Choice of school diplomas – IGCSE and A level

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In the finale of our series on choice of school diplomas in Luxembourg, we cover the international version of the UK GCSE and A level diplomas.

This choice is available in a public school (International School Lycée Michel Lucius) and a private school in Luxembourg (St George’s International School). IGCSEs are also available at the International School Luxembourg, but not at level A). It is also an option via home schooling and a popular choice is Wolsey Hall Oxford.

If you want to understand the other options available, check out our articles on Luxembourgish Diplomas and Vocational Training, the European Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaureate, all available free of charge in public schools and through paid private schools.

IGCSE and A level

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is based on the UK curriculum but suitable for international students. These are mainly exams and each school will choose an exam board such as International Cambridge or Edexcel. The old council offers 70 subjects including 30 languages, but for subjects other than languages ​​the exams are taken in English – and of course in English language and literature.

The IGCSE also accommodates different levels of ability with core and extended curriculum documents in some subjects. All exams are assessed by an external jury.

It is worth noting which examination board the school chose because final exams can vary widely – for example, in geography, Cambridge International Council has four separate papers while Edexcel’s uses a three-hour exam. Currently, the state-run international school Lycée Michel Lucius uses the Cambridge International Board of Trustees, while St George’s International School uses a mix of International Cambridge and Edexcel.

How IGCEs Work

IGCSEs are normally passed to 15/17 years at the end of S5 of secondary school (the program starting in S4). Students can then opt for A levels (offered at ISLML and St George’s). ISL students who take the IGCSEs will take the International Baccalaureate.

Some IGCSE subjects are compulsory – generally English, mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology and a language other than English (again, at ISLML, the choice is French, German, Spanish or Chinese ). This means that if your child is likely to pass the seven standard IGCSEs, they will only be able to add two additional subjects, usually from the humanities and social sciences.

St George’s International School offers IGCSE and AS / A level programs

Photo: LW Archives

Saint-Georges International School follows Key Stage 3 for 11-14 year olds, Key Stage 4 for 14-16 year olds culminating in IGCSE exams, then Key Stage 5 for 16-18 year olds culminating in Level A exams. The compulsory subjects of IGCSE include English language, English literature, mathematics and coordinated sciences (double IGCSE integrating biology, physics and chemistry). Students must also choose between French, German or Spanish.

After that, students can choose 2 or more (depending on their academic ability) IGCSE including Art, Business Studies, Computer Science, Drama, Economics, Geography, History, Media Studies, l physical education and sociology. Other mathematics are also offered.

IGCSE are classified as both 9-1 (the UK system) and AG (older and recognized IGCSE system). Grades 9-4 or A * to -C are passages. You can read more about the scoring system here.

How A-Levels Work

The Advanced level works more like a baccalaureate or a diploma, as it is also the last two years of schooling for 16/17 year olds to 18/19 year olds.

To pass A levels, students typically need to have five IGCSE passes, including English, math, one science, one language, and one elective. As a general rule, it is also advisable that in order to take a subject at level A, you must have a fairly good mark at IGCSE level.

Where it differs from a bachelor’s or diploma is that students can specialize and take less traditional subjects.


Lycée Michel Lucius offers non-classical subjects at level A, including global perspectives and psychology

Lycée Michel Lucius offers non-classical subjects at level A, including global perspectives and psychology

Photo: LW Archives

ISLML, for example, currently offers AS and A levels in business, economics, global perspectives, psychology and computer science as well as more traditional subjects such as English language and literature, French, German, mathematics, the three sciences , history, geography, art and music. One of the advantages of the IGCSE and A level system is that you can choose an A level subject that you have not taken at the IGCSE level, for example psychology.

Saint-Georges International School Currently offers AS and A levels in all mainstream subjects for the Humanities and Sciences, as well as Art and Design, Business Studies, Economics, Media Studies and Psychology.

This type of education, leading to A levels, is generally suitable for a child who is stronger in some subjects than in others, because they can concentrate effectively on their strongest subjects during the last two years of school. However, this allows a child to drop out of languages ​​and math at an earlier age, and care should be taken to choose the right A-level combination if students want to study in a specific field at university, such as medicine. or engineering.

Students take written exams at the end of two years which are externally assessed and graded from A * to G (passing grades are from A * to E).

AS level tends to be halfway between an IGCSE and an A level, with about half the content of the latter. It can be seen as a qualification in its own right, or as a step towards A level. Passing marks are from A to E.

One level to ISLML are considered the ESG equivalent by the Luxembourg Ministry of Education on condition that a student completes three A levels with a passing grade of A to E, and that the students have an additional AS passage in a different subject.

A levels are generally considered good preparation for college, as students are often asked to work independently and autonomously, performing tasks that require research, referrals, and critical thinking.

Which schools?

International School Lycée Michel Lucius (public administration)

St George International School (private)

International School Luxembourg (private) – IGCSE only, then IB

Home schooling option for IGCSE and A level

There are several home schooling options for passing the IGCSE and A levels, although students may need to travel to the UK to take the final exams at a testing center. A popular option in Luxembourg is Wolsey Hall Oxford, a home college, which offers IGCSE, AS and A levels through virtual online courses.

Students have the option of playing recorded lessons to review subjects or lessons, and have tutor support and commentary in each subject. The fees are much lower than the options at private schools. The school also offers options for pre-IGCSE primary and secondary education and is recognized by the Luxembourg Ministry of Education. You can find out more here.

It is also possible to register with different IGCSE providers and to mix courses and examination boards, and it is worth consulting ALLI Asbl for advice from parents residing in Luxembourg who have chosen this option.


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