What is that one strong desire that leads any student forward? Of course, it is the dream of finding a successful, yet enjoyable profession. Some might go for the most promising career of the time, and some might choose to build a career in what they excel. However, there is something integral to building up a dream profession – the foundation you give yourself. Your growth into an accomplished professional is rooted on the basic education and mentoring you receive while in school. This is where the crucial question arises – which board of schooling should be opted? Which one is most suitable for a student who wishes to achieve heights?

Well, to answer this question, we shall first look into the major boards of education available for students in India. CBSE and ICSE are the two most recognised boards in the country, which provides strong syllabuses and examinations in primary, secondary, and higher secondary phases. Both these boards are opted widely by students, and they regulate public examinations for standard X and XII. Let us now move further to understand what these popular abbreviations really are.

What is ICSE board and CBSE board?

CBSE, or the Central Board of Secondary Education, is a body under the government if India which indeed makes it one of the most preferred choices. All the central government schools including Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are affiliated to CBSE board. There are many private schools that run on its syllabus as well. CBSE is responsible for conducting two major examinations. All India Secondary School Examination, or AISSE is held for Class X, and All India Senior School Certificate Examination or AISSCE for Class XII. The curriculum with a nation-wide scope makes CBSE desirable.

Needless to say, ICSE is nowhere behind CBSE in terms of popularity. ICSE is in fact the secondary school leaving exam conducted by a recognised private board of education, CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Exam). Since the board is commonly referred by the name of the exam, we shall also follow the norm. ICSE has an interesting history to share. Back during its time of inception, the board was aimed at finding an Indian alternative to the Cambridge School Certificate Examination that existed during British rule. It has now grown into one of the most revered school exams in the country, and provides exam for class XII (ISC) as well.

ICSE syllabus v/s CBSE syllabus

Given that CBSE is government-run, and ICSE is private-run, it is quite normal to have doubts about the efficiency of the boards when compared with each other. Every parent in India surely would have gone through this dilemma of weighing between the two choices, confused about what to desire and what to expect. It is a rational decision to crosscheck the syllabus provided by any board of education before coming into a conclusion. In the case of CBSE and ICSE, however, there are many striking differences in syllabus structure.

CBSE provides somewhat a holistic syllabus, with six subjects for class X examinations. It also allows to choose a stream – science, commerce or humanities – while advancing to class XI. One most notable fact about CBSE syllabus is that it is highly focused on science and maths, which is why it becomes desirable for a student who would like to proceed to medical/engineering courses. CBSE syllabus is focused more on theory, unlike ICSE. Student can choose either English or Hindi as the tutoring medium. The board follows alphabet-based grading system.

ICSE, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast with CBSE at certain junctures in terms of syllabus. While CBSE provides and extensively theory-based curriculum, ICSE gives more space to the applications. Unlike CBSE, it gives equal weightage to arts, science and language. It accommodates a second language as a subject of study, along with more interesting choices that include home science, agricultural sciences, and even interior design. ICSE does not allow Hindi as medium of instruction. However, it certainly provides the best syllabus in the case of English language. Language proficiency is key for an ICSE student, and this explains why it has become a coveted choice for those who wish to migrate abroad. 

ICSE and CBSE: How do they differ?

Even while recognising the popularity and scope of these two boards of education, we cannot set aside the fact that these are both pretty different on various levels. It is from these differences that the question of choosing the best arise. As we have already seen, CBSE is opted by those who wish to crack NEET/JEE exams, since the syllabus is more or less oriented towards it. While CBSE has got a better footing within the country due to such reasons, ICSE caters to the requirements of those who wish to extend their horizons beyond their homeland. ICSE handles English language in an efficient and advanced way, making it easy for students to get through eligibility tests like IELTS and TOEFL. Well, this is just one of the many distinctions that can be drawn between these two stalwarts.

Even though both CBSE and ICSE certificates are valid globally, it is indeed obvious that CBSE provides better opportunities within the country. However, ICSE certificate can fetch you a higher value while applying for courses abroad. CBSE board also provides easier transfer, since the number of affiliated schools are comparatively higher throughout the country. You also have to keep in mind that CBSE board takes both regular and private students in for its exams, whereas to appear for ICSE exam, one should be a student of an affiliated school.

You might have often come across parents and students complaining about ICSE being way too tough to follow than CBSE. Well, it is partially true if we are talking about the extensiveness of subject. ICSE accommodates a rather wide range of subjects, that too taught in detail. CBSE is more specific when it comes to its texts. A student who follows CBSE syllabus doesn’t have to look as deeply into the subject as a student of ICSE does. However, the difficulty level also depends upon the grading system. CBSE follows alphabet-based grading and ICSE, mark-based. ICSE valuation involves internal assessment, which makes it much harder to crack. Above all this, ICSE is still more flexible when it comes to the choice of subjects and texts.

Which is better – ICSE or CBSE?

We now have very specific ideas about how both these boards work, and what sets them apart. So, how do you decide which one to choose? It is indeed a hard choice, given that both the boards provide high-quality education. The core subjects they engage with are almost the same, and their outlook towards education system also goes side by side. But, it is indeed possible to select the most appropriate one for you or your child. The first thing to keep in mind is that a student who does pretty well in CBSE system may not necessarily be able to excel in ICSE, and vice versa. The trick lies in identifying the student’s interests and skills.

If you wish to appear for competitive exams and courses related to such exams, then CBSE is your best choice. If you are that kind of a person who finds science and maths exciting and wish to build a career on such a ground, then go for CBSE without a second thought. You could also be a person who identifies language and humanities as your forte. If that is the case, ICSE could be your call. Needless to say, if you are planning on moving abroad for higher studies, choose ICSE. CBSE gives you a quality education based on theories, and ICSE pushes you to engage with its real-life applications. With this understanding, I am sure you’ll know which one to choose as per your aptitude.

Start free chat with an expert


There are innumerous boards of education including the state boards available in India. Still, we are talking about two of them, underlining the fact that they are the proud bearers of ‘the best’ tag. You can choose any of these accordingly, but never forget that this very choice is the first step towards an individual’s career path. A careless mistake made in this step could later turn out to be the reason for an impasse. When you choose the best board for your children, you are setting the first piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle they’ll continue to solve throughout their lives. Choose this first piece wisely.

If you liked this article, please share with your friends on facebook🙂. That would mean a lot to us.

We hope this article helped you become familiar with the difference between ICSE and CBSE. You can reach out and have a free chat with our experts at Hikewise for personalised support and advice on how to build a successful career ahead.

Hikewise – India’s most comprehensive and scientific personalized career development mechanism

Hikewise’s highly effective career development mechanism has been designed to suit any needs. Be it a high school student who is confused about what stream to choose or an undergraduate student who feels that they have chosen the wrong course, Hikewise’s unique and holistic approach will definitely set you on course towards a career and life that is successful and at the same time fulfilling.

Developed by a team of alumni from IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, National University of Singapore, Eindhoven University of Technology Netherlands, Technical University of Darmstadt, and Technical University of Munich, featured in media like The Hindu, The New Indian Express, Edexlive, Deccan Chronicle, and YourStory, and with a constant increase in its userbase, Hikewise is on course to becoming the last word in India for career counselling, guidance and mentoring.


1 Comment found

    comments user


    Thank u for ur clear picture about ICSE and CBSE article. Its really very useful for me to take into right path for my kids future.
    Can u suggest me some good CBSE or ICSE school in chennai city


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *