- Northern Ireland
- Wales (Wales now has a separate approval process and so it may be that not all BTEC Nationals are approved for use in Wales)
The Department for Education (DfE) describe Applied General qualifications as follows:
Applied General qualifications are rigorous advanced (level 3) qualifications that allow 16 to 19 year old students to develop transferable knowledge and skills. They are for students who want to continue their education through applied learning. Applied general qualifications allow entry to a range of higher education courses, either by meeting the entry requirements in their own right or being accepted alongside and adding value to other qualifications at level 3 such as A levels. Higher education institutions, such as universities, have pledged support for all approved applied general qualifications listed.
Some vocational qualifications offered at Level 3 have been reformed as a result of changes to school performance tables. Vocational qualifications must meet the criteria set by the Department for Education (DfE) in order to count towards school performance tables. These reforms mean that 91% of the Level 3 qualifications that previously counted towards school performance tables were removed from performance tables in 2016.
For accountability purposes, vocational qualifications are now be classified as:
- Applied General qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to provide a broader vocational education. They ‘are designed for students wanting to continue their education through applied learning.’ These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including endorsement by at least three universities and colleges.
- Tech Level qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to lead to a ‘recognised occupation’. Examples provided by the DfE include engineering, accounting, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and IT. These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including the endorsement of five employers registered at Companies House.
The reform to vocational qualifications is being conducted in two stages: an interim stage and full stage. Each of these stages introduced new criteria for vocational qualifications to meet in order to count towards school performance tables.
The first teaching of the qualifications reformed on an interim basis was from 2014 and these counted towards school performance tables in 2016. Only qualifications that meet the full criteria count towards performance tables from 2018. Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the performance tables, if the qualifications are approved for teaching by the Secretary of State under Section 96:.
The characteristics that must be met by Applied General qualifications as detailed in the DfE criteria are as follows:
Interim Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2016 performance tables)
Full Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2018 performance tables)
A. Declared Purpose
D. Synoptic Assessment
E. External Assessment
G. Employer involvement (Technical Level Qualifications only)
I. Proven Track Record
These changes include, but are not limited to:
- Size: Applied General qualifications must require at least 150 guided learning hours (GLH). Tech Level qualifications must require at least 300 GLH.
- Appropriate content: A qualification specification must state the specific content that students must pass to achieve the qualification. Mandatory content and the associated contribution to the overall grade must make up at least:
- 60% of an Applied General
- 40% of a Tech Level
- Appropriate assessment: Applied General must have at least 40% external assessment. Tech Levels must have 30% external assessment. Students will also be given one opportunity to resit.
- Synoptic assessment.
- Grading: All vocational qualifications must be graded using three grading points or more, such as Distinction/Merit/Pass.
Further information about Applied General qualifications, and the range of qualifications that meet these requirements, can be found on the DfE website.
Regulation of Applied General and Tech Level qualifications
The regulation of Applied General and Tech level qualifications delivered in England is the responsibility of Ofqual.
The regulatory approach undertaken for Applied General and Tech level qualifications differs to A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification-level criteria for Applied Generals, as there are for GCSEs, AS and A levels currently. Applied Generals is a category introduced by the Department for Education for accountability purposes rather than a specific type of regulated qualification. To be included in the Applied General category, qualifications have to demonstrate particular features outlined in the table above.
Applied General qualifications must comply with Ofqual’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualification.
- Pearson (Edexcel)
There are five different sizes of Pearson BTEC National qualifications:
- Extended Certificate
- Foundation Diploma
- Extended Diploma
Not all subjects have qualifications at each size.
The specifications are modular in structure and are made up of a series of units, categorised by their guided learning hours (GLH).
For more detailed information on the units/structure of a Pearson BTEC National, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the Pearson website.
- Applied law
- Applied science
- Art and design
- Childcare and development
- Creative media production
- Enterprise and entrepreneurship
- Health and social care
- Human biology
- Information technology
- Performing arts
- Sport and exercise science(s)
- Travel and tourism
- Forensic & criminal investigation
- Applied science has pathways in biomedical science, analytical & forensic science and physical science
- Art & design has some units in common with Tech Levels in photography, graphics, 3D design & crafts, fashion design & production.
- Computing has some units in common with Tech Levels in computing for creative industries, computer science, computer systems & network support and business information systems.
- Creative digital media production has some units in common with Tech Levels in film & television production, film & television visual effects, sound production, interactive publishing and digital games design & development.
- Engineering has units in common with Tech Levels in engineering, aeronautical engineering, computer engineering, electrical & electronic engineering, manufacturing engineering and mechanical engineering.
- Enterprise & entrepreneurship has some units in common with business
- Forensic investigation and forensic & criminal investigation have units in common with applied science
- Health & social care has a pathway in health studies.
- Performing arts has pathways in acting, dance and musical theatre.
- Sport has units in common with the Tech Level in fitness services.
- Level 3
Level 3 qualifications are regulated to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).
