What's the difference between Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel?

17/05/202411 minute read
What's the difference between Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel?

At Crimson Global Academy (CGA), we offer both Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Pearson Edexcel (Edexcel), which are highly regarded British international programs offered by prestigious high schools and private institutions. Students who pursue these courses often aim to secure admissions in renowned universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Ivy League schools, Oxford, and Cambridge.

Here you can learn everything you need to know about the the differences in Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel. From their subject offerings, grading system, and how these curriculums can help students in university admissions across the globe.

What is Pearson Edexcel and Cambridge A Levels?

Although both examination boards maintain a similar overall difficulty level, there are varying opinions regarding the relative difficulty of specific subjects. For instance, Cambridge A Levels are often perceived as relatively easier in English but more challenging in Mathematics. Understanding these differences can help students choose the best path for their educational goals.

Cambridge A Levels

Cambridge A Levels offer many subjects, letting students choose according to their interests and career goals. These qualifications cater to the needs of international learners and also provide opportunities for non-native English speakers to demonstrate their English proficiency, which is valued by many British universities.

Subjects are grouped into areas like sciences, languages, humanities, and social sciences. The Cambridge A Level curriculum promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are important for university and future careers.

Pearson Edexcel A Levels

Pearson Edexcel A Levels are widely recognized in the UK and follow a module-based system. Students have the flexibility to retake modules to improve their subject grades, and exams are typically held in May and November. This offers flexibility and helps students aim for higher scores.

Edexcel includes many practical and vocational subjects, making it ideal for students interested in hands-on fields. For example:

  • Practical Sciences: Applied Science, Environmental Science
  • Vocational Subjects: Business, Information Technology, Engineering
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Understanding IGCSE and A-Level Courses

The International GCSEs and A Levels are the most commonly studied curriculum around the world. They are academic programs that high school students undertake over a span of three years. At Crimson Global Academy we offer the A Levels online for students anywhere.

  • In the first year, known as IGCSE, students in Year 10 or 11 study approximately 4-5 subjects. This helps sets the foundation for their academics going forward.
  • In Year 12 students move on to the A Levels that are further broken down into two parts: the AS Level, called “Advanced Subsidiary”, (usually done in Year 12) and A2 Level (typically done in Year 13). Traditionally, students take 4-5 AS Level subjects and then go on to take 3-4 of those subjects at the A2 Level.

The selection of subjects is usually influenced by their desired university majors, and the results of the IGCSE exams play a crucial role in making informed decisions about which courses to pursue. Ultimately, the combined scores obtained from the AS and A2 exams determine eligibility for university admissions.

What subjects are available at CGA? You can view a list of available subjects online at CGA below or visit here for full detail on our subject offerings.

A Level International GCSE
MathematicsMathematics A
Further MathematicsEnglish Literature
English LiteratureEnglish Language A
English LanguageBiology

Comparing Cambridge and Edexcel

At CGA, we provide instruction for both Pearson Edexcel and CIE courses. To gain a comprehensive understanding of these two international course systems, let's compare them.

Curriculum Content & Teaching Syllabus

Both Edexcel and Cambridge follow a similar process from IGCSE to A-Level, offering rigorous and challenging courses. However, some differences may exist in the curriculum content and difficulty level based on the chosen subjects.

For example, Cambridge Physics covers more extensive material, which may be more challenging for some students, while Edexcel offers a strong focus on practical and vocational subjects, providing depth in areas like Business and Information Technology.

International Recognition

Both Edexcel and Cambridge qualifications are widely recognized and accepted by universities globally. Students who complete A-level courses from either examination board possess qualifications that are highly valued by universities worldwide.

Exam Structure

When it comes to the exam format, Edexcel and Cambridge differ in several aspects. Both examination boards evaluate students through written examinations, practical assessments, and coursework, but the specific structure and weighting of these components vary.

  • Cambridge Exams: June and November
  • Edexcel Exams: June, October and January

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is often perceived as having more challenging exams. This is primarily due to the inclusion of structured, high-order questions in their exam papers, emphasizing the application of learned content rather than relying solely on practical assessments.

CIE adopts a tiered examination system, offering students the choice to enter either the Foundation or Higher levels. The Higher level papers contain more difficult questions.

On the other hand, Edexcel follows a tiered entry system only for mathematics, where students can choose between different levels of difficulty. For all other subjects, there is a single set of question papers, which means that both difficult and easy questions are included in the same paper.

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Exam Grading

Cambridge International Grading

Cambridge exams are usually taken at the end of the course, with grades based on overall performance in these final exams, making the structure more rigid.

A* grades are only awarded for the full A Level, not for AS Levels. You receive a combined A Level grade, not a separate A2 Level grade. Another key aspect is that students don’t need to get exactly 90% or 70% of the questions correct to achieve those grades. Instead, a scaling system converts raw marks to Percentage Uniform Marks (PUM), adjusting scores based on the performance of other students. This ensures fair representation and often scales up raw marks.

Pearson Edexcel Grading

Pearson Edexcel also uses an A* to E grading scale for A Levels, similar to Cambridge, except Edexcel's modular structure allows students to take exams in stages throughout the course. This flexibility helps manage stress and workload more effectively. Like Cambridge, Edexcel uses a scaling system to convert raw marks to Percentage Uniform Marks.

You can find grade thresholds after each exam on both the Cambridge and Edexcel websites to help students understand how their final grades are determined.

A Level Grading System

A* = 90%+

A = 80-89%

B = 70-79%

C= 60-69%

D = 50-59%

E = 40-49%

U (Ungraded) = 0-40%

Cambridge or Edexcel?

When comparing Edexcel and Cambridge A Levels, it is evident that they have distinct characteristics. Edexcel A Levels follow a single set of question papers, encompassing both difficult and easy questions in one paper, with the exception of mathematics. On the other hand, Cambridge A Levels employ a tiered examination system, offering separate foundation and higher levels. Despite these differences, both Edexcel and Cambridge A Levels hold significant recognition as highly accepted international qualifications. Students can choose between these options based on their preferences, academic goals, and the subjects they wish to pursue.

At CGA there are a range of online A Level and International GCSE courses to choose from. These can be taken full time or part time alongside your traditional schooling or home school.

“CGA has been an amazing vessel for accelerating my education and directing my ambitions, as I would not have been able to access the IGCSE, IAS and now A2 courses that are now so important to me and my future goals." - CGA student, Eric, New Zealand

Whichever your choice may be, the goal remains the same: to acquire a well-rounded education and open doors to future opportunities. To learn how CGA can help, get in contact with one of our Academic Advisors today for personalised support.