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What is the difference between CIE and EDEXCEL?

If you are preparing for your IGCSE or A-level examination, you will generally have a choice of which board examination you want to take – CIE or EDEXCEL. CIE is the Cambridge International Examination and EDEXCEL is offered by a subsidiary of the Pearson publishing company. Both examinations are highly respected and have equal value in regard to further studies or employment.

Both examinations are set at similar levels of difficulty, although individual opinions differ with some students find certain subjects in one examination more difficult than in the other. Both CIE and EDEXCEL are for students in the 14 to 16 year age group.


CIE has been in existence for over 25 years and is accepted by schools across the globe. The examination is known for its flexibility in offering a wide range of learning routes for students of different abilities such as those whose first language is not English. Success in this examination is accepted as being evidence of academic excellence. Many universities across the world require a combination of CIE and IGCSE to accept applicants for admission. Many British universities require the ability to communicate effectively in English are a precondition to admission. CIE is accepted as proof of English competency in a large number of these universities. CIE is the more popular than EDEXCEL in many parts of the world because it has been designed keeping the circumstances of international students in mind. Every part of the world has cultural biases that unconsciously affect students from those regions. These biases often appear in the way examinations are taken and the results achieved. CIE has been designed for international use and the utmost effort has been made to keep it free of the biases that could affect student performance/evaluation.


EDEXCEL has been developed by domain specialists and is subject to regular review to keep the subjects updated and relevant. There are over 40 subjects and examinations are taken only at the end of the course. EDEXCEL is recognized globally as being of a very high standard and is given the same status and British GCSEs when evaluating candidates for university admission. Because the system has been designed to keep the courses and syllabus up to date and current, many universities give marginal preference to this qualification for admission to courses of study which are rapidly evolving.

The Key Difference

The two examinations are structured differently. CIE uses a tiered examination system which offers students the option of entering at either the Foundation or Higher levels. The more difficult questions are given in the Higher level papers. In the case of EDEXCEL, only mathematics has tiered entry. For all other subjects, there is only one set of question papers which means that both difficult and easy questions will be in the same paper.

Making The Right Choice

Both CIE and EDEXCEL are highly regarded international academic qualifications that open doors to both admissions to institutions of higher learning around the world as well as provide employment opportunities. While they are similar in many respects, it is important that you know and understand the subtle difference. You should take the examination that suits your individual aptitude best so that you are able to do well. If you ask for advice from those around you or those who have taken these examinations, you will receive all kinds of differing opinions. To get the guidance you need to make the correct decision, contact experts not just in the field of education but also of helping students prepare for these examinations. Their knowledge and experience will give you the guidance you need to make the correct choice.

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