More about qualifications

Qualifications fall into three main types:

  1. Academic - these are subject based, the most common being A levels, and are usually assessed by exams.  You'll study particular subjects in-depth which can then lead on to higher education (university), an apprenticeship or employment.
  2. Applied general - these cover broad vocational areas and give you an introduction to an industry, such as travel and tourism, engineering, health and social care.  They combine academic study with practical learning and are usually assessed by a mixture of coursework and exams.  They include BTEC and OCR qualifications and can lead on to higher education (university), an apprenticeship or employment.
  3. Vocational or technical - these are for those of you who have a clear idea of what you want to do.  They focus on a specific industry or occupation and are usually assessed by a mixture of coursework and practical, work-based tasks.  They recognise the skills and knowledge you need to do the job.  They include NVQs, some BTEC and OCR qualifications, as well as diplomas and certificates from other awarding bodies such as City & Guilds.  They will prepare you primarily for employment and may form part of an apprenticeship.

When making a choice you need to think about three things:

Which type of qualification fits your future plans?


How do you learn best?

  • Check which course fits in with your preferred learning style.  Do you learn best through the use of images, maps and graphs (visual), through listening and speaking (auditory), through words (reading and writing), or are you a hands-on learner (kinaesthetic).

Which level is best for you?

  • Qualifications are grouped together into levels of difficulty.  There are nine levels from entry level to level 8.  Each level has different entry requirements.  Most of you taking GCSEs will achieve results at either level 2 (9-4) and/or level 1 (3-1) giving you the entry requirements to progress on to qualifications at either level 3 or 2.  To see what qualifications are available at what level take a look at the section on qualifications in Decisions & Choices.  Speak to your tutor or subject teachers to find out what level you are currently working at.
  • For many apprenticeships and job-related courses you may need to take a qualification at either the same or a lower level rather than progressing to a higher level qualification as you need to learn the basics first.