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The Game Of Boards: Key Differences Between CBSE And ICSE You Should Know

Posted by Manikandan kumar in Education
June 21, 2017

What are the differences between the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), which conducts the ICSE and the ISC examinations? Believe it or not, but this is one of the most sought-after topics among parents these days! For the parents whose kids are ready to make it to school soon, the major concern is about which board can help their children crack all the entrance exams, or at least allow them to secure good grades in future.

While planning or thinking about the future of their kids, parents usually obsess over whether to send their child to a CBSE-affiliated school or one affiliated to the CISCE. Whatever be the case, rather than concentrating more on selecting the board, parents should first know the differences between the syllabuses offered by the two boards.

After finding out the differences between the two boards, parents should also understand that they are the ones who can ensure a good future for their kids, and not the boards. While schools can only teach the kids, when it comes to learning, kids usually look up to their parents.

Keeping all these in mind, here are some striking facts (and differences) regarding the two boards, that can help parents decide what’s best for their kids:

1. The Courses

Before starting with the differences between the syllabuses, one must know what exactly the two courses are, and how they have been crafted for the students. The CBSE is an important board of education in India that conducts the All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE) across the country. On passing this examination, students are awarded with class 12 certificates and become eligible to sit for the various entrance exams throughout the country. Due to the fact that the CBSE caters to both Hindi and English medium schools, Indian students might find this ideal to learn and grow.

The CISCE is another major education board in India. It was originally formed to administer the University of Cambridge, Local Examinations Syndicate’s Examination in India. While CBSE courses are more focused on theoretical learning, the CISCE’s courses emphasise on both theoretical and practical learning.

In addition to this, students who have passed the ICSE and ISC examinations generally stand a greater chance of going abroad. This is further helped by the fact that the board prefers English, which has greater global acceptance, as its medium.

2. Syllabuses:

The most significant difference between the two boards lie in the structures of the syllabuses they offer.

Compared to the syllabuses of courses offered by CISCE, CBSE course syllabuses are more focused on progressive learning. They have been designed in a way that allows the student to learn things eventually, or in steps. By doing so, students do not have to repeat previous courses – as they start from the basics and then move towards higher levels. This also allows the student to have a solid foundation, and prepare themselves for the various entrance or competitive exams in future.

On the other hand, CISCE course syllabuses are designed to keep students updated about what they may have learnt previously. Unlike those offered by the CBSE, these syllabuses require students to ‘repeat’ a course they may have already passed. This way, the student gets to learn new things about the same subject, while still being well-acquainted with its previous versions and basics. The course segmentation also encourages the students to prepare by themselves, and therefore avoid coaching classes for competitive exams or entrance tests.

3. Exams:

Though both the boards design courses to provide the best of education to students, and also to bring the best out of them, their exam procedures are completely different. Let’s have a look at some of these differences.

The CBSE exams are among the toughest in the country. However, this is not due to the contents of the course, but their vastness. That is why, in order to make it easy for the students to learn and grow, CBSE exams concentrate more on short answer questions. By doing so, the board ensures that the students can secure good grades in the exams and seek admissions in top-rated schools and colleges across the country.

On the other hand, the exams conducted by the CISCE always maintain a balance, with regard to their question papers. Question papers for the ICSE and ISC exams are set in a way that students get a balanced set of both subjective and objective type questions. Rather than concentrating only on certain types of questions, these exams ensure that a certain number of questions of various types need to be answered – so that the students can be judged according to their core knowledge in the subjects concerned.

The CISCE also considers school projects very seriously as they are included in the final grading of the students. By doing so, the board encourages the students to actively participate in project work. In the process, the students can gain practical knowledge on the subjects.

4. Learning:

While talking about learning processes, the differences between the two boards are almost nil. This is ideal for students. Surely, it will be unfair to judge one of the boards as being more superior or more beneficial for the students than the other!

Students enrolled in CBSE-affiliated schools get more exposure when it comes to developing analytical or problem-solving skills. More than just learning, students need to apply these concepts. This can significantly help them in preparing for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET). However, students attain these skills through cumulative processes, that need not necessarily require them to repeat or re-learn a previous course.

Students in CISCE-affiliated schools are nurtured in a way that helps them understand the core concepts of any subject. Even after students are promoted to the next class, they need to go through what they have learnt previously. This way, they stay updated about what they have learnt, while also building up their knowledge regarding the subject. This process not only helps them to acquire in-depth knowledge – it also prepares them for their futures.

