ICSE vs CBSE: Which is the Toughest Board?

icse vs cbse

In which boards should I admit my child?” “Which board is better, CBSE or ICSE?” “What can ensure a secure future for my child?” All these questions including many others are common to a parent during their ward’s first school admission. Provided the high competition around, the worry is understandable. 

If you’re one such parent looking to explore options for their child’s admission, this is the correct place to stop by. Here, we’ll provide you with detailed guidelines on ICSE vs CBSE to help you gauge the features and differences between the two boards. It can help arrive at a firm decision for your ward. 

Seems interesting? Read on!

Which board is toughest in India? 

Understanding this will need you to have different points of comparison for both the respective boards. In this blog, we will consider the factors:

  • Syllabus 
  • Acceptability
  • Transfer Options
  • Instruction Medium 
  • Competitive Edge 
  • Pros and Cons 

Is ICSE tougher than CBSE? Which board is best in India? Let’s discuss the above pointers in detail and examine the questions. 

All About CBSE Board 

cbse board

CBSE full form stands for The Central Board of Secondary Education. Administered by the Union Government of India, CBSE is one of the most anticipated and popular boards in the country. At present, the board affiliates over 21,271 schools in India and 220 schools in 28 abroad countries. It conducts exams up to the secondary and higher secondary level for both regular and private candidates. 

The NCERT-approved board organises the two respective examinations by the name The All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE) and The All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE). Affiliating both public and private schools, the board aims to broaden the logical-mindedness of the pupils with advanced curriculum concepts. 

Some basic features of the CBSE board: 

  • The board is in charge of many competitive exams including JEE and NEET. 
  • It encourages interactive learning to impart thorough knowledge among the students. 
  • The board also extends the facility of CBSE books on its website for easy availability among the students. 

All About the ICSE Board 

cisce board

The ICSE board full form stands for the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. The board affiliates 2300 schools around and covers a comprehensive syllabus to help students broaden their social views. It provides schooling from classes 1 to 10. Students under this board are required to take the exam in six socially productive subjects. Sometimes, it can be difficult to access the ICSE books in the market as per the requirement. 

The extensive ICSE curriculum follows an application-based approach to help students be industry ready and prepared for the outside competitive world. The council is a non-government organisation that takes the ICSE examination at the end of class 10. Then it shifts to the ISC (Indian School Certificate) which examines 12th-grade students. 

Some basic features of the ICSE Board 

  • The board puts extra focus on practical studies and ensures the overall development of the candidates. 
  • It’s a nationally and globally recognised organisation that helps students who can shift abroad for higher studies. 
  • The inclusion of global content in the syllabus prepares the students with an analytical mind. 

Now that we have a short glimpse of the basics of both boards, let’s get inside the main comparison pointers for ICSE vs CBSE.

CBSE VS ICSE: What’s the Difference Between Their Syllabus? 

Understanding the difference between CBSE and ICSE starts with identifying their respective syllabus structures. 

The CBSE syllabus is NCERT based and is highly recommended for students who aspire to sit for top competitive exams like NEET or JEE. It has a solid focus on mathematics and science and aims to impart strong theoretical knowledge among the students. The syllabus is precise and builds on explaining topics to help students with a good knowledge of the topics covered. 

When it comes to the strong practical knowledge, the ICSE board gets the preference. The application-oriented comprehensive curriculum helps students with learning plans for the future. With a strong focus on the English language, ICSE board students have the upper hand in scoring big in exams such as IELTS or TOEFL. 

Which board is best CBSE or ICSE, can be better explained with an overview of their respective syllabus structure. 

  • The range of subjects in ICSE is vast including English, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, etc. Creative buffs can even take up subjects like Home Science, Fashion Design and Agriculture. The extensive syllabi of the ICSE board often mark it to be the toughest board in India. 
  • CBSE syllabus, on the other hand, is more compact and precise and is primarily focused on detailing strong theoretical knowledge among the candidates. It’s the best fit for anyone willing to take up the prestigious competitive examinations. 
  • CBSE follows a grade-based numbering while ICSE uses scores to display the candidates’ obtained marks. 

CBSE Vs ICSE Board: Which Board Has A Better Competitive Edge?

The next point we’ll discuss in ICSE vs CBSE is which board has a competitive edge in current times. 

While picking the correct board for your child it’s crucial to keep the future competitive edge of the market in mind. It’s important to select the correct board to help your child establish their career goals. The goals can vary from one individual to the other and interests might change based on circumstances. 

As kids, they might not have any preferences as such but having an idea about the competitive edge can strategize your planning. 

  • CBSE follows NCERT-recommended books that are helpful for preparations in competitive examinations like Engineering or Medical. The 10+2 curriculum is supportive to prepare for the concerned examinations and students can benefit from these readings. 
  • On the other hand, the ICSE board covers an in-depth curriculum that imparts industry-based knowledge among the students and helps them grow to survive in this competitive setting. The syllabus is more suitable for students who aspire to take up TOEFL or IELTS examinations. 

