What to study?

What to study?

There are lots of different types of courses to choose from in further education ranging from general academic study, such as A levels, to courses with a more work-related or vocational focus, such as BTECs and OCR Cambridge Technical qualifications and from September 2020 new technical courses will be available called T Levels. 

Some courses will even prepare you for a specific job but all courses will help you progress towards your career goals.  

Don't forget! There are courses available for everyone in further education regardless of how well you have done at school.

You may be able to take a combination of courses, for instance, study a general course alongside a vocational one.


AS and A levels (Level 3)

  • Some sixth forms and colleges offer both AS and A levels while others offer just A levels
  • You usually study between three and four A level subjects (check with the sixth form or college to confirm their offer)
  • You study AS levels for one year and A levels for two years
  • You may be able to combine AS and A levels with other qualifications, such as BTECs
  • As well as studying subjects you know in more detail, you can start new subjects such as economics, media studies or sociology
  • Include theory and written work and are mainly assessed by exams
  • A levels prepare you for higher education/university (HE) and employment.  You may need specific subjects and grades for some HE courses and careers so do check entry requirements
  • Find out more about A levels here

Extended Project Qualification (Level 3)

  • Taken by some students and equivalent to half an A level
  • You have to choose a topic, plan, research and develop your idea and decide on your finished product
  • Your finished product can be a research based written report, a production (eg charity event) or an artefact (eg piece of art)
  • You record your project process in your production log

BTEC qualifications (Levels 1, 2 and 3)

  • Are related to particular fields of employment such as business, engineering and ICT
  • Some are in more specific job areas, such as floristry, electrical/electronic engineering or fish management
  • Can be studied on a full or part-time basis
  • BTEC Nationals (Level 3) can lead on to higher education/university courses
  • Find out more about BTECS here

T Levels (Level 3)

  • These are brand new 2-year technical courses equivalent to 3 A levels which started in September 2020
  • Developed with employers, they are designed to provide the skills and knowledge required to get into a technical career
  • T Levels will combine classroom learning with an industry placement (for approximately 45 days)
  • The first three T Levels in Digital, Childcare and Education, and Construction started in September 2020.  More subject areas including Health and Science will be available from September 2021.
  • Only selected colleges and school can provide T Levels  
  • In Norfolk the following will be offering T Levels from September 2021; City College Norwich, Thorpe St Andrew School & Sixth Form, Paston College, East Norfolk Sixth Form College and The College of West Anglia.
  • T Levels can lead to skilled employment, further study or a higher apprenticeship
  • Find out more about these new qualifications here

OCR Cambridge Technical qualifications (Levels 2 and 3)

  • Are offered in some schools and further education colleges
  • They are work-related qualifications aimed at students aged 16+
  • Available in several work-related subjects including health and social care, media and sport
  • Assessment is through internal and external assessment including coursework assignments to build up a portfolio of evidence
  • OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technicals can lead on to higher education (degree) courses
  • Find out more about these qualifications here

Job-related qualifications (Levels 1, 2 and 3)

  • These are vocational or technical qualifications that will train you for a specific job
  • You can take them full or part-time usually at a further education college but many are also taken as part of an apprenticeship
  • Usually include a work placement so you can develop and learn the skills required for the job
  • Assessment is on your practical skills and on your ability to do the job

Foundation Learning (Level 1)

  • Designed to help you move on to other courses, an apprenticeship or work
  • Gives you the chance to move up to gaining qualifications that are equivalent to GCSEs at grades 3-1.
  • Made up of a package of qualifications that include vocational subjects (eg bricklaying, childcare, retail) and personal and social development and include maths, English and IT qualifications
  • They will have different titles depending on the provider