MAY 29, 2020 • 7 min read
Most people are familiar with the three established high school education systems in New Zealand: NCEA, Cambridge (CAIE, formerly CIE) and IB (International Baccalaureate). But very few people would have heard of Pearson Edexcel International GCSE and A levels, the curriculum of choice for Crimson Global Academy (CGA), NZ’s first fully certified online high school. Every student has different learning styles and goals. Choosing the qualification system that best suits your learning style will maximise your academic potential, helping you gain the grades needed for your top-choice university and dream career.
To help you understand the differences between these four educational systems, we are launching a three-part blog series that breaks down the content, examination structure, and global recognition of each curriculum. Still got questions? We're happy to help, so reach out to our team today.
In this blog, we will look at the differing degrees of international recognition of Pearson Edexcel International A Levels, Cambridge A levels, IB and NCEA. It is important to consider the global recognition of your qualifications as they can have big implications down the road when you start applying to universities.
Edexcel, Cambridge and IB are international qualifications that are widely recognized around the world. Both Edexcel and Cambridge are based on the UK high school completion qualifications of GCSEs (for NZ Year 11 students) and A levels (for NZ Year 12-13 students). Edexcel is one of the five main high school qualification examination boards in the UK. Cambridge is a spinoff of another British exam board and is focused solely on providing GCSE and A level qualifications to schools outside of the UK that want a taste of the British school system. Edexcel is often perceived as the more rigorous A level system, allowing students to better signal their academic excellence for admission to competitive universities in the US or UK.
The International Baccalaureate, or IB, is based in Switzerland and is often associated with supplementing the education systems of private schools around the world. It is highly regarded for its rigor depending on the subjects that students take. For example, IB Higher Level (HL) Mathematics is viewed as one of the most challenging courseworks available at the high school level. There is also a belief that IB is better for admissions into US universities and A levels are better for admissions to UK universities. While it is true that Edexcel and Cambridge A levels match the UK national curriculum more closely, US and UK university admissions officers are familiar with both systems and have admitted thousands of students who studied either of these curricula. The myth that IB is better suited for admissions to US universities stems from the fact that a lot of private schools in the US offer IB, creating the perception that many IB students are getting into top US universities when, in fact, it is more of a reflection of the quality of the school and teachers. Therefore, there is no obvious advantage to taking IB over an A-Level qualification if you are aiming for US college admission. Instead, the most important thing is to do well in whatever system you choose as that is a far more reliable indicator of student success that admissions officers are looking for. I did Cambridge A levels while in high school, gaining acceptances to Harvard and Princeton. I did not feel like A levels made me a less competitive student for US universities in any way compared to my friends doing IB.
If you’re thinking about applying to university overseas, there are two main factors to consider. Firstly, achieving top marks within any curriculum is essential in proving to admissions officers that you are unafraid to work hard and you have what it takes to succeed in the environment of academic rigor that these institutions provide. However, taking an international curriculum such as Pearson Edexcel, Cambridge, or IB can also significantly boost your admissions chances when compared with a country-specific curriculum such as NCEA. While it is certainly not impossible to gain admission to top global universities through studying NCEA, admissions officers are far more used to evaluating students who have studied common international curricula. Therefore, proving your competitiveness as a candidate when an admissions officer has no measure for the difficulty of your curriculum can put you at a disadvantage in a pool of top applicants. For that reason, if you know that you’re aiming to apply overseas, it may be worth considering selecting Pearson Edexcel, Cambridge, or IB over NCEA or any equivalent local curriculum.
No matter whether you’re in your final years of school or are just starting to decide which high school curriculum is best for you, if you’re looking for the support you need to get into a top international university, we can help!
Crimson Global Academy offers both full-time and part-time enrolment options, so whether you want to stay enrolled in your current school and supplement your core studies with additional Pearson Edexcel International A Levels, or you’re looking to join a school where you can take unlimited International A-Levels and can accelerate your learning far beyond your peers, we have an option for you. With dedicated teaching staff averaging 20+ years of teaching experience and a streamlined online learning platform, CGA will give you all the resources you need to (ed)EXCEL in your schooling. Download our prospectus to find out more about all the International GCSE subjects that CGA has to offer, and talk to us today about whether CGA could be right for you!
Enjoyed this blog? If you want to learn more about the differences between Pearson Edexcel, Cambridge, IB and NCEA, check out this blog where we break down how the examinations are structured, and this article where we discuss the content covered in each qualification.