Students getting their exam resultsBTEC and other Awards, Certificates, Extended Certificates, Diplomas and Extended Diplomas

Work-related Qualifications

Vocational and work-related qualifications may be studied full or part-time in schools and colleges from the age of 14. They are offered at levels 1 to 4 and are usually ‘BTECs’, 'Cambridge Technical' or ‘City and Guilds’ qualifications.

Assessment is mainly by course work but changes mean that some courses now include exams or practical assessments.

Subjects offered are related to broad areas of work, such as engineering, art and design, construction, health and social care, business, IT and leisure:

  • Level 3 qualifications may be known as Applied General qualifications.
  • also available as more job-specific qualifications called Tech Level qualifications. Examples include floristry, pathology support and accounting.
  • Tech levels count towards a new Technical Baccalaureate.
  • To achieve the TechBacc you need to take a Tech Level qualification alongside a level 3 maths qualification and the Extended Project qualification.

These qualification are offered at different lengths and levels:
  • an Award is usually 12 credits or more
  • a Certificate is usually 13 to 36 credits but can be more
  • a Diploma is 37 or more credits, such as Level 2 Diploma in Business.
Most level 1 and level 2 courses take one year to complete and level 3 courses take two years.

Qualifications include:
  • BTEC Awards, Certificates, Extended Certificates, Diplomas, Foundation Diplomas and Extended Diplomas at levels 1 to 3 develop knowledge and skills in a broad work-related area. Subjects offered include business, IT, health and social care, music, engineering, childcare, hospitality, performing arts, applied science and sport. Depending on the content and grade achieved, study at BTEC level 3 is equivalent to between one and three A levels.
  • Cambridge Nationals at levels 1 and 2 are offered in business, health and social care, ICT, media and communication, science, sport science and sport studies
  • Cambridge Technicals at level 2 and 3 are aimed at post-16 learners. Subjects offered include art and design, business, health and social care, IT, media, performing arts and sport
  • CACHE Awards, Certificates and Diplomas at entry level to level 4 are offered in nursery nursing, play work and childcare.

Look on GOV.UK for what different qualification levels mean


Page updated November 2017

A Levels

Students getting their exam resultsA and AS levels - GCE Advanced Level and Advanced Subsidiary

A levels are offered by... sixth forms, sixth form colleges and some some further education colleges. They can also be studied through distance learning and:

  • are usually studied over two years
  • need a minimum of five or six GCSEs at grade 9 to 5, A* to C or equivalent, usually including English or maths to start a course
  • some subjects, such as languages and sciences, may need previous study at GCSE level
  • are offered in over 40 subjects.
  • are also available as vocational/applied A level and AS level subjects in for example, art and design, business, health and social care, and science. They are graded in the same way.
  • A levels are graded A* to E (they were previously graded A to E).
  • AS levels will continue to be graded A to E.

Changes to AS and A levels in England:

Full details of the changes are explained on the GOV.UK website, including the timetable for each subject, they include:

  • A levels are fully linear, meaning all assessment/exams will be taken at the end of the course
  • AS levels are offered as separate qualifications - no longer part of an A level qualification. This means that the AS results will NOT count towards a full A level qualification
  • By 2017 all AS and A level courses changed to the new style
  • Biology, chemistry and physics practicals now include at least 12 practicals, for which an overall pass or fail will be awarded in the final A level grade, in addition to the overall A level grade achieved.
  • There are different assessment/criteria for AS and A levels in Wales and Northern Ireland

For more information about A levels and other qualifications look on GOV.UK

New T levels

T levels’ are new technical study programmes taught full-time, that will sit alongside apprenticeships and aimed at ensuring vocational qualifications are considered equal to A levels. They will be offered across 15 sectors:

  • Agriculture, environmental and animal care
  • Business and administrative
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Childcare and education
  • Construction
  • Creative and design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Hair and beauty
  • Health and science
  • Legal, finance and accounting
  • Protective services
  • Sales, marketing and procurement
  • Social care
  • Transport and logistics

T levels will be available to study from September 2020, some will launch between September 2021 and September 2022. A few 'pathfinder' T levels may be offered in some areas from 2019. It means that at 16 young people will be presented with two choices: the academic or the technical option. The technical option will prepare individuals for skilled employment that requires technical knowledge and practical skills valued by industry. It will be offered as two routes to skilled employment - T levels or apprenticeships.

Time table for T level introduction announced March 2018:

Autumn 2020 - first T level programmes start for specific occupations in 3 industries:
 - software application development (digital industry)
 - building services engineering (construction industry)
 - education (education and childcare industry)
Autumn 2021 - full range of T level programmes start for the following industries:
 - digital
 - construction
 - education and childcare
 - engineering and manufacturing
 - health and science
 - legal, finance and accounting
Autumn 2022 - full range of T level programmes begin for the following industries:
 - hair and beauty
 - agriculture, environment and animal care
 - business and administration
 - catering and hospitality
 - creative and design

The T level study programme will generally be over two years and will include a new technical qualification that may be taught in a classroom, workshop or simulated work environment. The programme will include a work placement of up to three months as well as English, maths and digital content.

T levels are designed to train young people with the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to enter skilled employment in a particular occupational area. The content of the T level will be based on the same occupational standards, used for the apprenticeship route, with content defined by employers and others. T levels will generally be taken by 16 to 19 year olds, but will take account of the needs of adult learners. T levels are for students who want to develop work-related knowledge and skills, but are not yet clear about the specific occupation they want to work in. They are for students who want to get the specialist knowledge and skills they need to progress to employment in a highly skilled occupation, including higher degree apprenticeships.

Individuals will be assessed at the end of the programme to test and certify their skills. Students who pass all parts of the programme will be awarded a T level certificate.

Look on GOV.UK for more information on the reforms to GCSEs and A levels, and additional information for T levels


Page updated November 2017

Other qualifications

Students 18plus 040... at Level 3

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

EPQ is aimed at 16 to 19 year olds who want to go to university. It is designed to show independent working and an ability to analyse, as well as demonstrate the student's reflection on their own learning.

EPQ is:

  • on the UCAS Tariff
  • equivalent to an AS Level. It is graded A* to E
  • subject study chosen by the student, who works alone. It can be an investigation, report, performance, artefact (practical project with a written report) or dissertation.

Qualifications not widely available in Calderdale and Kirklees.

For more information about these qualifications look on the following websites:

Access to Higher Education Diploma

‘Access Courses’ are for adults who want to take a university level course but have not achieved the qualifications needed. Access courses are:

  • an alternative to A levels and can be completed in one year if studied full-time.
  • offered in business, healthcare, humanities, science and social science
Access courses may require maths, English and sometimes science at GCSE.

BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies Art and Design

Art and design foundation courses are for students who want to do a degree or HND course. They:

  • are one year full-time course
  • often studied after an A level course
  • are offered by colleges.

Year 0/Foundation Year

Year 0/foundation year courses are offered by some universities for a range of reasons:

  • alternative entry route on to a degree for students who have the right level of qualifications but do not have the right subject combination, for example arts students wanting to do a STEM (science, engineering, technology or maths) degree
  • required in addition to an Access course for some degree courses
  • intensive preparation for degree courses for people returning to education after at least three years away
  • offered by universities to students who, if successful, usually progress on to one of its degree courses.

Some courses may ask for evidence of recent study at Level 3 plus English and maths GCSEs 9 to 5/4 or A* to C or equivalent. Science GCSE may be required for some courses.

For more information about A levels and other qualifications look on GOV.UK

Look on GOV.UK for what different qualification levels mean


Page updated November 2017

Certificates and diplomas - Level 4 and above

Students getting their exam resultsBTEC and other Certificates and Diplomas

Certificates and diplomas are vocational and work-related qualifications. They may be studied full-time or part-time at a range of levels. Part-time courses may form part of a higher apprenticeship.

Certificate of Higher Education (CHE) - Level 4 Qualification:

  • offered at universities, colleges and further education colleges (accredited by a higher education institution) on a full-time or part-time basis
  • part-time study usually over two years, comparable to one year full-time degree level study 
  • progression can be to a diploma or degree.

Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) - Level 5 Qualification:

  • a vocational qualification in subjects, such as nursing and youth and community work
  • usually two year full-time, comparable to two years study of a degree
  • offered by universities, colleges and further education colleges (accredited by a higher education institution).

BTEC Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma (HNC/HND):

  • offered by universities, colleges, further education colleges (accredited by a higher education institution).
  • cover vocational subjects such as art and design, business, engineering, construction
  • can be studied part-time if you are in a related job
  • institutions set their own entry requirements but qualifications at level 3 or evidence of recent study is usually required.
  • you may, with further study, be able to top this up to a degree.

Look on GOV.UK for what different qualification levels mean.


Page updated November 2017

Foundation Degrees

Students getting their exam resultsFoundation degrees (FdA, FdSc) are employment-related higher education qualifications

They have been designed with employers to meet their requirements and are:

  • offered by universities, colleges, and some further education colleges (accredited by higher education institutions).
  • in vocational subjects, such as housing, social care, computing, business, travel and tourism.
  • available on a part-time or full-time basis. Part-time foundation degrees may form part of a higher apprenticeship.

Institutions set their own entry requirements but qualifications at level 3 or evidence of recent study is usually required. You may, with further study, be able to top up a foundation degree to a degree.

Science conversion courses are offered by some universities.

They are aimed at students with arts A levels at good grades who want to study science at degree level.

Look on GOV.UK for what different qualification levels mean


Page updated November 2017

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