Cambridge CIE A-Levels vs Pearson EdExcel A-Levels in Malaysia

A-Levels at Taylor's College Lakeside Campuse

Study Cambridge A-Levels or Edexcel A-Levels in Malaysia

Students after SPM or IGCSE?O-Levels interested to pursue a degree from a top university in the UK or Australia or to enter Ivy League universities in the USA can consider taking the A-Levels programme in Malaysia. There are 2 different Boards offering the A-Levels in Malaysia.

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) offers GCSEs and A-levels etc while Edexcel is a subsidiary of the publisher Pearson, and offers IGCSEs alongside the full range of UK qualifications. They are both respected bodies with equal value for their qualification in the UK.

When a student chooses between IGCSE/International GCSE or A-level subjects, they can choose an exam board also. In this case:

  • Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
  • Pearson Edexcel

Find out more about the differences between the Cambridge International A-Levels and the Edexcel International A-Levels to choose the right one to study in Malaysia.

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What’s the difference between the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and the Edexcel International A-Levels in Malaysia?

EduSpiral advised & helped me choose the best college for A-Levels. I obtained a scholarship & have graduated from a top ranked UK University. Lucas, A-Levels at HELP Academy & Law Degree from Queens University Belfast
EduSpiral advised & helped me choose the best college for A-Levels. I obtained a scholarship & have graduated from a top ranked UK University.
Lucas, A-Levels at HELP Academy & Law Degree from Queens University Belfast

Both CIE and EDEXCEL are highly regarded international academic qualifications that open doors to admissions to top universities around the world.

While they are similar in many respects, it is important that you know and understand the subtle difference. You should take the examination that suits your individual aptitude best so that you are able to do well.

The Cambridge International A-Levels

A-Levels at Taylor's College Lakeside Campuse
EduSpiral advised me to go for the best college for A-Levels in order to fulfil my dream of entering an Ivy League university in the USA. He met us at Taylor’s College to talk to us and tour the college.
Gi Hang, A-Levels at Taylor’s College

CIE has been in existence for over 25 years and is accepted by schools across the globe. The examination is known for its flexibility in offering a wide range of learning routes for students of different abilities such as those whose first language is not English. Success in this examination is accepted as being evidence of academic excellence. Many universities across the world require a combination of CIE and IGCSE to accept applicants for admission. Many British universities require the ability to communicate effectively in English are a precondition to admission. CIE is accepted as proof of English competency in a large number of these universities. CIE is the more popular than EDEXCEL in many parts of the world because it has been designed keeping the circumstances of international students in mind. Every part of the world has cultural biases that unconsciously affect students from those regions. These biases often appear in the way examinations are taken and the results achieved. CIE has been designed for international use and the utmost effort has been made to keep it free of the biases that could affect student performance/evaluation.

  • CIE is a part of the Cambridge Assessment Group (UCLES) and a not-for-profit organisation.
  • Cambridge International AS and A Levels are taken by over 175 000 students in more than125 countries every year.
  • There are 350 000 entries for Cambridge International A Level annually and growing.
  • Assessment is 100% external examinations in 2 phases: Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS Level) and A2 Level
  • The awarding body is the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)

The Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Levels

EduSpiral advised & helped me choose the best college for A-Levels. And now I have graduated from a top ranked UK University in Malaysia Dexter Leong, A-Levels at HELP Academy & Degree from University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
EduSpiral advised & helped me choose the best college for A-Levels. And now I have graduated from a top ranked UK University in Malaysia
Dexter Leong, A-Levels at HELP Academy & Degree from University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

EDEXCEL has been developed by domain specialists and is subject to regular review to keep the subjects updated and relevant. There are over 40 subjects and examinations are taken only at the end of the course. EDEXCEL is recognized globally as being of a very high standard and is given the same status and British GCSEs when evaluating candidates for university admission. Because the system has been designed to keep the courses and syllabus up to date and current, many universities give marginal preference to this qualification for admission to courses of study which are rapidly evolving.

  • Edexcel International Advanced Levels is a new suite of A level qualifications developed for international centres. With a modular structure, our new suite of International Advanced Levels have examination windows in January and June of each year, allowing students to finish their course in January if they need to, for entry to local and international universities. Please note Law and English Literature will continue to be examined in June of each year only.
  • Modular System (curriculum 2008) allows student to retake any modules to improve subject grade
  • Students can re-sit each unit once before certification.
  • Students sit for the exams in the same time as UK students
Edexcel GCE A Levels International Advanced Levels
Structure Modular structure until 2015 (moving to a linear structure in 2015. All exams will be taken at the end of the two-year A level course). Advanced Subsidiary will become a standalone qualification from 2015. Modular structure AS can be used as a stage on the way to completing an Advanced Level.
Assessment Mix of coursework and examinations. June examinations only. No coursework (100% examination). January and June examinations.
Recognised by universities Yes Yes
Regulator Regulated by Ofqual. Regulated by Pearson.

