A major barrier preventing state schools from offering the traditional-style IGCSEs increasingly favoured by the independent sector was removed this week as the exams regulator accredited 15 of the qualifications.
It was feared that giving the international exam an official green light could create confusion with conventional GCSEs, and it is a name change that has allowed Ofqual to move on the issue.
The regulator has approved qualifications almost identical to IGCSEs, to be known in England as Cambridge International Certificates. Subjects include English, English Literature, French, geography, history, maths and physics.
The move is the first step towards the Government funding the qualification in state schools and allowing it to be used in league tables.
The independent sector has been lobbying hard for the change as more schools opted for the exam which involves less coursework than GCSEs and covers subjects such as calculus in greater depth.
In 2007, a survey showed that nine out of ten of England's top private schools were using IGCSEs in at least one subject.
The exam board, Cambridge International Examinations, is now in discussions with Government about the exam.
Kevin Stannard, the board's director of international curriculum, said: "CIE is committed to equality of access and we sought accreditation to avoid a two tier system."
A spokesman for the Department for Children Schools and Families said it know about the accreditation. "We have not received that application yet, and ifwhen we do it will be considered in the normal way. There is no automatic assumption that an accredited qualification will be approved for funding," he added.