, handling and evaluating information of various kinds. Independent Research Report focuses on the ability to design, plan and manage a research project, project, to collect and analyze information, to evaluate and make reasoned judgement’s, and to communicate findings and conclusions.

Candidates submit a single report of 4,500 - 5,000 words. The precise nature and format of the report and the research and reporting conventions adopted, will depend on the subject of the enquiry. The process of the independent research is shown in exhibit 6.12 below

AO1

Design, plan, manage and conduct own research project

AO2

Select, assess and synthesize information, concepts, arguments and evidence

AO3

Evaluate alternative perspectives and interpretations and make independent reasoned judgments’

AO4

Communicate clearly research, interpretations and judgments’

AO5

Intellectual engagement with the subject matter of the research

Exhibit 6.12 – Cambridge Pre-U – The independent research process                        Source: CIE Website


University Recognition: CIE has developed Cambridge Pre-U in consultation with teachers, schools and people in higher education on the individual components. CIE submitted Cambridge Pre-U syllabuses to QCA for accreditation in June 2007 for inclusion in the National Qualifications Framework.

Cambridge Pre-U Subjects: Below is an expandable list of Cambridge Pre-U subjects. Cambridge offers a range of Cambridge Pre-U teaching support and resource materials for each subject. Subject Listing for Cambridge Pre-U is given in exhibit 6.13 below

Art and Design

Biology

Business and Management

Chemistry

Classical Heritage

Comparative Government and Politics

Economics

Literature in English

Further Mathematics

Geography

Global Perspectives and Independent Research

Classical Greek

History

Art History

Latin

Mandarin Chinese

Mathematics

Modern Foreign Languages

Music

Philosophy and Theology

Physics

Psychology

Sport Science

 

Exhibit 6.13 – The Subject listing for Cambridge Pre- U                                 Source: CIE Website


6.4.3 About Cambridge AICE Diploma

First introduced by Cambridge in 1994, Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) provides a high-quality English-medium qualification which prepares young people for honours degree programmes. It is a ‘group’ certificate which requires the study of subjects drawn from three curriculum areas.

The Cambridge AICE curriculum: The subject content of each A Level syllabus has been subdivided into two parts:

  1. AS syllabus content - expected to be covered in the first half of the course
  2. A2 - part 2 of the syllabus

This flexible approach enables students to choose between three main options:

  • Take all A Level components in the same examination session at the end of the course of study, most normally the end of the second year
  • Follow a staged assessment to A Level by taking the Advanced Subsidiary qualification in one examination session, and the final part of assessment in a subsequent session
  • Take the AS Level only – this may be at the end of a one-year or two-year course
  • The structure of the International A Level is such that co-teaching of students following both AS and A Level routes is possible.

An A Level course is probably the most in-depth and thorough preparation for university, medical college or employment that a school can give its students.

Half-credit courses: Half-credit courses in English Language and Literature in English are also available within the AICE programme.

Research project option in the Cambridge AICE Diploma

A research project offers the opportunity for students to demonstrate skills of independent study. Students may substitute the Research Project option for a full-credit course as it is a certificated AS in its own right.

The Research Project option in the AICE Diploma provides students with the opportunity to pursue topics in some depth in subject areas related to their studies. Students taking AS Level Research Projects are required to submit two research projects, in line with the CIE requirements stipulated.

Research project topics may be submitted in a wide range of subjects. However, students are not allowed to submit Research Projects in any subject where they are also submitting coursework for either AS or A level. A research project should be around 3000 words in length and high-scoring students will have shown evidence of study in depth.

Grading and the award of the Diploma: For AS examinations, candidates are graded on an alphabetical scale, A to E, with grade A indicating a top level of performance and grade E indicating a minimum passing grade. For A Level examinations, candidates are graded on an alphabetical scale, A* to E, with grade A* indicating a top level of performance and grade E indicating a minimum passing grade.

Examinations are held in the middle of August for candidates who have taken the examinations in June. The AICE Diploma requires the study of subjects drawn from three curriculum areas. These three broad areas are:

  • Mathematics and Science (Group 1)
  • Languages (Group 2)
  • Arts and Humanities (Group 3)

To obtain an AICE Diploma, candidates will be required:

  • To be entered for it,
  • To obtain at least six credits, and
  • To obtain at least one credit in each of the three curriculum groups.

Performance that meets the requirements of the group award will receive the Cambridge AICE Diploma. The statement of results will show the grades achieved by the student in each of the subjects taken in the final session. Candidates who achieve ADIP in one session will receive an ADIP Statement of Results, a GCE Certificate showing the grades achieved in individual subjects (and AICE Half Credit Certificate if applicable) and a separate ADIP Certificate. As GCE AS & A Level subjects are used to calculate the AICE Diploma, the AICE Diploma results will be issued with the GCE results.