Usually, if a kid is enrolled with any such school, he or she probably doesn’t require dedicated coaching classes to crack entrance exams in the future.

5. Admission Procedures:

By now, you should have acquired a fair amount of knowledge about the two boards. It finally comes to the admission procedures of these boards.

Though these procedures might appear to be the same, at first glance, there are actually quite a few differences. Let’s have a detailed look at this.

In case of CBSE-affiliated schools, students must comply with the age limits set by the regional government or education board.

1. For fresh admissions to class 8 and below, the prospective student may need to sit for an exam or any other evaluation procedure as regulated by the rules, regulations or orders of the state/union territory where the school is located .

2. For those who want to opt for admission in a CBSE-affiliated school in class 10 or 12, they must furnish their marksheets and transfer certificates (duly signed by the educational authorities of the previous school) at the time of admission.

3. The admission to class 10 and 12 can only take place if the student was previously enrolled in a CBSE-affiliated institution or an institution recognised by/affiliated to any recognised educational board in India. Also, the admission can be granted only if the student’s parents have transferred or shifted, due to unavoidable circumstances.

Just like the CBSE board, admissions to CISCE-affiliated schools are also governed by regional educational rules, regarding the issues of age limits and gaining admissions.

1. If students want to gain admission in class 9 or 11, or want to transfer to a different school, they must seek approval directly from the council through the principal of their current school.

2. For those who seek admission to a CISCE-affiliated school for class 10 or 12 (after having passed class 9 or 11 in a different school), do note that such admissions are granted, subject to very specific conditions. The principal of the admitting school will have to apply online, seeking prior approval of the transfer admission by furnishing all the relevant documents. In all probability, the prospective student may need to repeat class 9 or 11.

3. For those who want to apply to a CISCE-affiliated school after completing their class 10 exams from a different board, they are required to obtain an eligibility certificate from the CISCE, by submitting their marksheets and other relevant documents.

6. Undergraduate Admissions:

Better future prospects for their kids is the main reason why parents always crave to get their children admitted to the best schools. Irrespective of board results, cracking the engineering, medical or any other top-rated entrance exam is what comes first for many students and their parents. Therefore, let’s look at what the two boards have to offer, regarding future prospects.

As said before, by focusing on short answer type questions, the CBSE allows its students to score high, without compromising on the basics of the subject. The fact that it also allows the students to acquire in-depth knowledge on the topics makes the CBSE a saviour for the students, when it comes to cracking competitive exams. In fact, the schooling here is massively oriented towards helping students crack these exams.

When it comes to evaluating student responses in exams, the CISCE prefers to stay true to its own set of rules. To be precise, its evaluation process is tougher and stricter than that of the CBSE. To secure good marks, one should be dedicated and pro-active towards learning. By implying such strict rules, the CISCE not only filters the best of the students, but also encourages them to study hard and prepare for the various entrance exams, by themselves. In addition to this, the CISCE also lays stress on developing the intellect of its students, while also grooming their personalities.

Other Key Points:

To help you decide the best board or school for your kid, here are some other key points that may help you simplify your search for the right school or board.


1. There are plenty of schools affiliated to the CBSE throughout the country. The board is also making its presence abroad, and is offering world-class learning facilities to the students.

2. Even though the CBSE’s course is considered vast, it is quite predictable. Highly-experienced teachers and coaching centres can easily suggest or predict the important or probable questions and topics in maths or the science subjects.

3. If one views the results of students from the CBSE over the last few years, it can be concluded that it is the best fit for IIT-JEE, AIEEE, AIPMT, and medical exam aspirants.

4. Students can choose either Hindi or English medium schools, in this case.


1. Like the CBSE, this board is also helpful for those who want to improve their analytical and problem-solving skills while learning.

2. The numerical disparity with CBSE notwithstanding, students from this board do reasonably well in entrance exams (21.6% of students from this board cracked the IIT exams in 2016).

3. Private candidates or students from schools affiliated to a different board cannot sit for the ICSE or ISC exams directly.

4. The teaching and learning procedures have been designed in ways that may allow students to pursue multiple and various careers, after completing their schooling.

After such a detailed analysis, we can conclude that both the boards have their own pros and cons. Before deciding on this, parents should understand, or at least, try to understand the needs and requirements of their children. Only after they are aware of the likes and interests of their kids, should they worry about which school suits their children the best.

Remember – the best parents are those who not only decide a better future for their children, but also understand them!

Still confused about choosing between the boards? Write to us here, or sign up at Edvantage Point, and we’ll help you in your quest.


Image Source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images