AQA Applied Generals (reformed)

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AQA Level 3 Applied Generals (180 and 360 GLH)
Countries
  • England
  • Northern Ireland
Purpose

The Department for Education 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.

Education context

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 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. However, 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.

Read 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

                                   X

                           X

B. Size

                                   X

                           X

C. Recognition

                                   X

                           X

D. Synoptic Assessment

 

                           X

E. External Assessment

 

                           X

F. Grading

 

                           X

G. Employer involvement (Technical Level Qualifications only)

 

                           X

H. Progression

 

                           X

I. Proven Track Record

 

                           X

 

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 need to 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 qualifications must include at least 40% external assessment. Tech Levels must include 30% external assessment. Students will 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.

 Read more information 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, as outlined in the table above.

Applied General qualifications must comply with Ofqual’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualifications.

Awarding organisation
  • AQA
Qualification codes
601/7145/5 (AQA Level 3 Certificate in Applied Business – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7146/7 (AQA Level 3 Extended Certificate in Applied Business – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7104/2 (AQA Level 3 Certificate in Applied Science – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7105/4 (AQA Level 3 Extended Certificate in Applied Science – 2018/19 performance tables)
Structure

The specifications are modular in structure. Learners have to pass each unit to achieve the qualification.

  • The Certificate qualification is 180 GLH and consists of three 60 GLH mandatory units.
  • The Extended Certificate qualification is 360 GLH and consists of six 60 GLH units. Five of the six units are mandatory and the sixth unit represents a choice from three optional units. The three Certificate units are 'nested' within the larger Extended Certificate qualification.

HEP endorsements for each qualification can be found on the subject pages of the AQA website.

Visit the AQA website

Subject areas
  • Applied business
  • Applied science
Levels
  • 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.

Grading

The overall Certificate and Extended Certificate are both graded P, M, D, D*.

Individual units are graded P, M, D. The grades for each unit attract points which are added together to identify the final overarching qualification grade.

Assessment

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 the AQA Applied General qualifications, externally-assessed units have timetabled 1.5 hour examinations in January and June of each year, and externally set and marked assignments (done in class over a specified time period) in January and June of each year. Internally-assessed units are assessed by the centre and externally moderated by AQA in January and June each year.

Centres are also given opportunities to develop internal assignments in a way that encourages both synoptic learning and assessment.

For more detailed assessment information, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the AQA website.

Visit the AQA website

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Certificate: 66.6% external, 33.3% internal

Extended Certificate: 50% external, 50% internal

Resit arrangements

Reformed Applied General qualifications only permit one resit opportunity per unit. The resit must be a new task or assignment, different to the original assessment.

Guided/notional learning hours
The Certificate is the size of half an A level (180 GLH).: 180 hours
The Extended Certificate is the size of one A level (360 GLH): 360 hours
UCAS Tariff points

AQA Level 3 Certificate in Applied Business

Grade Points
D* 28
D 24
M 16
P 8

AQA Level 3 Extended Certificate in Applied Business

Grade Points
D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16

AQA Level 3 Certificate in Applied Science

Grade Points
D* 28
D 24
M 16
P 8

AQA Level 3 Extended Certificate in Applied Science

Grade Points
D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16
Key issues for UK HE admissions

Applied General qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to develop transferable knowledge and skills.

The popularity of Applied General qualifications has risen over recent years. The entry rate for applicants holding at least one BTEC (either alone or in combination with A levels) 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 learners 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 learners 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 learners 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.
Timing of assessments/results for learners

Externally-assessed units have timetabled examinations and externally set and marked assignments in January and June of each year. Internally-assessed units are assessed by the centre and moderated by AQA in January and June of each year.

Results for the January session are published in March, and results for the June session are published in August. Overarching certification is available in March and August.

Qualification date
Starting from 01 Sep 2016 (First teaching starts from 1 September 2016)
Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

Reporting and certification information

The results of AQA Applied General qualifications are reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL).

View the results available through ABL

Progression information

Applied General qualifications differ in size; some may meet the entry requirements for higher education in their own right and some may need to be offered in conjunction with other Level 3 qualifications (e.g. 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.