Candidates who fail the AICE Diploma will still receive a GCE Certificate reporting their performance in GCE AS & A Level syllabuses (and an AICE Half Credit certificate where applicable). Multi-session candidates, at the end of each session, will receive a GCE or AICE Half Credit Statement of Result and Certificate where applicable and will be certificated for the AICE Diploma at the end of the final session. The full AICE Diploma is awarded on the basis of a points system, as shown in the exhibit 6.14 below:

Double–Credit Study Full–Credit Study Half–Credit Study

Grade

Points

Grade

Points

Grade

Points

A*

140

A*

N/A

A*

n/a

A

120

A

60

A

30

B

100

B

50

B

25

C

80

C

40

C

20

D

60

D

30

D

15

E

40

E

20

E

10

Exhibit 6.14 – The Cambridge AICE Point System                                          Source: CIE Website


Note: The Cambridge AICE Diploma tariff has been calculated to bring it into line with the UK University Admission points score for A Levels and the AS qualification. The full AICE Diploma will be awarded on the basis of the following points system:

  • An A Level will count as a double credit in the AICE programme.
  • An AS Level will count as a single credit in the AICE programme.
  • AICE half-credit courses in English Languages and English Literature are also available. Note: at entry stage each AICE Half Credit is worth half a credit, i.e., candidates cannot use their AICE Half Credit subject to fulfill the one credit in a group requirement.
  • Candidates may also submit Research Projects. A pair of Research Projects will count as an AS Level.

The following combinations shown in exhibit 6.15 are therefore all valid:

A Level AS Level AICE

(2 credits each)

(1 credit each)

(Half-Credit)

3

0

0

2

2

0

2

1

2

1

4

0

1

3

2

0

6

0

0

5

2

Exhibit 6.15 – The Grading combinations for Cambridge AICE                         Source: CIE Website


Candidates who meet the requirements of the group award will receive a AICE Diploma at one of three levels: Pass, Merit or Distinction on the basis of their overall AICE Diploma score. 140 points will be awarded for an A* but the maximum number of AICE points will be capped at 360.

  • Cambridge AICE Diploma with Distinction awarded to candidates with a score in the range: 320-360 points
  • Cambridge AICE Diploma with Merit awarded to candidates with a score in the range: 220–315 points
  • Cambridge AICE Diploma at Pass Level awarded to candidates with a score in the range: 120–215 points

Candidates who do not meet the requirements of the AICE Diploma will receive a GCE Certificate reporting their performance in GCE AS & A Level syllabuses (and an AICE Half Credit Certificate where applicable).

Subjects in Cambridge AICE Diploma: The subject below will help you to understand the pages that make up the AICE Diploma.

All AICE, AS and A Level qualifications can count towards the AICE Diploma; for a complete list please see the A and AS Level section on University of Cambridge International Examinations website.

The subjects below in exhibit 6.16 will help in understanding the AICE Diploma process. Some popular options are shown below:

Group A: Mathematics and Sciences Group B: Languages Group C: Arts and Humanities Group D: Research Projects
Biology English Language Accounting Due to their nature, research projects do not count towards fulfilling the AICE Diploma entrance criteria but do count towards credits.
Chemistry English Language & Literature Art and Design
Computing First Language Spanish Business Studies
Design and Technology Afrikaans Language Economics
Environmental Management Arabic / Arabic Language General Paper 8001
Mathematics Chinese / Chinese Language General Paper 8004
Physics Portuguese/ Portuguese Language Geography
Psychology Spanish/Spanish Language History
Thinking Skills French/French language Chinese Literature
  German/ German Language English Literature
  Urdu/Urdu Language French Literature
  English (half-credit) Portuguese Literature
    Spanish Literature
    Music
    Psychology
    Sociology
    Thinking Skills

Exhibit 6.16 – The subjects in Cambridge International AICE Diploma                             Source: CIE Website


 

Apart from the above curriculums mentioned CIE also offers a range of vocational programmes

CIE's vocational qualifications assess the practical application of career-based knowledge across a range of business areas, providing candidates with a valued qualification that demonstrates their ability to both educators and employers. The programmes offered are:

  1. Cambridge International Diploma in Business
  2. Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLIT)
  1. Facts & Figures on Cambridge International Examinations
  • CIE is the world’s largest provider of international qualifications for 14–19 year olds.
  • CIE qualifications are offered in 160 countries by over 9000 schools.
  • CIE is part of Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge and a not-for-profit organisation.
  • Each year we have around 1.5 million subject entries for Cambridge exams.
  • CIE candidate ages range from 5 to over 70.
  • We produce around 8 million question papers each year (2.7 million for the June session and 5.6 million for November).
  • Over 5 million scripts for general qualifications are marked by CIE each year.
  • CIE holds more than 800 training days a year, providing over 8000 teachers from across the globe with the skills and knowledge they need to help their students succeed.
  • More than 2,000 schools across the world, including more than 350 UK schools, teach Cambridge IGCSE.
  • Cambridge IGCSE is taken in over 120 countries (there are 450,000 entries a year).
  • CIE was the first board to develop IGCSE, which celebrated its 20th birthday in September 2005.
  • Cambridge International A and AS Levels are taken in over 100 countries (over 90,000 entries a year).
  • CIE is the biggest provider of O Levels in the world and we offer more than 50 International O Level subjects. Every year CIE has 610,000 entries for International O Level from 76 countries.