They’re both exam boards which offer International GCSEs (IGCSEs), amongst other qualifications. CIE is Cambridge International Examinations and is a sister company to OCR, which offers GCSEs and A-levels etc. Edexcel is a subsidiary of the publisher Pearson, and it offers IGCSEs alongside the full range of UK qualifications. They are both respected bodies in the UK and their qualifications have equal value.
Their examinations are benchmarked at the same level of difficulty, though everybody has their own opinion about which particular subject is easiest with which board. For instance, some say that CIE has a reputation for being easier for English, and harder for maths, but unless you have a large group of students taking both exams it’s difficult to make a fair comparison.
These two exam boards tend to structure their examinations differently. For International GCSEs, CIE qualifications are usually tiered, which means you have to choose whether to enter at Higher/Extended or Foundation/Core level. For Higher/Extended level candidates, all the more difficult questions are usually concentrated in one Higher/Extended paper. Edexcel only has tiered entry for maths, and for other subjects has one set of exam papers for all candidates. Difficult and easy questions are distributed throughout, so if there are 2 exam papers for your subject, there will be easy and hard questions in each.
You can download the syllabus for any qualification from the exam board website. Often the syllabuses will be very similar, especially for sciences. There are differences in the grade boundaries each year, but it’s hard to draw conclusions from these as they reflect the difficulty of the questions.
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.