How Exams Differ in ICSE vs CBSE vs International Boards

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Aug 15, 2016

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Examination is no small thing to consider, when it comes to choosing a board for your child. In this third and final article of our series on education boards in India, we look at how students are evaluated across each board. (Check our our earlier articles on how teaching differs and how learning differs between ICSE vs CBSE vs the international boards.)

We interviewed a variety of teachers and administrators — many of whom have worked within multiple systems — from the four* main education boards in India. Their insight made clear the national education boards are in a state of flux, and what you remember from your own education may or may not hold true anymore. Also, all educators we spoke with discouraged students switching between ICSE vs CBSE vs the international boards.

How students are evaluated — both internally and externally — within the ICSE vs CBSE vs the international boards can vary greatly.

Students are evaluated internally by an annual, comprehensive exam

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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Internal assessment in the ICSE board and IB board takes the form of an end-of-year, comprehensive exam that accounts for roughly 80% of a student’s final grade. (The other 20% is based on daily schoolwork.)

Some schools in the CIE board may also administer an annual exam at the end of each class level, though others operate on a semester system, which evaluates students in two, smaller exams per year at the end of each term. A student’s final grade is based 50-50 between their performance on the exam(s) and their daily schoolwork.

Since 2009, the CBSE board has relaxed its mandate for annual, comprehensive examination at the end of each class and recommends cumulative assessment of students’project and classroom work. However, the method of evaluation is at the discretion of the individual schools, and many still favour a comprehensive annual exam to assess students across all class levels.

Evaluation has no impact on passing to the next class level

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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Also, since 2009, the CBSE board has implemented a no-detention policy until Class 8, meaning students — no matter how poor their grasp of concepts — cannot be required to repeat a class. The shift was intended to ease pressure on younger students, but critics say it has actually increased pressure on 8th standard students unused to and, perhaps, unprepared for performing.

Students are evaluated by a comprehensive board exam at the end of 10th and 12th standard

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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The ICSE and CIE systems evaluate students by a comprehensive board exam at the end of Classes 10 and 12.

The CBSE, too, holds board exams in those years, but the Class 10 exam is optional. The IB board only holds board exams at the end of Class 12.

Board evaluation is graded by a range

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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Grading in the CIE board uses eight internationally recognised grades, A to G, with clear guidelines to explain standard of achievement for each. However, the board, which offers courses (and, consequently, exams) at two different levels of difficulty for every subject, has capped the highest possible grade in its AS (reduced difficulty) level at C.

The CBSE has recently adopted a similar letter grade-based evaluation for its optional Class 10 exam, a shift intended to give students a performance buffer and relieve the intense pressure of point-by-point comparison.

In the IB exam for Class 12, students are graded according to a range that correlates with a 7-point scoring system, rather than a letter grade, with 7 being the highest grade possible.

Board evaluation is graded on a curve

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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In the CIE board, the range of marks each letter grade stands for varies with every exam. If, for instance, the highest mark achieved by any student across the board is only 75 on a given subject, then the cut off for the highest letter grade range (A*) would begin at 75, rather than at 95.

Board evaluation is graded by percentage points

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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The ICSE board, in its 10th and 12th standard exams, grades students by a number of marks (correct answers) out of the total possiblw. The CBSE, for its Class 12 exam only, also grades according to this percentage system.

12th standard board exam is advantageous for India’s competitive entrance exams

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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The CBSE board conducts the country’s competitive engineering (JEE Main and Advanced) and medical (formerly AIPMT, now NEET) entrance exams after Class 12, which are entirely based on the CBSE syllabus. Students who have studied in the CBSE board can be sure of covering every topic these exams include, and their Class 12 exam is considered preparation in writing the descriptive portions of these competitive exams.

This is not to say ICSE, IB and CIE students will not do well on these competitive exams; they just cannot be sure their classroom curricula will address all topics they will need to learn in order to write the competitive exams. For this reason, the ICSE board recently decslared it will be aligning its science and maths syllabi to that of CBSE’s Classes 11 and 12 — but not until the year 2018.

12th standard board exam is advantageous in applying to foreign universities

CBSE

ICSE

IB

CIE

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Both the IB and CIE boards are globally recognised, and while results from both boards are accepted in university applications, educators report that IB top performers are given preference over CIE school graduates.

Finally, this isn’t to say that national board students cannot gain admission to foreign institutes, just that much more depends on individual initiative and aptitude.

Related:

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*Because of their large number, state boards — all of which are different — fall outside the scope of this article.

Special thanks to educators Deepshikha Srivastava, Francis Joseph, Sudarshana Shukla, Manju Mehta, Neeru Dutta Sharma, Cross Hubert and Lipi Joshi for sharing their expertise.

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Written By The Swaddle Team

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