Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: English First Language

Timothy Hoffmann

Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: English First Language

This subject brief covers the English First Language syllabus at both Core and Extended level.

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English First Language is currently offered at Core and Extended level. 2019 is the final year in which teachers can choose to enter students for the Core tier (up to and including Grade C) or the Extended tier (which includes the A*, A and B grades). The Extended tier is different in that you have more complex tasks to complete during the Reading paper.

Assessment and Grading:

You will be assessed in terms of reading and writing,  and possibly in speaking and listening. Core and Extended candidates will take different Reading papers, but will do the same tasks for all other papers and components of the syllabus. Further details can be found below.

For the Reading paper, you have to read two passages and then complete various tasks. The first task is usually a directed writing task, where you have to write a new text (such as a diary, letter or interview) based on what you have read.

After this, Extended candidates have to complete a task where you show that you understand the effects that writers create. You are normally asked to choose 3-5 phrases from a text you have read that you think are especially effective, and explain why you have chosen them. Core candidates, instead, complete reading comprehension questions about what they have read. Your final task in the Reading paper is a summary. You firstly need to select 15 relevant points from the specified text for 15 marks, before rewriting these into a continuous paragraph.


Teachers then have a choice. They can request that all of their students take Paper 3, which both Core and Extended candidates take. The first task is another directed writing task, like in the Reading papers. The second task gives you a choice of 2 narrative and 2 descriptive tasks. Of these total 4 tasks, you choose one to do.

If teachers do not want their students to take Paper 3 then they can request that they take Component 4, which is a coursework portfolio made up of 3 pieces of writing that you have done in class or at home. Your teacher marks these, but the scores are moderated by Cambridge.

Papers 1, 2 and 3 (or Component 4 instead) make up your final grade (A*-G if Extended, C-G if Core). All components are equally weighted at 50% each.

Components 5 and 6 are optional. If schools choose to, students can also take a speaking and listening test, or record a series of spoken tasks for a speaking and listening portfolio. These don’t count towards the final IGCSE grade and are marked separately on a scale of 1 (high) to 5 (low).

Grade boundaries change every year and depend on the components taken. As an example, in June 2017, students had to score between 70% to 85% (depending on the components chosen) to earn an A*, while a C was between 54% and 66%. You can check past years’ boundaries here.