What are the Differences Between the Cambridge (CIE) and EdExcel A-Levels?

EduSpiral helped me to find the right college for A-Levels, & now they have helped me to choose what to study after my A-Levels. Chee Kin, Actuarial & Finance degree at UCSI University
EduSpiral helped me to find the right college for A-Levels, & now they have helped me to choose what to study after my A-Levels.
Chee Kin, Actuarial & Finance Graduate
  • Academic system: The Cambridge A-Level programme follows a staged assessment route to A Level by taking the AS Level in one examination session and completing the final A Level assessments at a subsequent session. Some papers are actually practical papers, in which you have to do experiments and answer related questions. The Edexcel A- Level programme follows a modular system. Most Edexcel A-Level students would sit for 1-2 papers per subject at the end of every 5 to 6-month period.
  • Examination board: Edexcel and CAIE are both examples of UK examination boards which provide a range of exams and qualifications. All exam boards operate under the guidelines produced by the JCQ (Joint Committee for Qualifications). There is no difference in the level or degree of difficulty between the examination offered by Edexcel and CAIE. The specifications of syllabuses might differ but both of them are recognized by colleges, universities and employers all around the world.
  • Exam Fees: The Examination fees for Cambridge A-Level are lower than its Edexcel counterpart.
  • The Edexcel A- Level modular system aims to test you on the application of each unit, and hence a student can choose to repeat a single unit on its own, without having to repeat an entire level. Only the highest mark scored in any attempt will automatically be taken into account.
  • The Cambridge Board, on the other hand, is linear-based. Students attempt to take the examinations in two stages, AS & A2 Level. Students unsatisfied with any of their individual units must re-sit the entire level, i.e. either AS or A2, and only the last score will automatically be taken into account.
  • The two examinations are structured differently. CIE uses a tiered examination system which offers students the option of entering at either the Foundation or Higher levels. The more difficult questions are given in the Higher level papers. In the case of EDEXCEL, only mathematics has tiered entry. For all other subjects, there is only one set of question papers which means that both difficult and easy questions will be in the same paper.
  • More private colleges in Malaysia offer the Cambridge CIE A-Levels compared to the Pearson EdExcel.
What is the Difficulty Level compared between Cambridge (CIE) and Edexcel?
I talked to EduSpiral on Facebook to find out which is the best place to study A-Levels to help me achieve my goals. I am glad I did.
I talked to EduSpiral on Facebook to find out which is the best place to study A-Levels to help me achieve my goals. I am glad I did.
Gan Wei Cheng, 3A* in A-Levels at UOWM KDU College and now JPA Scholarship at U. of Sydney for Pharmacy
  • Both the exams are considered to be of the same difficulty level over all with differences in opinion regarding subject wise difficulty.
  • An example being that, CIE has a reputation for being easier than Edexcel for English, and harder for maths.
  • But students consider CIE harder and tougher than Edexcel due to the fact that they have to maintain more of an international standard when compared to Edexcel. Edexcel is more focused on the UK, therefore their difficulty level and course and paper structure is more compliant with the UK system. Meanwhile CIE is an independent entity and have the freedom to set their own exam structure which is approved by QCA.
Are there Differences in the Curriculum?
EduSpiral arranged for me to talk to a counselor at HELP and took me to tour their facilities. This helped me to decide which college to choose to study. Ee-Lyn, A-Levels at HELP Academy
EduSpiral arranged for me to talk to a counselor at HELP and took me to tour their facilities. This helped me to decide which college to choose to study.
Ee-Lyn, A-Levels at HELP Academy

There is no major difference in the syllabus or curriculum. But there are a few major topic differences depending on the courses a student picks. For example, in CIE physics, there is more material study which are often left as a choice to students following Edexcel.

In the case of Mathematics, there are noticeable differences between Edexcel and CIE. CIE Mathematics is considerably more difficult when compared to Edexcel Maths. They usually compensate during the grading process.

CIE physics and Chemistry are both relatively different when compared against Edexcel and other UK boards. The syllabus content is not same, in CIE studnts don’t get options in topics, which leads to changes in the notes that the students of both the boards follow.

What are the differences in the Structure?

Edexcel, AQA, OCR exams have 6 paper exams, but on the other hand CIE A level Chemistry, Biology and Physics have 5 paper Exams and Mathematics is a 4 paper exam.

  • Paper 1: for the sciences are a 40 question multiple choice paper.
  • Paper 2: for the Sciences is a AS core content Structured paper
  • Paper 3: for the sciences is the one and only practical paper lasting 2 hours.
  • Paper 4: for the sciences is a rather long and hard A2 content paper with the application units for each subject.
  • Paper 5: is a planning, analysis and evaluation paper, you may not have seen in UK boards.

In the case of Maths students have the compulsory P1 which is AS pure. Then they have an option of going for some more pure which is P2 or mechanics P4 or Stats P6 to complete an AS. So for AS you need P1 and one of P2, P4 or P6.

For A level maths students need the AS modules, and compulsory P3 and one other paper which they have not written an AS Level paper for.

