AQA Tech Levels (reformed)

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AQA Level 3 Technical Level

The QIP covers all AQA Tech level qualifications that meet the full requirements set by the Department for Education (DfE) and contribute towards performance measures from 2018.

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. 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: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/section-96-qualifications

The characteristics that must be met by Tech level 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: Tech level qualifications must require at least 300 guided learning hours (GLH). Applied General qualifications must require at least 150 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:

  • 40% of a Tech level
  • 60% of an Applied General

Appropriate assessment: Tech levels must have at least 30% external assessment. Applied General must have 40% 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.

Employer involvement: Tech levels must be recognised and endorsed by a trade/professional body or at least 5 employers registered with Companies House.

Tech levels and Applied Generals, whilst both being vocational qualifications, differ in size and purpose. AQA Tech levels range from 360 – 1080 GLH, are aimed at learners with an interest in a particular industry or occupation, and help provide entry into employment, onto an apprenticeship, or into higher education in a related vocational area. AQA Applied Generals are smaller (180-360 GLH), are for students who want to continue their education through applied learning, include a higher proportion of external assessment and may help learners enter to a range of higher education courses.

HEPs should take care when reviewing vocational qualifications for entry, see ‘Key issues for UK HE admissions’.

Further information about Tech levels, and the range of qualifications that meet these requirements, can be found here


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.  Tech level 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 qualifications.


 

Awarding organisation
  • AQA
Qualification codes
601/7127/3 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: Cyber Security and Security Administration – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7147/9 (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level Business: Marketing Communications – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7148/0 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Business: Marketing – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7079/7 (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level Engineering – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7080/3 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Engineering: Mechatronic Engineering – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7081/5 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Engineering: Design Engineering – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7139/X (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Mechanics – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7140/6 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Animation – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7141/8 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Design – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7142/X (AQA Level 3 Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Design Production – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7124/8 (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level IT: Cyber Security – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7125/X (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level IT: Scripting and App Programming – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7126/1 (AQA Level 3 Foundation Technical Level IT: Technical Support – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7128/5 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: Networking – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7130/3 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: User Support – 2018/19 performance tables)
601/7129/7 (AQA Level 3 Technical Level IT: Programming – 2018/19 performance tables)
Structure

There are four different sizes of AQA Tech levels:

  • Foundation Tech level (360 GLH)
  • Tech level (540 GLH)
  • Tech level (720 GLH)
  • Tech level (1080 GLH)

The specifications are modular in structure. Foundation Tech levels consist of four units and Tech levels are six (540 GLH), eight (720 GLH) or twelve (1080 GLH) units. Learners have to pass each unit to achieve the qualification. Both Foundation Tech Level and Tech Level qualifications consist wholly of mandatory units. There are no option choices.  

50% of Foundation Tech level (two units) and 37.5% of the Tech levels are externally assessed.

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
  • Cyber security and security administration
  • Cyber security
  • Marketing communications
  • Marketing
  • Video games, art and mechanics
  • Video games, art and animation
  • Video games, art and design
  • Video games, art and design production
  • Engineering
  • Mechatronic engineering
  • Design engineering
  • Networking
  • User support
  • Programming
  • Scripting and app programming
  • Technical support
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 qualifications are graded as follows:

Foundation Tech Level: P, M, D, D*

Tech Level (540 GLH): PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*

Tech Level (720 GLH): PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*

Tech Level (1080 GLH): PPP, PPM, MMP, MMM, MMD, DDM, DDD, D*DD, D*D*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

As noted in Education Context, to be classified as a Tech level qualification the qualification in question must meet certain criteria. This includes:

  • A minimum of 30% external assessment
  • A minimum of 40% mandatory core content
  • An element of synoptic assessment
  • There is a single resit opportunity

The above is the minimum requirements set out by the Department for Education. 

For AQA Tech Levels, externally assessed units have timetabled two 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 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.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Foundation Tech level: 50% external, 50% internal

Tech level: 37.5% external, 62.5% 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
Foundation Tech level: 360 hours
Tech level: 540 hours
Tech level: 720 hours
Tech level: 1080 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

Tech Levels require a minimum size of 300 GLH to provide learners with sufficient time for meaningful skills development that will equip them to follow a particular trade or profession, for comparison, the size of one A level is 360 GLH.

UCAS Tariff points

AQA Level 3 (Foundation) Technical Level (360 glh)

Grade Points
D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16

AQA Level 3 Technical Level (540 glh)

Grade Points
D*D* 84
D*D 78
DD 72
DM 60
MM 48
MP 36
PP 24

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

AQA Level 3 Technical Level (1080 glh)

Grade Points
D*D*D* 168
D*D*D 160
D*DD 152
DDD 144
DDM 128
DMM 112
MMM 96
MMP 80
MPP 64
PPP 48
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 meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:

  • These qualifications are fundamentally different to their predecessors and Applied General qualifications, and are 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 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.
  • The reformed and unreformed 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.
  • 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 choose their optional units and these 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 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 2016
Qualification dates notes

These qualifications are current.

Reporting and certification information

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

The full list of results available through ABL can be found here.

Certificates are issued to candidates once all components are completed. 

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 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.

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).

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.