Functional Skills are applied qualifications which enable students to demonstrate real-life skills in English, mathematics and ICT.

Students demonstrate the skills through real-life assessments set in every day contexts.

They are recognised as gateway qualifications, used in many existing apprenticeships and by students who may not yet have achieved a GCSE grade C or above; they are widely used in adult education.

In a consultation held by Ofqual in 2014, 70% of employers said that the qualifications assessed the skills employers need in the workplace.


Pass or Fail


Assessment must be consistent with the levels set out in the skills standards and with the coverage and range specified within the criteria.

Assessments must provide realistic contexts, relevant tasks, and require problem solving and application of knowledge, skills and understanding for a purpose.

Assessment must be designed to assess a single level.

Assessment must be entirely or predominantly open response.

At Levels 2 and 1, assessment is externally set and marked except for the speaking, listening and communication component of English.

The assessment methodologies used by different awarding bodies vary.

Assessment is often flexible, can be on-demand, available online and at any time. Some awarding bodies set assessment windows that may last several days or weeks.

Assessments are delivered partly through controlled assessments.

Further information

The market is dominated by City & Guilds and Pearson; which between them administer 80% of the qualifications.

Note: other awarding organisations have previously offered these qualifications

The number of Functional Skills qualifications achieved has increased from just under 300,000 certifications in 2010-11 to just over a million in 2013-14.

This volume of Functional Skills qualifications being taken suggest that they will be presented by applicants to HE.

Some applicants may hold Functional Skills qualifications together with GCSEs in English, mathematics or ICT.

Other applicants may present only Functional Skills qualifications; these applicants are likely to be progressing through an apprenticeship route, or as adults.

In apprenticeship frameworks in England, both GCSEs and Functional Skills at the appropriate level are accepted as acceptable level of achievement in English, mathematics and ICT.

Link to Ofqual report Improving Functional Skills Qualifications January 2015


Links to qualification criteria for Functional Skills and subject criteria for Functional Skills English, mathematics and ICT.