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A Levels and Vocational Courses

What is the difference between A levels and Vocational courses?

One of the main differences between a BTEC and A Levels is the way students learn and are tested. A Levels mainly involve two years of study with exams at the end, whereas BTECs are assessed throughout the two years through a combination of tests, coursework and practical projects.

Vocational Courses

Level 2 

The entry requirements for Level 2 BTEC courses vary from college to college. Generally, Level 2 applicants are expected to have at least 3 GCSEs at grade 3.

Level 3

As with A Levels, students generally need at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, to include English and Maths, to study a Level 3 BTEC.


Plenty of universities and higher education colleges will offer places onto degree and degree-level courses to students with 18 unit BTECs. If you opt for a 12 unit BTEC, most higher education courses will require you to have an A Level or AS Level as well. It’s all down to the individual institution and course, so it’s worth checking what level and combination of qualifications you might need if you already have an idea of what you want to study after Level 3.

A levels

Advanced level qualifications (known as A levels) are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. You can normally study three or more A levels over two years. They’re usually assessed by a series of examinations. 

In order to study A levels you normally need:

*  at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4/A* to C

*  at least grade B in the specific subject(s) you want to study

However, the specific requirements needed to study A levels will vary across schools and colleges. It's important to check what you will need with the school or college you are looking to study at.  

 Who are they for:

*  If you're thinking about going to university, most higher education courses require specific A levels or combinations of A levels (or alternative level 3 qualifications).

*  If you’re not sure what career or job you want to do, studying a selection of A levels can be a good way of keeping your options open.


Many people ask 'What can I do with my A levels?', here are some answers:

*  Continue on to university– A levels are the most common qualifications studied to get into higher education.

*  Keep your options open if you’re unsure about what you want to do in the future.

*  Look for employment – they’re valued by employers because they show a good level of education.

*  Go on to vocational or work-based qualifications, such as a higher apprenticeship.

For further information on A levels, continuing to university and apprenticeships please follow the following links here:

What are all the options for you?

Continue on to university

Degree apprenticeships

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