Navigating Post-IGCSE Options: A Comparative Guide


IGCSEs are over. What's the next step for students in Thailand looking to pursue higher education, both domestically and abroad? This article explores four popular options: GED, SAT, A-Levels, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Each option offers its own unique advantages and considerations, providing students with diverse pathways to achieve their academic goals.

Before delving into the specifics of each option, it's helpful to understand the distinction between standardized exams and educational frameworks. The GED and SAT are standardized exams that assess knowledge and skills in specific subject areas, while A-Levels and IB are comprehensive educational frameworks that offer a wider range of subjects and in-depth study.

Standardized Exams


GED (General Educational Development): The GED test is recommended for individuals who did not complete high school but wish to earn a credential equivalent to a high school diploma. It covers four subject areas: Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Students can prepare for the GED through self-study, GED preparation courses, or online resources. The test is available year-round in various testing centers across Thailand.

Among the universities in Thailand that accept GED are Mahidol, Chulalongkorn University, Prince of Songkla University and others.

In my opinion, it is the easiest way to get admitted to a Thai university.

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The SAT exam is designed for college admissions and evaluates students' readiness for undergraduate studies. It focuses on reading, writing, and mathematics skills. Students can prepare for the SAT through practice tests, study guides, and online resources. SAT is more difficult, but it is recognised much wider than GED, especially outside of ThailandA good SAT score can enhance university admission prospects and eligibility for scholarships.

Educational Frameworks

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is an internationally recognized educational framework that offers a comprehensive and balanced curriculum for students aged 16 to 19. It aims to develop students who are intellectually curious, socially responsible, and prepared to succeed in a global society.

In the IB program, students typically study six subjects, chosen from different subject groups. These subject groups include:

Language and Literature: This group focuses on the development of language skills, literature analysis, and critical thinking. Students study their native language or a language they are proficient in.
Language Acquisition: This group involves the study of an additional language, typically a foreign language that the student is learning. It emphasizes communication skills and cultural understanding.
Individuals and Societies: This group includes subjects like History, Geography, Economics, Psychology, and other social sciences. It explores human behavior, societies, and their interactions.
Sciences: Students can choose subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Systems and Societies, or Computer Science. These subjects promote scientific inquiry, experimentation, and understanding of the natural world.
Mathematics This group offers different levels of mathematics courses, including Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches, and Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation. Students can choose a course that aligns with their strengths and interests in mathematics.
The Arts or Electives: Students have the option to select subjects from various arts disciplines like Visual Arts, Theatre, Music, or they can choose another subject from the above groups.

Each subject in the IB program is assessed through a combination of internal and external assessments, which may include examinations, coursework, oral presentations, projects, and essays. The assessment criteria focus on a student's knowledge, understanding, critical thinking, research skills, and application of concepts.

Regarding differentiation in subject difficulty, it's important to note that each subject in the IB program is designed to be academically rigorous, but the level of difficulty can vary depending on individual strengths and interests. Within subject groups, there may be different courses or levels available to cater to students with varying levels of proficiency or depth of study.

For example, in the Mathematics group, the Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches course is generally more challenging and focuses on theoretical aspects, while Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation is more practical and emphasizes the application of mathematical concepts.

Similarly, within the Sciences group, subjects like Physics and Chemistry can be perceived as more challenging due to their complex theoretical frameworks, whereas subjects like Environmental Systems and Societies may be comparatively less demanding.

It's worth mentioning that students can choose their subjects based on their personal interests, career aspirations, and academic strengths. The IB program encourages students to pursue a well-rounded education while allowing flexibility in subject selection to accommodate individual preferences and aptitudes.

Advantages: The IB program is well-recognized globally and provides a broad and balanced education. It encourages critical thinking, research skills, and international-mindedness. IB Diploma holders may receive advanced standing or credits at universities.
Disadvantages The IB program can be academically rigorous and demanding. It requires a wide range of subjects and assessments, which can be challenging for some students.

Cambridge A-Level Program

The Cambridge A-Level program is a subject-based qualification offered by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). It is typically taken by students in the United Kingdom and various countries around the world. Key features of the A-Level program include:

Subject Specialization: The A-Level program allows students to choose specific subjects of interest and study them in-depth. Students typically select three to four subjects for their A-Level studies. This specialization provides a focused and detailed understanding of the chosen subjects.

Flexibility: The A-Level program offers flexibility in terms of subject combinations. Students have the freedom to choose subjects from various disciplines, including sciences, humanities, mathematics, languages, and the arts. This flexibility allows students to tailor their studies according to their interests, strengths, and future career aspirations.

Modular Structure: The A-Level program is divided into separate units or modules, with exams taken at the end of each module (AS and A-level). This modular structure allows students to focus on one subject at a time, enhancing their understanding and knowledge incrementally. It also provides opportunities for students to retake specific modules to improve their grades.

Depth of Study: The A-Level program emphasizes depth of study in the chosen subjects. Students engage in comprehensive coursework, research, and critical analysis to develop a high level of subject knowledge and understanding. This depth of study prepares students for advanced study in their chosen fields at the university level.

IB vs A-levels

Both the A-Level and IB programs are academically rigorous and recognized by universities worldwide. Here are some key points of comparison.

Subject Breadth and Depth: The A-Level program allows for subject specialization, focusing on a smaller number of subjects in greater depth. In contrast, the IB program offers a broader curriculum, requiring students to study six subjects across different disciplines. The IB program aims to provide a well-rounded education with a balanced approach to subjects.

Assessment Structure: The A-Level program primarily relies on external examinations, with exams taken at the end of each module. The IB program, on the other hand, includes internal assessments, coursework, and external examinations. The IB program also includes the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) essay, the Extended Essay, and the Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) component.

Educational Philosophy: The A-Level program is often seen as subject-focused, allowing students to specialize and develop expertise in specific areas. The IB program takes a more holistic approach, emphasizing interdisciplinary connections, critical thinking skills, and international-mindedness.

University Recognition: Both A-Levels and the IB Diploma are recognized and accepted by universities globally. The recognition and acceptance of these qualifications may vary depending on the country and specific university requirements. It's important for students to research and confirm the recognition of A-Levels and the IB program with the universities they are considering.


In conclusion, the post-IGCSE journey presents students in Thailand with various options for pursuing higher education. If the goal is to quickly gain acceptance into a Thai university, the GED exam provides a straightforward and efficient path. However, it's important to note that the GED may not open doors to reputable universities outside of Thailand. For those aspiring to study in well-regarded institutions abroad, the SAT exam is the preferred choice.

For students aiming to enroll in universities with high rankings and seeking a comprehensive education, both the A-Level and IB programs hold great value. The IB program offers a holistic approach, requiring students to study six subjects from different categories, promoting interdisciplinary connections and critical thinking skills. On the other hand, the A-Level program offers in-depth study in typically four subjects, allowing students to specialize and develop expertise in specific areas.

While the GED exam offers the easiest route, it's worth considering the benefits of studying A-Levels before entering university. A-Level studies provide a solid foundation and can greatly enhance the learning experience at the university level.

Remember, the choice of your post-IGCSE path should be based on your individual strengths, interests, and future goals. Researching university requirements, consulting with academic advisors, and exploring the possibilities will help you make the best decision for your educational journey.