FAQ - Cambridge Curriculum


Cambridge - Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CAIE)

Students can enter tertiary study from either CAIE or NCEA. We have chosen to offer CAIE because we believe our students will be better prepared when they enter tertiary study.

It is hard to compare the two systems as they use different means to assess students. However, it is important to remember that AS and A2 Level courses are 170-180 hours long, so more content is covered than in comparable NCEA courses (the latter being 120 hours long). This extra time will allow more content to be covered and this may make it appear that some CAIE subjects are ‘harder’.

In most subjects the material covered in the final year of school courses is not the same as the first year university courses. However, if there is clear evidence that a student has covered a course to a high level there are systems available to consider exemptions.

Considerable work has been done with universities to inform them about CAIE, and work with employers is continuing.

In many subjects the content is very similar and certainly the standards are almost identical. The content in mathematics and science is similar to that used in the UK. Some CAIE subjects will not have as great an emphasis on New Zealand content. While this may be seen to be a disadvantage in some subjects, the wider international perspective of CAIE can be seen as an advantage overall.

CAIE created examinations for students outside the UK in the 1880’s as a response to requests from other English-speaking countries for qualifications that would enable them to attend Cambridge University. Later, as the University system grew in the UK, more countries took on these examinations and others began to use Cambridge as a benchmark for their own national systems. These international examinations were based on the same curricula and schemes of assessment as those used in the UK. This is mostly still the case, except that Cambridge has become more responsive to the fact that the students living outside the UK have different cultural backgrounds and sometimes different language skills. Cambridge examinations are not aimed at any one market. They are sufficiently broad in their compass to appeal to a number of users wishing to gain an internationally recognised qualification.

The Association of Cambridge Schools in New Zealand (ACSNZ) has established several courses to provide for the special needs of New Zealand students and to maintain continuity with courses already accepted as part of the NZ curriculum. The syllabus and assessment standards have been carefully assessed by CAIE and sample examination papers and model answers have been approved. Examinations are set and marked in NZ and are moderated by CAIE. The courses are all examined in November.

CAIE is not a ‘norm referenced’ qualification. That means the percentage of students achieving a certain grade will vary from year to year and is not pre-determined. Grades are based on standards that have been set and maintained over a period of time. Experienced examiners are able to assess whether grade boundaries should be adjusted to ensure similar standards are maintained from year to year, while detailed procedures are in place to check standards between subjects.

CAIE grades are widely accepted. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK have determined that CAIE grades and qualifications are to be accepted as equivalent to UK qualifications. A Levels are known and accepted worldwide. Each country or university will have different entry standards and you should check these well ahead of when you apply. In addition, many prestigious universities (such as Oxford and Cambridge) will require an interview as part of their selection. If you are considering overseas study, you are advised to include three A Level subjects in your course of study.

There is no requirement that you must complete an IGCSE course first. However, if you are to succeed, you will need and appropriate level of competence and knowledge in a subject before proceeding to a higher level. You may have gained this through a different qualification. As a guide, a C grade in IGCSE is desirable before proceeding to AS and a minimum of a D grade in AS is recommended before attempting A2 Level. Teachers will be able to assist you to decode if your prior learning is sufficient to proceed.

A fee will be sought before your paper will be reviewed – a range of checking processes can be sought.

A fee will be sought before your paper will be reviewed – a range of checking processes can be sought.

Yes you may study different subjects at different levels. Some courses will be based on courses at a lower level so you should consult your teachers or Mrs Young for specific advice.

Coursework is work that is assessed in the school by the teachers. This includes projects, folios of essays, field work, art and craft items, and design studies, internally set and assessed speaking tests, practical work, assignments and experiments assessed during the course. This work is moderated by CAIE. This means that either all the work or a section of the work is sent to the UK for checking. Marks will then be confirmed or adjusted according to the results of the sample. In some subjects, coursework is a compulsory component. In others, schools have the option of selecting a coursework or a non-coursework option.

The CAIE website www.cambridgeinternational.org has extensive material about CAIE qualifications and examinations.  This includes course outlines for subjects at all levels as well as specimen and past examination papers. In addition there is considerable material on the CAIE student website www.cambridgestudents.org.uk. You can also contact the ACSNZ Administrator or the CAIE Representative in New Zealand for more information.

IGCSE is a two-year course. However, Year 9 and 10 programmes will have covered part of your course material. Hence IGCSE courses can usually be covered in a one-year programme in NZ schools.

You will need to spend about 170-180 hours per course. This is considerably more than is needed for an NCEA course so most students will study three or four subjects each year for AS or A2 Level.

New Zealand students receive both a mark and a grade for each subject examination sat. For example, your result may be a mark of 74% in AS History and a B grade. The grades that can be achieved for IGCSE range from A* to G. For AS and A Level they range from A to E. No mark will be given if you fail to achieve a grade (you are Ungraded).

To complete an A Level you must sit both AS and A2 papers. This may be done at two separate examination sessions (within a 13 month period) or all papers may be sat at the one session. If you sit them separately, the results will still be combined.

This is when the AS and A2 papers are sat at separate examination sessions. A staged assessment is possible in most subjects. However, in a small number of subjects (notably languages) a full A Level must be completed at the one examination session.

No A2 is not a qualification and can only be taken in conjunction with AS papers (either from the same or an earlier examination session) towards a full A Level.

Yes, you may resit at any subsequent examination session. The higher marks from the two sets of AS results you have gained will count. However, for AS and A Level you will need to complete all papers within a 13 month period.

If you have not previously sat AS papers and you sit a full A Level, it is possible to receive a compensatory AS (based on how you performed in these papers) if you do not meet the standard for an A Level grade.

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