Talgo’s Essential Guide to IGCSE Mathematics: Which Exam Option To Choose?

Talgo’s Essential Guide to IGCSE Mathematics: Which Exam Option To Choose?

Talgo’s Essential Guide to IGCSE Mathematics: Which Exam Option To Choose?
Talgo Math December 12, 2022

If your child is studying in a school that offers the British curriculum, they will likely sit for their IGCSE math examinations when they reach the ages of 14-16.

Many parents call us overwhelmed, seeking advice on which Math IGCSE exam option to choose, And we completely understand. Between the different examination boards and the different IGCSE math papers, it can be pretty confusing to decide which math syllabus your child should follow.

That is why we created this essential guide to understanding IGCSE math! Read on as we delve into the details of the different math papers and discuss which option might be best for your child.

First things first: what are the IGCSEs?

The IGCSE stands for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and is the first major public exam most students will take in their academic careers. They are broadly considered to be of the same academic standard as the Singapore O/Ls or the British GCSEs.

Most schools in Singapore offer the IGCSE exam conducted by one of two main examination boards, Cambridge or Edexcel. Each examination board offers different IGCSE papers with varying degrees of difficulty.

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Before deciding which IGCSE examination option to pick, it’s essential to sit down with your child and ask them about their interest in math, their higher education (A/L or IB) plans, and even any careers they’re interested in.

Different specifications are targeted toward different groups of students. Knowing your child’s interests, capabilities, and plans is the key to choosing the proper exam!



Edexcel offers the following IGCSE math options:

  • Mathematics A
    • Higher
    • Foundation
  • Mathematics B
  • Further Pure Mathematics

Students must take either Mathematics A or Mathematics B to satisfy the IGCSE math requirement. But what are the differences between the two?

Mathematics A: Foundation

As the name suggests, Mathematics A – Foundation covers only the essential mathematics skills students need to gain a basic IGCSE academic qualification. This option is suitable for students with learning difficulties or struggling with math.

However, this exam is considerably less in-depth than the other two options, so it is only offered to children who do not plan on pursuing math after their IGCSEs.

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The highest grade your child can obtain on this exam is a 5 on Edexcel’s 9-1 system, which is equivalent to a C grade.

Mathematics A: Higher

This exam is more advanced than the Foundation paper and is suitable for children who want to pursue math after their IGCSEs. We recommend this paper for students who can study math and do not have learning difficulties.

Most schools in Singapore offer Math A!

Mathematics B

Mathematics B is the most comprehensive math syllabi choice that Edexcel offers! The syllabi for Math A and Math B are largely compatible, but the questions for Math B are slightly more in-depth.

Further Pure Mathematics

Further Pure Math is an additional voluntary paper offered to students who excel in math and would like a challenge! Please note that this exam will have to be taken in addition to Math A or B.

Why take Further Pure Math? Perhaps your child has a keen interest in and talent at math, and plans to pursue Higher Level Mathematics at IB or Further Mathematics at A/Ls. Again, this is why discussing higher education plans with your child before deciding on their O/L subject choices is essential.

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Cambridge offers the following IGCSE options:

  • Mathematics 0580
    • Core
    • Extended
  • Cambridge IGCSE (9–1) Mathematics 0980
  • International Mathematics 0607
  • Additional Mathematics 0606

Mathematics 0580

Generally, if a school offers the Cambridge curriculum, most students will take the Mathematics 0580 exam! This exam is split into four papers – if your child chooses the Core curriculum, they will sit for papers 1 and 3. If your child picks the Extended curriculum, they will sit for papers 2 and 4. 

Core – The Core option is much like Edexcel’s Math A: Foundation! This exam targets students who need a basic academic qualification in the subject and will likely not pursue maths after this point. These students will only be eligible for grades C to G.

Extended – The Extended option provides students with broader knowledge! This exam is usually recommended to students unless they have a learning difficulty or face great trouble grasping the fundamental concepts of math. The grades available for candidates range from A* to E.

The Cambridge IGCSE (9-1) Mathematics 0980 is the same as the Mathematics 0580 curriculum, except it is marked on a 9-1 grading system, as in the case of Edexcel. 

International Mathematics 0607

The International Mathematics exam encourages learners to develop their mathematical ability as a critical life skill and as a solid basis to study mathematics further or to support skills in other subjects.

This exam offers an IB-style curriculum with both Core and Extended options. If your child prefers this style of investigation-driven study and will be proceeding onto the IB, this is the best option if their school offers it.

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Additional Mathematics 0606

Additional Mathematics is a voluntary paper for high-ability, mathematically-inclined students. This paper is suitable for students pursuing advanced math or careers in mathematics-related fields.

It is not regular mathematics and has quite an extensive syllabus.

Stay tuned for more!

Stay tuned for the second part of our series, IGCSE: Essential Mathematical Skills, which guarantees your child’s exam success! Please feel free to ask us any more IGCSE math-related questions on our social media accounts.

In the meantime, remember that it’s never too early to develop a child’s math skills and start preparing for the IGCSEs! Reach out to savi@talgomath.com to book our IGCSE classes today.

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