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Further Education College

What is the difference between A Levels and BTECs?

Students who get 5 GCSEs at grades 4-9 have a range of choices at 16, which include staying on in the sixth form, going to a college to do a range of courses, or doing an apprenticeship.

For more information about apprenticeships you can see the Apprenticeships section

Students not wishing to do an apprenticeship at 16 have the option to do Level 3 qualifications, such as, A Levels or vocational qualifications, called BTECs, T Levels, OCRs, City and Guilds, etc. These qualifications are available in schools and also in colleges. Colleges have a bigger choice of courses.

But what's the difference between an A Level and a vocational qualification, like a BTEC?

A Levels

A Levels are general academic qualifications.

Lots of young people choose to do A Levels (and AS Levels) and these are considered to be excellent general academic qualifications that are valued by employers and universities alike. A Levels offer a great route to degree level study.

A Levels can give young people a chance to find out about their favourite GCSE subjects in greater depth or perhaps do one of the subjects that many schools and colleges only offer at A Level such as Law, Economics or Psychology.

A Levels are good qualifications for entry to higher education. Each A Level earns UCAS tariff points, which count towards entry for university. Vocational qualifications at Level 3 also earn UCAS points and are accepted by universities, but some higher education courses will only accept A Levels.

Careerpilot also has a whole section about A Levels and how to choose them

Level 3 vocational qualifications (BTEC, T Levels, OCR, City and Guilds)

Level 3 BTECs (and OCR, City and Guilds) are vocational qualifications available in a wide range of subjects. People choose these courses if they are interested in learning more about a particular sector or industry. The qualifications offer a mix of theory and practice and can also include an element of work experience. Level 3 vocational qualifications are usually studied full-time at college, or at school (or in collaboration between a school and college) and can also be taken part-time.

Level 3 vocational qualifications can be studied instead of, or in combination with, A Levels. At Level 3, many of these qualifications are awarded UCAS tariff points for entry to higher education. Level 3 vocational qualifications are sometimes called Applied General Qualifications.

Methods of assessment on vocational courses vary depending on the sector and awarding body. A range of different assessment methods are likely to be used - such as assignments, tests, exams, observations of learner performance, role-play, work-based assessment, production of visual or audio materials and products. Generally, assessment is less exam-based and more coursework and project focused.

Please note that it is the present Government's intention to phase out most BTEC qualifications by 2024 which are gradually being replaced with T Levels.  Ask your local college for more information about which vocational courses they are offering.

More information

Careerpilot has information on all the choices available at 16 and 18.

And a section on A Levels

And vocational qualifications

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