Do you know your AS-level from your NVQ? You will now, with TheSite's quick guide to UK qualifications.
GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education)
These are generally studied during Years 10 and 11, with GCSE exams taken in Year 11. School leavers of any age can also choose to study GCSEs at a local college. Those who do resits or start a GCSE course after Year 11 will be able to study the course in just one year.
AS-levels (Advanced Supplementary Level) and A-levels (Advanced Level)
A-levels are academic qualifications that provide a well-established and accepted route to degree courses and university. Once you have passed the AS-level in a subject, you can opt to study it in more depth by taking the second half of the A-level course, known as A2. The A2 is not a qualification in its own right.
You will usually need at least four Grade C GCSEs to study at A-level. A-levels usually take two years to complete and while most people take three subjects, some take two with other studies making up their timetable.
AS-levels can either be studied as the first half of an A-level or as a qualification in their own right, usually taking one year to complete. AS-levels are accepted by some universities.
Highers and Advanced Highers
These are the Scottish equivalent of AS- and A-levels, also taken in the last two years of school. The difference is your Higher grade does not count towards your Advanced Higher grade, so Sixth Year (Year 13) is a fresh start. Usually, entrance to university is based on Advanced Higher results, a pass being grades A-C. Highers are equivalent to A-levels, and worth the same number of UCAS points. For more information on qualifications available to Scottish students (Standard Grade, Higher or Advanced Higher) see this quick guide by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
The Diploma is a qualification for 14-19 year olds being offered in England only. It's recognised by most universities, however the Conservative Party has mentioned scaling back the qualification, so its future is unknown.
National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)
NVQs are for anyone aged 16 and over. They offer recognised vocational qualifications which are valued by employers because they demonstrate you have the high quality skills required at work. Don't confuse them with GNVQs, they're completely different. NVQs are available at five levels:
Level 1 - Foundation
Level 2 - Basic craft
Level 3 - Technician, advanced craft, supervisor
Level 4 - Higher technician, junior management
Level 5 - Professional, middle management
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