What is the difference between Cambridge International and Pearson/Edexcel?

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) offers GCSEs and A-levels etc while Edexcel is a subsidiary of the publisher Pearson, and offers IGCSEs alongside the full range of UK qualifications. They are both respected bodies with equal value for their qualification in the UK.

When a student chooses between IGCSE/International GCSE or A-level subjects, they can choose an exam board also. In this case: Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Pearson Edexcel.

Difficulty Level

Both the exams are considered to be of the same difficulty level over all with differences in opinion regarding subject wise difficulty.
An example being that, CIE has a reputation for being easier than Edexcel for English, and harder for maths.

But students consider CIE harder and tougher than Edexcel due to the fact that they have to maintain more of an international standard when compared to Edexcel. Edexcel is more focused on the UK, therefore their difficulty level and course and paper structure is more compliant with the UK system. Meanwhile CIE is an independent entity and have the freedom to set their own exam structure which is approved by QCA.


There is no major difference in the syllabus or curriculum. But there are a few major topic differences depending on the courses a student picks. For example, in CIE physics, there is more material study which are often left as a choice to students following Edexcel.

In the case of Mathematics, there are noticeable differences between Edexcel and CIE. CIE Mathematics is considerably more difficult when compared to Edexcel Maths. They usually compensate during the grading process.

CIE physics and Chemistry are both relatively different when compared against Edexcel and other UK boards. The syllabus content is not same, in CIE studnts don’t get options in topics, which leads to changes in the notes that the students of both the boards follow.


Edexcel, AQA, OCR exams have 6 paper exams, but on the other hand CIE A level Chemistry, Biology and Physics have 5 paper Exams and Mathematics is a 4 paper exam.

  • Paper 1: for the sciences are a 40 question multiple choice paper.
  • Paper 2: for the Sciences is a AS core content Structured paper
  • Paper 3: for the sciences is the one and only practical paper lasting 2 hours.
  • Paper 4: for the sciences is a rather long and hard A2 content paper with the application units for each subject.
  • Paper 5: is a planning, analysis and evaluation paper, you may not have seen in UK boards.

In the case of Maths students have the compulsory P1 which is AS pure. Then they have an option of going for some more pure which is P2 or mechanics P4 or Stats P6 to complete an AS. So for AS you need P1 and one of P2, P4 or P6.

For A level maths students need the AS modules, and compulsory P3 and one other paper which they have not written an AS Level paper for.

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