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IGCSE vs SPM: What Are The Main Differences

by on 08/04/2023 12435

The topic of SPM vs IGCSE has been up for discussion over the years. After a gruelling 10 to 11 years of education, parents and students are left debating between SPM and IGCSE Malaysia for the final exams.

SPM and IGCSE differ significantly, such as subjects, awards, university entrance, and so much more. As such, it is reasonable for parents and kids to be concerned about the options. So, let's take a look at the differences between the two major exams.

What Is IGCSE?

IGCSE, also known as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, is an examination given to sixteen-year-olds at the end of Year 11 of the English National Curriculum (British Curriculum). Despite being a five-year programme, Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) is where preparation and undivided attention starts.

In general, IGCSE does not contain "core subjects". However, Malaysian international schools that offer IGCSE will set their main subjects and provide a wide range of electives. Depending on the school, students generally take four to eight subjects.

Following IGCSE, students may continue to take any of the following programs:

  • A-Levels
  • Foundation programme
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma
  • Career-related degrees and programmes


What Is SPM?

Students who have completed Form 5 of the Malaysian National Curriculum at 17 must take the SPM test, also known as the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Malaysian Certificate of Education). The test is given annually at both public and private schools.

Depending on their stream, students must take three to four electives in addition to the six mandatory subjects. The next step after SPM, students have the option to pursue any of the following programs:

  • Sixth Form at national schools
  • A-Levels, foundation programme
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma
  • Career-related programmes, matriculation and diploma


The Main Differences

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The two most popular examinations high school students take before college are the SPM and IGCSE. Selecting the right assessment can be challenging for both the child and the parent. Here are some of the differences that might help with the decision.


In comparison to SPM, IGCSE allows a lot more flexibility. For example, there are no required subjects for IGCSE; however, for SPM, you must take and pass two subjects (BM and Sejarah) in addition to the required Pendidikan Islam for Muslims and Pendidikan Moral for non-Muslims.

On the other hand, IGCSE allows you to select your own subjects based on your interests, with a minimum of six and a maximum of thirteen subjects.


When comparing the time needed to finish the SPM and IGCSE programmes, it is evident that the IGCSE gives pupils a chance to complete their secondary school level more quickly. The opportunity to take the IGCSE exams earlier and graduate from high school as early as 16 is available for those who study efficiently.

Meanwhile, students must have completed 11 years of education to be eligible for the SPM test. Generally, students that take the SPM will do so when they are 17.

Grading System

SPM and IGCSE each have their own unique grading methods. The results of both exams will be taken into account when assessing whether or not the student is eligible to enrol in tertiary education, which can include:

  • Matriculation
  • Foundation
  • Diploma
  • Other certificate programmes


Students who take SPM are given grades ranging from A+ (the highest grade) to G (where "G" stands for Gagal, which is the Malay word for "Fail").

There are two grading methods used to present the results of the IGCSE report. The letter grades range from A* to G, followed by 9 to 1.

A C in Malay and History for SPM is required to enrol at a higher education institution. While it is similar for IGCSE, where a C is also required to enrol into a university; however, there are no prerequisite subjects that the student must pass for certification.


There is no evidence that the SPM or IGCSE are less reputable than the other exam, given that both can, depending on your scores, get you into renowned Pre-U programmes. Both exams are regarded as being of comparable standard.

Nonetheless, the SPM - Matriculation/STPM route is recommended if you plan to attend a public university because it is more favoured than IGCSE. IGCSE preparation paves the way for private universities both locally and internationally.


IGCSE is unquestionably more expensive than SPM. The examination price for only one IGCSE subject, not to mention the coursebooks and revision books, would likely be sufficient to pay for the full SPM exam.

The quality of IGCSE education may be better than SPM education, but this also depends on the teacher and the student.

Which To Choose?


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In conclusion, the SPM and IGCSE each have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on their study capacities, some kids may do better with SPM, while others may do better with IGCSE.

In addition, you should think about your financial situation, the reputation of the school you plan to attend, and other parents' opinions.