What is the difference between A levels and vocational qualifications?
At the end of your GCSEs there are a range of choices at 16. These include staying on in the sixth form, going to a college, or doing an apprenticeship.
If you achieved 5 GCSEs at grade 4-9 then you will have a Level 2 qualification and could progress to a Level 3 qualification such as A Levels, some apprenticeships or vocational qualifications.
Vocational qualifications, often called BTECs, OCRs, City and Guilds, etc. can sometimes be done alongside A levels, in a Sixth Form or in a college.
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.
Level 3 vocational qualifications (BTEC, 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 job 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 also sometimes called Applied General Qualifications.
A range of different assessment methods are likely to be used - such as assignments, tests, 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.
If you are intending to study at university in the future it is worth checking entry requirements to see if the vocational qualification will be accepted for entry to the course that you are interested in studying in the future. More and more universities are accepting vocational qualifications as entry but you do need to check.