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.
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, OCRs, City and Guilds, etc. Different qualifications are available in schools and colleges, with some colleges only offering vocational courses.
What is the difference between an A Level and a vocational qualification, like a BTEC?
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 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 have been called Applied General Qualifications since September 2014.
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, 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 noting if the vocational qualification will allow you to access the course that you are interested in studying.