Understanding qualifications


In general terms qualifications come in two types, academic and vocational. Academic qualifications like GCSEs and A levels show your general ability across a range of subjects, for example English and mathematics. Vocational qualifications show your ability in learning and applying that learning to an area of work, for example plumbing or physiotherapy. Some subjects may cross the divide, for example a GCSE in business studies.

Qualifications can be studied at school, at college, at university, at work or at home. Getting an apprenticeship, for example means that you will be studying for a qualification as well as gaining practical experience.

Qualifications are awarded at different levels, this allows progression, for example GCSEs are Level 1 or 2 qualifications depending on the grades you get, A levels are Level 3, so if you do well enough at GCSE level you could go on to take A levels and if you do well enough at Level 3 you could go on study university courses, which start at Level 4.

Same thing applies to vocational qualifications; you might leave school with Level 2 GCSEs to study plumbing. Depending on how well you did in your GCSEs this might be a Level 2 or Level 3 qualification but because plumbing is rather different from studying your academic GCSEs most people start on Level 2 courses. If your GCSEs were not that hot or you did not take GCSEs then Level 1 courses could be the next step. Be aware though that not all places offer all courses at all levels so you need to check what local schools and colleges offer. To be a qualified physiotherapist requires a university degree which is a Level 5/6 qualification, you would need to achieve a qualification at least Level 3 to apply for this.

This diagram from OfQual may help.

If you are not sure about a qualification or a level we will try and help you - contact one of our centres to speak to an MYT Adviser.

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