Retaking the subjects

  • It is possible to retake subjects however, students unsatisfied with any of their individual units must re-sit the entire level.
  • Also, some university courses, such as medicine, sometimes require students to have taken all their AS or A2 units in a single sitting without any re-sits.
  • It might be worth considering having the paper remarked.

Scoring an “A” in the Cambridge A-Levels

  • You require an average of 90% in your both AS and A2 units to qualify for an A*. If a student scored very highly in AS and only got grade A in A2, but overall uniform mark scale (UMS) is 90% or above, it’s an A*
Entry Requirements into the A-Levels in Malaysia
EduSpiral arranged for me to talk to a counselor at HELP and took me to tour their facilities. This helped me to decide which college to choose to study. E-Lyn, A-Levels at HELP Academy
EduSpiral arranged for me to talk to a counselor at HELP and took me to tour their facilities. This helped me to decide which college to choose to study.
E-Lyn, A-Levels at HELP Academy

Generally you will need at least 5 Credits in SPM or IGCSE to enter into the A-Levels. However, there are specific requirements for various fields of study.

For example, if you plan to study Medicine, Pharmacy or Dentistry, you will need at least 5Bs in the science.

For Engineering, you will need credits in Mathematics and Physics while for Computer Science, Actuarial Science, and Accounting, you must have a credit in Mathematics.

  • SPM, IGCSE/O Levels or equivalent 5 credits including English and Mathematics/Science
Duration
  • January and July intakes are 18 months
  • March intakes are 16 months
Subjects Generally Offered
  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Economics
  • English Literature
  • Law
  • Accounting
  • Business Studies
  • Psychology
How many subjects to take?
  • The number of A-Levels you take depends on a number of things. In particular, it can depend on the reason you are taking A-Levels. If you are taking the A-Levels as a stepping stone to university, then the number you take may depend on what the university requires or the number of UCAS points you need to get into your course. You should check with the universities you are thinking of targeting to see how many they want you to have.
  • For UK universities, students need a minimum of two A Level passes. Students need to choose a minimum of 3 A Level subjects and maximum of 4 subjects.
Subject Combinations for A-Levels
"EduSpiral gave me advise over phone, Facebook, Skype and even took me to visit the universities. He spent a lot of time to help me make my decision on what to study and at which university." Ban Moon (Left), Scored 3As in the A-Levels at HELP Academy
“EduSpiral gave me advise over phone, Facebook, Skype and even took me to visit the universities. He spent a lot of time to help me make my decision on what to study and at which university.”
Ban Moon (Left), Scored 3As in the A-Levels at HELP Academy
  • Students are required to take a minimum of 3 subjects and a maximum of 4. While subject combinations are left to the student’s interest and degree requirements of the different universities.
  • Below is a guide, students should check with the colleges:
  • Medicine – Chemistry, Biology and Maths or Physics
  • Pharmacy – Chemistry, Maths and Biology or Physics
  • Law – Law, Business Studies, Economics and any other subject
  • Engineering – Physics, Further Maths and another Science
  • Computing – Maths and another subject
The Cambridge AS Level
EduSpiral advised me to go for the best college for A-Levels in order to fulfil my dream of entering an Ivy League university in the USA. He met us at Taylor's College Subang to talk to us and tour the college. Gi Hang, A-Levels at Taylor's College
EduSpiral advised me to go for the best college for A-Levels in order to fulfil my dream of entering an Ivy League university in the USA. He met us at Taylor’s College Subang to talk to us and tour the college.
Gi Hang, A-Levels at Taylor’s College
  • The Cambridge GCE A-Level programme follows a ‘staged’ assessment, in contrast to the traditional linear A-Levels where all subjects are assessed in a single examination session at the end of the course. Its flexibility enables students to sit for the AS level in one examination and complete the final Cambridge International A-Levels at a subsequent session.
  • Students take the A-Level examinations conducted by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) in two phases: AS Level and A2 Level.
  • AS Level will account for 50% of the marks while Advanced Two (A2) Level the other 50%.
  • Students who complete the correct pattern of AS level units (usually 2 or 3 units at this level, depending on the subject) will be awarded an AS level certificate.
  • A2 refers to the final stage of A-Levels. Students who have successfully completed AS units in a subject move on to do A2, which are of a higher standard.
  • Completing the correct sequence of subjects at both AS and A2 level means students have finished a full A level in a subject.
  • University places often need a number of grades at A-Level (so both AS + A2 in a subject) but completed AS awards also attract UCAS points and are often counted towards university entrance.
Getting the AS or AL Certificate
  • For sciences, you need to take three units to be awarded an AS Level Certificate and five units to be awarded an A Level Certificate.
  • However, for other subjects such as Accounting, Mathematics, Economics and English Literature students need to take two units to get an AS Level Certificate and four units to get an A Level Certificate.
  • To get an A Level Certificate for Further Mathematics, students are required to take all the two units at A2 level.

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