An introduction to the Cambridge IGCSE German

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November 22nd, 2018

An introduction to the Cambridge IGCSE German

In this blog, Soenke set out the basics of the Cambridge IGCSE, which has become the German qualification of choice. It is now the most popular international German qualification for 14-16 year old students in many of the 10,000 plus international schools, as well as in public schools in the UK which offer the CIE curriculum.

Why should I choose the Cambridge IGCSE German?

The Cambridge IGCSE German is exceptionally well regarded by universities, employers, educators and learners alike and has an excellent reputation for its rigorous but fair assessment of the four language skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. However, state schools need to be aware that the IGCSE is no longer counting towards the Performance Measures in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (since June 2017).

Each year, students can take their exams in either of the two exam sessions (May and November, or March in India) and retake as and when necessary without being penalised.

Just like the GCSE equivalents, the qualification does not offer any controlled assessment elements, but is linear and concludes with final assessments at the end of the two year course.

The qualification is also becoming very popular with students studying in settings outside of schools, referred to as ‘private candidates’, e.g. home-schooled learners.

How is the IGCSE graded?

Universities and employers fully understand and appreciate the CIE grading scale that continues with the traditional letters A* – G (U) (Level 2 is graded C –A* and Level 1 G – D), whereas GCSEs are now graded 9-0.

Hence, Higher Education Providers now carefully consider the differences between GCSE qualifications in England graded 9 – 1 (a nine point scale) and those still graded A* – G (an eight point model).

When can I take the IGCSE German exams?

Alongside French, Greek, Italian and Spanish, IGCSE German equally weights the four language skills during a single examination series in May or November (or March, for students in India).

Students who took their exams in May will receive their results in the middle of August and those who sat their exams in November, in the middle of January (results in India are released in May for the March exams) and certificates will be issued two months later.

However, unlike other GCSE qualifications the IGCSE offers retakes and students can re-enter six months after they sat their exams.

Where can I find out more about the current course details (syllabus)?

The syllabus for all five Language courses currently provided by CIE is available on

How does the Cambridge IGCSE German differ from other examination boards’ German GCSE qualifications?

In the past, 60% of the overall Cambridge IGCSE German grade was achieved by the speaking and writing elements of the assessment. In the new syllabus, all four skills are assessed equally with 25% each of the overall grade.

There is only one exam paper per skill for all abilities and the four skills are assessed as follows:

Listening exam (Paper 1): 45 min, 25%, 45 marks, externally assessed
Reading exam (Paper 2): 60 min, 25%, 45 marks, externally assessed
Speaking exam (Paper 3): 15 min, 25%, 100 marks, internally assessed/externally moderated

Test 1: 2 Role Plays (5 min, 30 marks)
Test 2: Topic Presentation / Conversation (5 min, 30 marks)
Test 3: General Conversation (5 min, 30 marks)
Writing exam (Paper 4): 60 min, 25%, 50 marks, externally assessed.

The Cambridge IGCSE German topic list includes the following themes and topics:
A. Everyday activities: Home life and school; Food, health and fitness
B. Personal and social life: Self, family and personal relationships;
Holidays and special occasions
C. The world around us: Home town and local area; Natural and made
Environment; People; places and customs
D. The world of work: Continuing education; Careers and employment;
Language and communication in the work place
E. The international world: Tourism at home and abroad; Life in other
countries and communities; World events and issues.

Which textbooks can I use for the Cambridge IGCSE German?

The CIE endorses a limited number of resources, e.g. Cambridge IGCSE German (Hodder): Student Book, Vocabulary Workbook, Grammar Workbook, Teaching and Learning Resources.

A sample can be downloaded here:

The CIE also endorses Vocab Express Cambridge IGCSE German (Collins), an online platform which allows students to learn independently, based on the IGCSE German vocabulary list.

Sources used and additional reading:

1. Cambridge IGCSE German – German as a foreign language:

2. Cambridge German IGCSE – past papers, examiner reports and specimen papers:

3. PapaCambridge – past papers (2002 onwards):

4. General CIE IGCSE introduction:

5. UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) on IGCSEs:

6. New GCSEs in French, German and Spanish, The Ofqual blog:

7. AQA German GCSE:

8. CEA German GCSE:

9. Edexcel/Pearson German GCSE:

10. Edexcel/Pearson German IGCSE:

11. Educas German GCSE:

12. Collins (publisher):

13. Hodder (publisher):

Please note:
The above information is subject to change and was correct as of November 4th 2018.


Sönke is a tutor with Owl Tutors

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Sönke qualified as a teacher in German in 1997, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.