O Level: Just Another Qualification?

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Introduction of O Level

O Level is the abbreviation of Ordinary Levels.

It is one of the two parts that forms the General Certificate of Education (CGE).

The other part of the GCE is the Advanced Level (or A Level), which students have the option whether or not to go for it.

In some parts of the world, the examination is simply a final certification for secondary school at Form 5 or Year 11.

Students who have completed O Levels are considered to have completed formal education.

Students can choose as many subjects as they wish from more than 40 subjects in any combination to create your own curriculum.

O Level is offered by Cambridge International Examination (CIE), American Council for Higher Education and Edexcel International.

It is widely used in many Commonwealth countries although schools in the UK had replaced O Level with GCSE in 1988.

Having said that, some schools in the UK have reverted back to O Level.

O Level is widely known as primarily exam-based.

It is advantageous for students who are doing part-time or evening classes.

However, some criticism received as exam-based approach only is not good enough for today’s requirement.

There are some other methods to assess students such as coursework or presentation.

However this is not available for O Level.

Do take note that schools and home tuitions are including such components into their internal curriculum.



Cambridge O Levels is an internationally recognised qualification.

It is equivalent to Cambridge IGCSE and the UK GCSE.

It provides learners with excellent preparation for academic progression to A Levels including other routes.

In some parts of the world, O Level is regarded to be the local government’s examination.

Many universities worldwide requires a combination of Cambridge O Levels and A Levels to meet their entry requirements.

Some of the leading US and Canadian universities will only accept students with 5 Cambridge O Levels at Grade C or above.

Universities in many countries, including the US and Canada will accept students on the basis of their Cambridge O Level performance alone.

In most cases, Grade C in Cambridge O Level English Language satisfies the English proficiency requirements of many university in the UK and other countries.


The Difference of Cambridge IGCSE & O Level

The Features of IGCSE

Cambridge IGCSE is aimed at a wide ability range of students, with a range of grades awarded from A* (highest grade) to G (lowest).

There is a core (C to G) and extended (A* to C) curriculum available in some subjects.

  • Cambridge IGCSE uses a variety of assessment techniques to test oral and practical skills, initiative and problem-solving and application of skills, knowledge and understanding.
  • A coursework option is available in many syllabuses, allowing schools an element of personal choice and giving teachers the chance to share in the process of assessment.
  • Learners are rewarded for positive achievement (what they know, understand, and can do).
  • Cambridge IGCSE prepares students for progression to employment, or further study. It also prepares students very well for Cambridge International AS & A Levels.


The Features of O Level

Cambridge O Levels shares some of these features and differences:

  • Cambridge O Levels candidates are only awarded grades from A* to E, where A* is the highest achievable grade.
  • Cambridge O Levels offers fewer coursework options than Cambridge IGCSE.
  • Some Cambridge O Levels syllabuses were developed to meet specific local needs, such as minority languages.
  • The focus of Cambridge O Levels languages is on writing and reading skills
  • There are more restricted practical test options in Cambridge O Levels sciences. These constraints are advantageous to some schools where resources are limited.

(Credit: The features of IGCSE and O Levels above are extracted from this article)


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