NCFE Applied Generals (interim-reformed)

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The QIP covers all NCFE Applied General (interim-reformed) Art & Design qualifications that do not meet the full requirements set by the Department for Education (DfE) and do not contribute towards performance measures from 2018.

This qualification meets the interim-reformed requirements for 2016 and 2017 performance tables.

  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

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.

The NCFE Certificate in Art and Design qualification is designed to develop transferable knowledge, skills and understanding through applied learning in art and design. It develops learners’ knowledge and understanding across a range of art and design practices, aims to extend learners' art and design skills and use of techniques to an advanced level, and enables them to use materials and techniques fluently, competently and safely.

Learners develop generic, transferable skills valued by employers, such as effective teamwork, planning and health and safety principles, as well as extending their creative and intellectual abilities, e.g. communication, innovation and critical evaluation. 

For those who wish to study at a higher level, the qualification enables them to develop higher level learning skills such as independent working, research, self-reflection and collaborative learning.

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. The qualifications listed in this QIP are classified as Applied General 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 2016 NCFE Applied Generals 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



B. Size



C. Recognition



D. Synoptic Assessment



E. External Assessment



F. Grading



G. Employer involvement (Tech Level Qualifications only)



H. Progression



I. Proven Track Record




As noted in the table above, the 2016 and 2018 versions of Applied General qualifications are fundamentally different.

For more information on the specific changes to 2018 Applied Generals, 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 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 outlined in the table above.

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

This qualification is designed for use in 16-19 study programmes, which are designed to provide students with a structured and challenging individualised learning programme that supports their development and progression in line with their future career plans.

Study programmes normally include substantial academic or applied and technical qualifications, non-qualification activity including work experience, and the study of English and maths where students do not hold a GCSE graded A* – C in these subjects. They are focused on progression to the next level of education, a Traineeship or Apprenticeship, or other employment.

Awarding organisation
  • NCFE
Qualification code
500/8551/7 (NCFE Level 3 Applied General Certificate in Art and Design)

This qualification has 160 guided learning hours (GLH) and comprises three mandatory units: 

  • Materials, techniques and processes in art and design (R/502/4967)
  • Ideas and concepts in art and design (K/502/5736)
  • Execute, present and critically evaluate final art and design work (A/600/4092)
Subject areas
  • Art and design
  • 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.


This qualification is graded Pass or Not Yet Achieved.

To achieve the NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Art and Design, learners must successfully demonstrate their achievement of all learning outcomes of the units as detailed in the qualification specification.


This qualification is internally assessed through a portfolio of evidence which is externally quality assured.

Learners are set assignments which may be in the form of briefs, problem solving exercises, and research investigations and exploratory work. They are contextualised using realistic scenarios. The assessment may require students to produce a portfolio of evidence which could include research files and sketchbooks, reports, rough and visual designs, storyboards, prototypes, final product, and evaluations.

All assessment is criterion-referenced, based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes. Each unit within a qualification has specified assessment guidance.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

100% of this qualification's overall grade comes from the internally-assessed and externally-assured portfolio of evidence.

Resit arrangements

Learners who aren’t successful can resubmit work within the registration period.

Guided/notional learning hours
160 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

This qualification comprises 160 guide learning hours (GLH) and 250 hours total qualification time (TQT).

UCAS Tariff points

NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Art and Design

Grade Points
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.

Applicants holding interim-reformed Applied General qualifications may not have had experience of external or synoptic assessment.

The 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 do not meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:

  • The 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.
  • 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 fully-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.
Timing of assessments/results for learners

Learners are assessed throughout their programme of learning and may submit their portfolio of evidence at any point.

Results are provided on a rolling basis.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

Reporting and certification information

The results of the Level 3 Certificate in Art and Design are reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL).

Read the full list of results available through ABL

Certification of this qualification is reported on the basis of the number of certificates achieved over a 12-month period.

Progression information

Applied General 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.

The NCFE Certificate in Art and Design is designed to support progression to higher education, either by itself or together with other Level 3 qualifications.

The qualification has been developed with a panel of experts to ensure that the content is current and relevant. It develops transferable knowledge and skills, rather than specialist knowledge and skills, so may not lead directly into employment. Learners are required to analyse, draw conclusions, interpret or justify, which are all examples of higher level skills supporting progression to higher education.

Most progression opportunities in the art and design sector are on the basis of a portfolio.