O Level, IGCSE, AS & A Level
O-level stands for ‘Ordinary Level’.
O-levels are UK public exams taken by 16 year olds, typically after 2 years of study. Most students take between 5 and 12 O-levels. After your O-levels you usually do A-levels (‘Advanced Level’).
The O-levels were replaced within the UK by GCSE’s about 30 years ago. The GCSE’s had a huge element of coursework while the old O-levels were completely exam-based. Schools outside the UK preferred to continue with the O-levels because they involved less coursework so were easier to administrate.
However, later a coursework-free version of the GCSE was introduced, called the IGCSE (International GCSE), which was specifically for students outside the UK.But to make things really silly, over the last 30 years GCSE’s have shifted towards less and less coursework, so now all 3 - the O-level, GCSE and IGCSE - are exam-based and are basically the same thing!
To confuse things, GCSE’s are going through a radical change right now with a new system where instead of getting A* to E, students get a 9 to 1. The 9 will be way harder to get than the old A*.