AQA Tech levels (interim-reformed)

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The QIP covers all AQA Tech level (interim-reformed) qualifications that do not meet the full requirements set by the Department for Education (DfE) and do not contribute towards performance measures for 2018.

These qualifications meet the interim-reformed requirements for 2017 performance tables.

Countries
  • England
  • Northern Ireland
Purpose

The Department for Education (DfE) describe Tech level qualifications as follows:

Tech levels are rigorous advanced (level 3) technical qualifications on a par with A Levels and recognised by employers. They are for students aged 16 plus who want to specialise in a specific industry or prepare for a particular job. They cover jobs and careers where employers recruit people at this level or where a level 3 qualification is needed before students can progress to a related higher education course. Tech levels give students an opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and skills to help them get an apprenticeship or job, for example in engineering, IT, accounting or professional cookery, or progress to a higher level qualification. In some cases, a tech level qualification is a ‘licence to practise’ or can exempt someone holding the qualification from a professional exam. Tech levels are recognised by trade or professional bodies or at least five employers. Alternatively, the qualification may be accepted by a national licensed professional registration scheme.

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 be classified as:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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. The qualifications listed in this QIP are classified as Tech level qualifications however do not meet the full criteria to count towards performance tables from 2018 in respect of content, assessment and grading. 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 2017 AQA Tech levels meet the interim requirements set by the DfE and therefore may be offered in schools and colleges alongside the 2018 fully reformed versions:

 

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

 

As noted in the table above, the 2017 and 2018 versions of Tech level qualifications are fundamentally different.

For more information on the specific changes to 2018 Tech levels, please refer to a reformed QIP. Please also see ‘Key issues for UK HE admissions’ for some additional considerations when assessing these qualifications.

Further information about Tech level qualifications, and the range of qualifications that meet the 2018 requirements, can be found on the DfE website.


Regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications

The regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications delivered in England is the responsibility of Ofqual.

The regulatory approach undertaken for Tech level and Applied General qualifications differs to A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification-level criteria for Tech levels, 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 Tech level category, qualifications have to demonstrate particular features outlined in the table above.

Tech levels must comply with Ofqual’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualification.

Awarding organisation
  • AQA
Qualification codes
601/4540/7 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Business: Marketing (VRQ) (720 GLH))
601/4537/7 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Engineering : Design Engineering (VRQ) (720 GLH))
601/4538/9 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Engineering : Mechatronic Engineering (VRQ) (720 GLH))
601/4541/9 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: Networking (VRQ) (720 GLH))
601/4543/2 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: Programming (VRQ) (720 GLH))
601/4542/0 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: User Support (VRQ) (720 GLH))
Structure

AQA Tech Level (interim-reformed) qualifications are 720 GLH and consist of eight 90 GLH units.

The specifications are modular in structure. Learners have to pass each unit to achieve the qualification. Tech Level qualifications consist wholly of mandatory units. There are no option choices.   

For more detailed information on the units/structure of an AQA Tech level, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the AQA website.

Professional body and employer endorsements for each of the qualifications can also be found on the subject pages of the AQA website.

Subject areas
  • Marketing
  • Mechatronic engineering
  • Design engineering
  • Power engineering
  • User support
  • Networking
  • Programming
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 qualification is graded as follows:

Tech Level - PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, 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

AQA Tech Level (interim-reformed) qualifications meet the following assessment criteria:

  • A minimum of 30% external assessment
  • An element of synoptic assessment
  • There are new rules for internal assessment, with only one opportunity to submit each assessment

For AQA Tech Levels, externally assessed units have timetabled two hour examinations in January and June of each year. Internally assessed units are assessed by the centre and externally quality assured by AQA on demand.

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.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

30% external, 70% internal

Resit arrangements

Learners are allowed to resit an examination on one occasion per qualification.

They are permitted to retake an internally assessed assignment once per qualification.

The retake must be a new task or assignment, different to the original assessment.

Guided/notional learning hours
720 hours
UCAS Tariff points

AQA Level 3 Technical Level (720 glh)

Grade Points
D*D* 112
D*D 104
DD 96
DM 80
MM 64
MP 48
PP 32
Key issues for UK HE admissions

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

There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing Tech level qualifications that do not meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:

  • Applicants holding interim-reformed Applied General qualifications may not have had experience of external or synoptic assessment.
  • The 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.
  • 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.
  • These qualifications are fundamentally different to the reformed versions 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. HEPs may also wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications, and any differences should be clearly articulated.

Tech levels are designed to support progression to employment, an apprenticeship, or to higher education.

Progression to higher education is generally within the vocational area of the Tech Level, and may be to a foundation degree.

The exact curriculum studied may depend on the choice of optional units taken.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Externally assessed units have timetabled examinations in January and June of each year, and internally assessed units are assessed by the centre and externally quality assured by AQA on demand.

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

Qualification date
Starting from 01 Sep 2015
Qualification dates notes

Replaced by AQA Tech levels (reformed) in September 2016.

Reporting and certification information

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

View the results available through ABL.

High-level qualification results data is published on the AQA website shortly after results day. AQA submits results data to a variety of third parties, i.e. the Department for Education, Ofqual, and the Welsh Government.

Progression information

Tech level 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.

These qualifications offer progression to higher education, an apprenticeship, or employment.

Progression to HE will probably be in the vocational area of the qualification, and may be to a foundation degree or a Higher National qualification (HNC/HND).

Tech level qualifications are supported by at least five employers from the job sector the qualification is related to. All students have to take part in meaningful activity involving employers in the course of their study. Examples are work placements, taking part in projects, or some of the course being taught by someone who works in the industry.