On IGCSEs, IB and Career Choices.
Updated: Sep 22
Some of us have no idea whatsoever about what our weekend plans are, let alone what life-altering decisions to make to decide our futures. It’s hard to know what we would like to do for the rest of our lives as teenagers, because how can we know what we want when we haven’t tried most things?
For those choosing IGCSE options in the near future, you might think it’s a formality designed to eliminate the classes you perform poorly in or an opportunity to choose the same classes as your friends. Unfortunately, you’ll be stuck with your choices for the next two to four years, and then they’ll come back to haunt you when you’re applying to universities. So, how do you make the right choices?
There is no definitive answer to that question, as your affinity for a subject might change over time but there is a way to put things into perspective. Our recommendations are the following:
Find out what your passions are.
While career and personality tests might not be the most accurate way to define what job suits you best, they are the most common method of getting an idea. We’ve compiled a list that we believe will give you the most precise results (remember, tests like these should be repeated once a year, to get a more specific response, because your mindset does change while you grow!) :
Another way to discover what you’re good at and what you love is through experimenting. There are several companies which offer internships or work experiences in several domains, like FEDEVO, which ISB TV will be bringing out this year in order to give everyone a chance to gain a better understanding of their professional standing.
Set up a meeting with a university counsellor.
From personal experience, I would personally recommend starting with a meeting with our school counsellor. While outside counsel is extremely useful for university applications (explained in our next article), in-house counsellors tend to have a tighter grasp around the structure and curriculum of the IGCSEs, Edexcels, A-level and IB. Thus, after fully comprehending what each program requires from you, our recommendation would be to search for outside counselling when beginning university prep. Each subject has a specific syllabus, which describes in detail what you will learn throughout the course, and what is required to know for your exams. Many students completely disregard it, which is why exams seem SO hard. Below, we have attached links to the IGCSE and IB syllabuses for 2023-2025 :
IGCSE Choices @ ISB
When choosing your subjects for the IGCSE or IB exams, you will be given a sheet that looks something like this :
Cambridge IGCSE - International School of Bucharest (2023) International School of Bucharest - Learn, Respect, Succeed. Available at:
The paper clearly states that English and Mathematics are both mandatory, as well as one Science (biology, chemistry, physics, or environmental management [EM]), one Humanities/Social Science (history, geography, sociology or economics), and one Foreign Language (french or spanish, unless you are fluent in turkish or mandarin, which you can then opt to take as a first language exam at ISB). In addition to these 5 subjects, you must take Global Perspectives (although the course is mandatory, the exam isn’t) and then you will have the liberty to choose 3 more in your remaining blocks.
ALL IGCSE SUBJECTS OFFERED AT ISB :
Humanities and Social Sciences
Modern Foreign Languages
English Language and Literature
Art and Design
1. IGCSE subjects cannot be changed after the first semester.
IGCSE subjects can be changed at any time during the two year period, but it is strongly recommended that you maintain a certain level of continuity in your studies. Changing a subject after the first semester might prove to be challenging, as teachers tend to speed up content learning in order to focus on recap in the months which preside over your exams.
2. The course content is spread out evenly throughout the two years of the course.
While we’ve heard most students indulge in the ‘I’ll study harder in the exam year’ mentality, the first year of the IGCSE and IB programs (year 10 & 12), are course and content focused.
The ‘exam years’ themselves are mostly to finish up and summarise the course, not offering the amount of detail which candidates need to prevail in their exams, and for doing past papers and mock exams. Look at it like this :
The first year I need to learn. The second year I need to revise, not relearn.
3. IGCSE & A-level / IB subjects are linked.
Whatever choices you make during your first two years of high school are not definitive of your final two, although the word ’strenuous’ can not even begin to describe the hardship of lacking those two years of knowledge. However, such a radical change is possible. For example, I take two years of sociology for the duration of my IGCSEs. For IB, I trade it in for geography. Both the IB and A-level are pre-university continuations of the IGCSE, which marks your completion of your General Secondary Education. So in order for me to take the IB for geography, I’d have to catch up on two years worth of course material during the summer break. Not great, but it’s do-able!
4. The margins of IGCSE subjects.
To avoid reopening discussions regarding the number of IGCSE exams that can be taken, students may take a minimum of 5 subjects, which fall into the mandatory categories (English Language, Mathematics, one Science, one Humanities, one Foreign Language).
As for the maximum number of subjects, a student can take up to 12, according to the exam centre at the International British School of Bucharest (IBSB), Romania.
The school offers 8 subjects (9 series of exams if you take English lit, not just English lang) that are fully taught in-school throughout the program. If you do want to take more than the given amount of subjects, you’d have to self-study or get a private tutor to help you prepare for the exam.
5. IGCSEs don’t matter for university applications.
A common rumour is that the only grades that matter for university applications are your final exams (IB/A-level). Nevertheless, the IGCSE (with the exception of the AS), is the only certified set of results that you have before applying to universities (from August to November in the year you’re graduating). Therefore, really focusing on your IGCSEs can augment your chances of getting good predicted grades for your finals and getting into reputable universities.