Level 3 is broadly aligned to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 / 7.
Internally assessed units are graded Pass (P), Merit (M), and Distinction (D).
Externally assessed units are graded Near Pass (N), Pass (P), Merit (M), and Distinction (D).
The grades for each unit are allocated points, which are proportionate to the size of the unit. The unit grades achieved by a student are converted into points and added together to determine the final overarching qualification grade.
The overall qualifications are graded as follows:
Certificate: P, M, D, D*
Extended Certificate: P, M, D, D*
Foundation Diploma: P, M, D, D*
Diploma: PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*
Extended Diploma: PPP, MPP, MMP, MMM, DMM, DDM, DDD, D*DD, D*D*D, D*D*D*
As noted in Education Context, to be classified as an Applied General qualification the qualification in question must meet certain criteria. This includes:
- A minimum of 40% external assessment
- A minimum of 60% mandatory core content
- An element of synoptic assessment
- There is a single resit opportunity
For BTEC Nationals, units are designated as internally, externally or synoptically assessed. Internally assessed units are 60 or 90 GLH and externally assessed units are 90 or 120 GLH.
Externally assessed units are set and marked by Pearson, and at least a part of the assessment is carried out under supervised conditions.
External assessments may include:
- written exams
- tasks involving an additional activity (e.g. research or an investigation) prior to the supervised part of the assessment
- tasks carried out under supervision over a number of sessions (students have no access to their materials between sessions)
Internally assessed units are assessed by teachers. They are contextualised using realistic, work-related scenarios, and may be provided by local employers. These units usually involve assignments, but may be exams. They may be in the form of:
- written reports/business proposals,
- solving and explaining a mathematical problem
- reporting on the findings of a practical investigation
Each unit in a qualification has specified assessment and grading criteria. Assessment and grading are subject to external standards verification.
For more detailed assessment information, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the Pearson website.
All BTEC National Applied General qualifications have a minimum of 40% external assessment.
To achieve a Pass on a BTEC National qualification, students must achieve:
- the points threshold for the Pass grade for the specific size of qualification
- at least an N grade on all externally assessed units
- at least a Pass grade on all of the internally assessed mandatory units
For specific grade ranges and unit information, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the Pearson website.
Externally assessed units
Students are allowed two resit opportunities
Internally assessed units
Only one resubmission of an assignment is allowed for internally assessed units. This must be done in the same academic year, within 15 working days of the student receiving the initial result.
Students who have failed their resubmission may retake the assessment by doing a different assignment, but achievement on this retake is capped at Pass grade only.
Certificate: 180 GLH
Extended Certificate: 360 GLH
Foundation Diploma: 510 or 540 GLH (depending on the subject)
Diploma: 720 GLH
Extended Diploma: 1080 GLH
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Certificate (first teaching from September 2016)
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Certificate (first teaching from September 2016)
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Foundation Diploma (first teaching from September 2016)
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma (first teaching from September 2016)
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma (first teaching from September 2016)
Applied General qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to develop transferable knowledge and skills.
Popularity of Applied Generals has risen over recent years. The entry rate for the combined BTEC only and A level and BTEC groups was 6.0 per cent in 2016, up from 5.8 per cent in 2015.
There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing Applied General qualifications that meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:
- These qualifications are fundamentally different to their predecessors and likely to result in students developing different skills and aptitudes. HEPs should review their understanding of these qualifications to ensure it remains up to date.
- The dual running of the qualification may result in applicants declaring the incorrect version within their application. UCAS will be working to support applicants and advisers in this area.
- The fully-reformed qualifications include both external and synoptic assessment, as well as changes to resit processes. These changes are likely to result in fewer students passing the qualification. Equally, it is likely that grade distributions will change. In light of this, HEPs may wish to review their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies in relation to these qualifications.
- Fully-reformed and interim-reformed qualifications will be delivered by schools and colleges at the same time (see ‘Education context’). Therefore, HEPs may wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications.
- A larger mandatory core means that HEPs who require certain levels of achievement in particular units or ask for specific units to satisfy subject knowledge requirements should familiarise themselves with the new content specifications to ensure that these requirements are still valid. It should be noted that not all students will be able to choose their optional units as they may be prescribed by the school or college, therefore HEPs should be cautious if requiring achievement in optional modules as part of their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies.
External assessments are available twice a year, in December/January and May/June.
Most students will be taking at least one external assessment in the summer series of the second year of their programme. Therefore, HEPs will receive the vast majority of results for students taking these BTEC Nationals in August, at around the same time as they receive A level results.
These are current qualifications.
The results of Pearson BTEC National qualifications are reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL).
Pearson BTEC National qualifications differ in size; some may meet the entry requirements for higher education in their own right in a related area and some may need to be offered in conjunction with other Level 3 qualifications, for instance A levels. In addition, some higher education courses may require specific levels of achievement in particular units or ask for additional qualifications to satisfy subject knowledge requirements.