Indian Certificate of Secondary Education

The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) is an examination conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, a private board designed to provide an examination in a course of general education, in accordance with the recommendations of the New Education Policy 1986 (India), through the medium of English.[1]

The examination allows secure suitable representations of responsible schools (which are affiliated to it) in their states or territories.[2] Private candidates are not permitted to appear for this examination.

The ICSE is an English-medium examination. As such, the curriculum of all subjects (apart from Indian and foreign languages) is taught in English. [3]


Students taking the ICSE must write examinations in any six, seven or eight subjects. Of these, five subjects will be included in their final grade — out of these five, one will compulsorily be English, even if it is the subject in which the student has scored the lowest marks.[4][5] Certain subjects include two or three papers, that is, separately-held examinations for different spheres of a subject. For these subjects, the average marks obtained in the papers will be the final grade.

The subjects are divided into three groups.

Group I (compulsory subjects)Edit

  • English
    • Paper 1: English Language
    • Paper 2: Literature in English
  • A Second Language (one/two)*
  • History, Civics and Geography OR History, Civics and Geography (Thailand)**
    • Paper 1: History and Civics OR History and Civics (Thailand)
    • Paper 2: Geography OR Geography (Thailand)

*Two Second Languages may be chosen provided one of them is Hindi.

** History, Civics and Geography (Thailand) is mainly for Thai nationals.

Group II (core elective subjects)Edit

  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Paper 1: Physics
    • Paper 2: Chemistry
    • Paper 3: Biology
  • Economics
  • Commercial Studies
  • A Modern Foreign Language
  • A Classical Language
  • Environmental Science

Group III (practical-/vocational-based subjects)Edit

  • Computer Applications
  • Economic Applications
  • Commercial Applications
  • Art (any two papers to be offered)
    • Paper 1: Drawing or Painting from Still Life
    • Paper 2: Drawing or Painting from Nature
    • Paper 3: Original Imaginative Composition in Colour
    • Paper 4: Applied Art
  • Performing Arts
  • Home Science
  • Cookery
  • Fashion Designing
  • Physical Education
  • Yoga
  • Technical Drawing Applications
  • Environmental Applications
  • A Modern Foreign Language
  • Mass Media & Communication
  • Hospitality Management
  • Beauty & Wellness (Skin & Beauty)
  • Beauty & Wellness (Hair Styling)

Group I and Group II subjects consist of an 80-mark written examination along with 20 marks of project work or practical work (in the case of Science). Group III subjects, on the other hand, consist of a 100-mark written examination along with 100 marks of project work.


ICSE grades are awarded in two ways. One is the percentage in each subject — the pass percentage in all subjects is 40% — and the other is a numerical scale with descriptions as follows.

ICSE grades
Numerical grade Description
1 Very good
2 Good
3 Pass with credit
4 Pass with credit
5 Pass with credit
6 Pass
7 Pass
8 Fail
9 Fail

Legal validity challengedEdit

In the year 2015, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now called Ministry of Education) had asked the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), which conducts the ICSE and the ISC examinations, to furnish evidence to justify its existence.[6]


In 2013, a 20-year-old Indian student studying in the US, Debarghya Das, claimed in his personal blog to have downloaded the ICSE scores for over 100,000 students by scraping. His analysis of the data showed interesting patterns in the marking system, suggesting that the marks were rounded off with no student getting under 33 marks out of a possible 100. The reason for this was reportedly attributed to moderation; a practice also followed by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), it involved tweaking candidates' marks to account for paper variances.[7][8]


  1. ^ "CISCE". Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ "CISCE". Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Counting 7 subjects is discriminatory, says ICSE Board". HT Correspondent. Hindustan Times. 3 June 2010. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. ^ "ICSE pupils can again draw best-5 score from six subjects". The Times of India. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Govt test for ICSE board". Telegraph India. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Indian student in Cornell University hacks into ICSE, ISC database". The Times of India. 6 June 2013. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  8. ^ "He didn't hack, he scraped ICSE results and look what he found". NDTV Gadgets. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.

External linksEdit