AICE Diploma: What Is It? Should You Get One?


There are several options for students who wish to accelerate to college-level learning during their high school years. Besides AP classes and the IB program, there's the AICE Diploma.

If you're not very familiar with the AICE program, never fear—this article will bring you up to speed. Here, we'll cover what the diploma is and how you can get it as well as the benefits of pursuing this program (including scholarships and college credit).


What Is the AICE Diploma?

The Cambridge AICE Diploma (or Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education) is an internationally recognized diploma awarded to students for the satisfactory completion of a series of academically rigorous courses specific to AICE in high school.

It's viewed as a graduation option in some places: the diploma can stand in for the graduation requirements of certain high schools, although most students will likely earn it in addition to their traditional high school diplomas.

The AICE program is also described as an acceleration mechanism, meaning it gets you ready for hard college classes at a more rapid pace than traditional coursework. As with the AP and IB programs, AICE involves studying college-level material before you graduate high school. You are also more likely to be accepted into honors classes right away!

The whole AICE program is overseen by a branch of the University of Cambridge. The classes are hard, and most are offered at two levels: the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level, and the Advanced (A) Level. AS Level classes are one year long and less demanding than their A Level counterparts, which are two years in length.

Classes tend to be narrow and specific in focus; the AICE Diploma entails an extremely specialized program. In this way, AICE is more like IB than it is AP (if you're familiar with these programs).

With AICE, there are 55 subjects to choose from across four different groups:

  • Group 1: Mathematics and Sciences
    • Examples: Biology, Marine Science, and Further Mathematics
  • Group 2: Languages
    • Examples: Afrikaans, Spanish, French
  • Group 3: Arts and Humanities
    • Examples: Hindi Literature, Media Studies, Economics
  • Group 4: Interdisciplinary and Skills-Based Subjects
    • Examples: Thinking Skills, General English Paper

The AICE Diploma is internationally used and recognized, and it's accepted at many universities around the world. At some schools, AICE courses will earn you college credits (we'll go over this in more detail when we talk about the benefits of the program).



With AICE's degree of international recognition, taking a bird's eye view of the program is probably a good idea.


How to Get an AICE Diploma

Students wanting to earn an AICE Diploma must first consider whether there is a school nearby that offers the program. AICE classes aren't something you can take on your own—you must earn the diploma through an approved school. And these schools are much more common overseas than they are in the United States. But there are definitely schools in the U.S. that offer AICE classes! You'll need to check with your individual school and/or school district to see if these classes are available in your area.

You can locate the nearest school offering AICE on the Cambridge website. Schools that offer AICE might offer AP and/or IB as well. If you're aiming for an AICE diploma, though, you'll have to commit to participating in the AICE program.

You might be able to get a certificate or two from a second program, but don't count on diplomas from the AICE program and the IB program, for instance. Each diploma program entails a number of classes, and it's not practical to think you could fulfill all the requirements of both!


Curriculum and Course Load

Once you're enrolled in a program, it's time to think about the classes you'll need to take. Seven credits are required for earning the diploma: one credit each from Groups 1, 2, and 3, and three credits distributed across the groups in any desired combination. The last credit is earned through Cambridge International AS Level Global Perspectives & Research.

Optionally, up to two credits may be taken from Group 4, the interdisciplinary and Skills-Based subjects group. Your exact options when it comes to classes will depend on which courses are offered at your school.

Passing an AS Level exam (corresponding to a one-year course) earns you one credit; passing an A Level exam (corresponding to a two-year course) earns you two credits. You must take all exams within a 25-month period.


Exams and Grading

In each subject you can earn an A*, A, B, C, D, or E, or you can fail. An A* is similar to a high A+ in the US, while an E is similar to a C in the US. Yes, you read that right—each letter grade is more impressive than its American counterpart, with even an E being counted as a passing grade.

For each credit you earn, you are awarded somewhere between 20 and 60 points. These points are cumulative and count toward your diploma (more on that in a minute.) Here's how the points break down for A Level classes:


Grade Points
A* 140
A 120
B 100
C 80
D 60
E 40
Fail 0


And here's how the points break down for AS level classes:


Grade Points
A 60
B 50
C 40
D 30
E 20
Fail 0


Depending on your scores, you can earn the AICE Diploma at Pass level, with Merit, or with Distinction. Here are the point ranges you must have in order to meet each level of distinction:

  • AICE Diploma at Pass Level: 140-249 points
  • AICE Diploma with Merit: 250-359 points
  • AICE Diploma with Distinction: 360 or more points (maximum score is 420 points)

If you don't earn the diploma, you can still be awarded certificates in the various subjects you took, which could help you with getting into college or earning college credit.



Imagine if your to-do list for the AICE Diploma looked this simple.


What Are the Benefits of the AICE Diploma?

There are many ways that earning the AICE Diploma pays off for students. Here are a few of the benefits you should consider if you're looking into the program.


College Credit

Depending on the college you decide to attend, you can earn up to 45 hours of college credit from the AICE Diploma. Individual course certificates can also earn you college credit if you don't earn the diploma.

All of this depends on which college you go to, though. You can check out which schools around the world recognize AICE at the Cambridge website.

Schools in the US are much less likely to recognize AICE than they are AP scores or the IB diploma. Schools in the US that do recognize AICE tend to cluster in Florida. That's because AICE is a more internationally-minded program, with AICE recognition much more commonplace overseas.

AICE is recognized at places such as Florida State University, Arizona State University, the University of Oxford, and Qatar University.



In Florida, completing the diploma and 100 hours of community service automatically nets you the Florida Academic Scholarships Award via the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

There are also various school-specific scholarships at colleges such as Mississippi State. Check with individual schools for details.


Preparation for College

AICE is more flexible than IB, allowing students greater choice in the balance of classes they select.

If, for instance, a student wants to take four credits in languages and only one in each of the other required categories, that's completely OK! AICE also demonstrates more concern over the amount of time students spend on busywork, remaining committed—by its own declaration—to helping students learn without excessive amounts of homework.

On the other hand, AICE courses are more specific in their focuses than AP classes are. AP classes are known for their broad and shallow approach, whereas AICE classes narrow in on particular subjects and drill deep.

In a lot of ways, AICE seems to be a happy medium between these two other college preparatory programs. Plus, according to studies by the University of Florida and University of Virginia, it also appears that AICE Diploma students earn higher GPAs in college than AP or IB students do.

All of this indicates that it might not be a bad idea to pursue AICE just for the preparedness factor. In fact, AICE could be a great option for your education as a whole.



I'm not saying getting your AICE Diploma will definitely make you feel this good—just probably.


Conclusion: What Is the AICE Diploma?

AICE is not currently as well known within the U.S .as are its academic counterparts, AP and IB; however, the program definitely has its own merits.

The AICE Diploma, which is overseen by the University of Cambridge, demands that students fulfill a number of rigorous requirements. This program can earn students recognition, college credit, and scholarship money at certain schools, and it's also an excellent way to further your education all around.


What's Next?

For suggestions on when to take AICE over AP or IB, check out our complete introduction to AICE.

If AICE doesn't sound like your cup of tea, head on over to our discussion of AP and IB and see which of these programs might be more appealing to you.

If you're not clear on what the IB program is, we've got you covered. Take a moment to read about IB classes and the IB program as a whole.



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About the Author
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Vero Lecocq

Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.

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