Battle of The Boards II, CBSE Vs ICSE: Which One Suits You Better?

Posted on May 4, 2016

By Abhishek Jha:

Azharuddin Ismail, who acted as young Salim in the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire", sits with his friends in a classroom before attending their school's cultural day in Mumbai February 28, 2009. Ismail returned to Mumbai on Thursday after attending the 81st Academy Awards in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe (INDIA) - RTXC6VT
Image credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe.

As new sessions start in schools, there are a lot of students seeking information on what board would be suitable for their particular needs. While we have enumerated differences between the CBSE and the ICSE in an earlier post, here we give more detailed information on the two boards. The information put together here has been culled from the websites and publications of the respective boards. However, students should verify the same from the respective websites or their school authorities.


There are no age limits set by the board for admission to any class. However, the student must satisfy any limits set by the concerned State/U.T. government where the school is located.

The ‘General Conditions’ for admission require that a student must have been studying in a school recognised by or affiliated to CBSE or any other recognised Board of Secondary Education in India. This list includes almost all the state boards of secondary and senior secondary education in India, the CBSE, the ICSE, and the National Institute of Open Schooling. A provisional list of boards not recognised by the Indian government can be found here. However, of late, there has been some dispute over the recognition of the ICSE board by the government.

In addition, the student must have passed the qualifying or equivalent qualifying examination. The equivalence of various examinations can be found in the examination by-laws of the CBSE here. For admission to Class X and XII, however, one must have, in addition, been studying in a school affiliated to the CBSE alone, except in the case of transfer of the parent(s) or shifting of their families. In the case of such an exception, one is required to obtain a Transfer Certificate countersigned by the Educational Authorities of the Board concerned.

Age limits for ICSE too are subject to the rules laid down by the concerned State/U.T. Government.
Unlike the CBSE, the ICSE requires that those taking Class X and Class XII examinations (called Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Examination and Indian School Certificate Examination respectively) must necessarily be enrolled in an ICSE affiliated school from the previous class itself. Changing schools after Class IX or Class XI, too, even when studying in an ICSE affiliated school, requires the approval of the Council, which is to be obtained by the Principal of the admitting school.

However, for admission to standard XI, the ICSE requires the student to have passed the Class X examination from a recognised Examination Board in five written subjects including English in one and the same sitting (i.e., without any compartmental examinations).

Private Candidates

The CBSE also allows Private Candidates to take the AISSCE, the AISSE, and the respective versions of these exams under the Delhi Scheme. Private Candidates for AISSCE and AISSE are those who had failed to qualify the exam previously or those Regular Candidates of the previous year who had been allotted a roll number for appearing in the examination but could not appear at the examination due to medical reasons except shortage of attendance.

Under the Delhi Scheme, Private Candidates include women candidates and physically disabled students who are bonafide residents of the National Capital Territory of Delhi who are compelled to appear as Private Candidates but have privately pursued the prescribed course under proper guidance. There are other additional conditions for such candidates that the student must check in the examination by-laws here.

The ICSE does not have as many relaxations but it does allow students to take a Supplementary Pass Certificate, if they already have been awarded Pass Certificates, in a subsequent year. It also allows students who had not been awarded Pass Certificates to re-appear for the examination with certain other conditions that can be found here.


The ICSE has three mandatory subjects – English, a second language, and Social Science (History, Civics, and Geography) – for the board examinations at the end of the 10th standard, which tests students on the course material for both the 9th and 10th standard. Students need to additionally choose three other subjects from available options. Maths and Science are not compulsory subjects, unlike the CBSE.

At the Senior Secondary level two languages – of which one has to either English or Hindi – are mandatory under the CBSE. English continues to be a mandatory subject under ICSE at the Senior Secondary level too.

Additional information on the ICSE syllabi can be found here and here. CBSE syllabi can be found here.

The two boards also differ in the medium of instruction they offer, the assessment patterns they follow, and teaching methodology. You can check for the same via the respective websites of the two boards. A representative viewpoint on these points of difference is provided here.

Choosing Your Board

The two boards then have their own advantages and disadvantages. The CBSE remains a popular choice for a number of reasons. The Board exams, which are one of the first few public examinations that a student appears for, are based on the syllabus for one year, for instance. Engineering and medical examinations for entrance to popular engineering and medical colleges are also conducted by the CBSE, which makes people opt for the same board. This is in addition to the relaxations that the CBSE offers.

On the other hand, ICSE offers a little more flexibility in the choice of subjects. Its necessary requirement for an English medium instruction could be advantageous for some but also a roadblock for those wishing to be instructed in Hindi. However, the board’s recent tussle over recognition with the MHRD is what works to its disadvantage most right now. Moreover, schools affiliated to ICSE are smaller in number, which is not helpful for those students whose parents get transferred. The student then should choose a board that serves their interests or where the norms make them comfortable.

Also read ‘Battle Of The Boards, ICSE vs CBSE: Here Are Six Major Differences‘.

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