Which board is hard in India? There might not be a specific answer to this question because both the concerned boards serve respective purposes. If one has medical or engineering in mind, CBSE might be the right fit, whereas if settling in a foreign is in mind, ICSE can be helpful. 

CBSE VS ICSE: What’s the Medium of Instruction in Each?

The next point of comparison in ICSE vs CBSE is the medium of instruction adopted in each of the boards. 

Language proficiency contributes to the overall development of the student. In case it plays a vital role in the board selection for your child, this point is important. 

  • CBSE is usually preferred among students because the instruction mode is in English or Hindi. The primary focus is given on English which helps students strengthen their writing and speaking skills. 
  • ICSE board on the other hand prefers English as the sole instruction medium. That’s again a big bonus for standard exams to settle abroad. Moreover, ICSE schools focus on teaching language and literature skills that help shape individual personalities. These traits often make the ICSE board exam most difficult in India. 

 Based on the individual choice for instruction mode, any of the two boards can be selected. 

CBSE vs ICSE: Which One has a Better Acceptance?

The next point in ICSE vs CBSE is the acceptability of the respective boards in the nation and all around the globe. 

As parents, you might have travelling plans for the future or as the child grows up they can aspire to set up a career abroad. Based on these preferences, you can select the board of your choice. 

  • Regardless of the course you’re opting for, CBSE board students have a wider acceptance mostly in all universities, especially anyone within India. 
  • ICSE board students have a wider acceptance too. Moreover, they also have the upper hand when it comes to enrolling in a foreign land or settling abroad for professional purposes. 
  • ICSE board candidates get strong recommendations when it comes to going abroad because of the curriculum structure. CBSE board students can get abroad too if they’re clearing the prescribed exam and meeting the standard guidelines. 

If acceptability is important to you, this point is a must remember. 

CBSE Vs ICSE Board: Can You Shift to Other Boards?

Transferability is an important point while discussing ICSE vs CBSE. One can be a CBSE student willing to shift to the other board or vice versa based on circumstances or change in interest. How will that experience be among the best education boards in India? Let’s find out. 

  • Maximum schools are affiliated with CBSE and accept applicants from all over, irrespective of the board they have studied in. 
  • On the contrary, the ICSE board doesn’t take students in 9th or 12th grade from any different boards. To be eligible for admission in the concerned classes, the student must have studied their 9th or 12th from an ICSE-affiliated school. 

Nobody knows what might come up in the future if one will need to shift from one board to the other. CBSE vs ICSE: Which is the better board? This debate will be never-ending. Looking at the pointers, one can gauge the differences. 

CBSE Vs ICSE Board: What Should You Know About The Grading System?

The next one that stands out in ICSE vs CBSE is the grading system for both the respective boards. We already know, the CBSE board exam follows alphabetical grades and ICSE uses a numbering scheme. 

To understand the difference in their grading system, let’s use a tabular format. 

ICSE Grading System 

Grade Standard
1/2Very Good 
3/4/5Pass with Credit 

CBSE Grading System 

Grade Grade Point Marks Range 
E1 & E2021-32

ICSE Vs CBSE Board: Some Pros And Cons You Should Know

cbse icse pros and cons

 So far we have covered the ICSE and CBSE difference in detail. After discussing almost all the major pointers in ICSE vs CBSE, let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both boards. 

CBSE – Pros and Cons


  • An easier syllabus makes it preferable among students 
  • The school options are vast in India 
  • The secondary subjects are not compulsory 
  • The board uses both Hindi and English as a teaching medium 


  • The syllabus might not be comprehensive enough to make the student’s industry ready.
  • Most of the curriculum is theory-based. 

ICSE – Pros and Cons


  • The board follows application-based learning to impart in-depth knowledge to the students. 
  • High English preference helps students to opt for abroad options in future. 
  • Equal emphasis is put on core subjects. 


  • The extensive syllabus might get the students tired. 
  • The grading system is super strict. 

Wrapping Up 

Which is tough, CBSE or ICSE? Does this board have a good scope in future? Which is the hardest board in India? All these questions are a must-come when it comes to selecting the right board for your children or planning for a transfer. Right selection in this case matters a lot because it’s responsible for shaping the future. 

We hope this blog could clear the major doubts on ICSE vs CBSE comparison. Ensure to consider all the features, pros and cons of the respective boards and go with the one that ultimately fits your needs! 


Q1. ICSE vs CBSE: which has a better syllabus? 

Ans. CBSE syllabus focuses on imparting strong theoretical knowledge while ICSE is more comprehensive and has an application-based curriculum. 

Q2. Is ICSE harder than CBSE? 

Ans. Considering the extensive syllabus and strict grading system, ICSE can be noted to be more difficult than the CBSE board. 

Q3. Which syllabus is best CBSE or ICSE?

Ans: Students willing to take JEE or NEET in future can benefit from the CBSE syllabus while students willing to sit for TOEFL exam can benefit from the ICSE syllabus. 

Q4. Which is the toughest school board in the world?

Ans. Difficult marking system, vast practical-based syllabus and strict curriculum make ICSE to be one of the most difficult boards in the world. 

cbse books class 9 to 12

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