Pearson BTEC Level 3 (QCF) qualifications

This QIP refers to the Pearson BTEC Level 3 (QCF) Qualifications (known as ‘BTEC Nationals’)

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wales
  • International

BTEC Nationals are vocational qualifications designed to develop skills, knowledge and understanding in a sector area as preparation for employment, higher education, higher apprenticeship or other training. BTEC Nationals come in a range of sizes which allows the qualification to form the whole programme of learning or to be taken alongside other qualifications such as A levels.

Education context

BTEC Nationals have been offered since the formation of BTEC in 1984. In 1996 BTEC merged with London Examinations to become Edexcel, which is now part of Pearson.

The BTEC Nationals have been updated on a regular basis since that date to meet the needs of employers, higher education and Government. BTEC Nationals, in most sector areas, were accredited to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) for first teaching in 2010 (first results in 2012).

QCF regulations required that the titles be changed to ‘BTEC Level 3 (QCF) qualifications’ but they are still generally known as the ‘BTEC Nationals’.

Following the Wolf Review of vocational qualifications, the UK government announced the introduction of two categories for Level 3 vocational qualifications, Applied General and Technical level. Both categories require qualifications to demonstrate certain characteristics to feature in performance tables from 2016, as well as an extended list of characteristics required from 2018.

The current BTEC Level 3 (QCF) qualifications ("BTEC Nationals") meet the Department for Education (DfE) requirements for public recognition (in written form by a minimum of five employers and/or one professional body) as developing and confirming specialist knowledge and skills relevant to an occupation; and by a large number of HEPs as meeting entry requirements either in their own right, or alongside other qualifications at the same level.

The BTEC Nationals will be revised for first teaching in 2016 to ensure they meet the additional DfE requirements for Applied General and Technical level qualifications, reporting results in 2018.

Qualifications in the suite will be revised to meet the DfE requirements for qualifications reporting results in 2018. These requirements include external assessment and synoptic assessment in both categories, and employer involvement in delivery and assessment in Technical level qualifications.

Note: For information on the BTEC Nationals in Children’s Play, Learning and Development (CPLD) which are on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and have different titles and assessment from other BTEC Nationals see:

From September 2014, the BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in CPLD (Early Years Educator) will carry ‘licence to practise’ status.

Awarding organisation
  • Pearson Education Ltd

BTEC Level 3 (QCF) qualifications ("BTEC Nationals") are a family of unit-based qualifications in a range of subjects. There are five different sizes of qualifications in the family:

  • Certificate
  • Subsidiary Diploma
  • 90-credit Diploma
  • Diploma
  • Extended Diploma

Not all subjects have qualifications at each size.

The structure varies according to the requirements of the sector. Most qualification suites contain both mandatory and optional content, with the number of mandatory units increasing from the smallest to largest sizes in a suite. However, the number of mandatory units for a particular size may vary across subject titles. Some subjects have pathways in the specification, and the mandatory units may vary between those pathways.

As these are QCF qualifications, each unit has a credit value based on its size, one credit is equal to learning outcomes achievable in six guided learning hours.

Rules of combination determine the minimum eligible credit value required to achieve a pass grade.

The vast majority of the BTEC Nationals comprise Level 3 units only although a few titles include a small number of Level 2 and/or Level 4 units.

Students may complete their qualification requirements at a number of points during a year, since the grade is calculated on the basis of unit-level achievement.

NB: NQF BTEC Nationals have different titles: see earlier link, within section 'Education context'.

Subject areas
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Aeronautical engineering
  • Agriculture
  • Applied law
  • Applied science
  • Art and design
  • Aviation operations
  • Beauty therapy
  • Blacksmithing and metalworking
  • Business
  • Construction and the built environment
  • Countryside management
  • Creative media production
  • Dental technology
  • Electrical/electronic engineering
  • Engineering
  • Enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Fish management
  • Floristry
  • Forestry and arboriculture
  • Health and social care
  • Horse management
  • Horticulture
  • Hospitality
  • Information technology
  • Land-based technology
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Music
  • Music technology
  • Operations and maintenance engineering
  • Performing arts
  • Personal and business finance
  • Pharmaceutical science
  • Production arts
  • Public services
  • Sport
  • Sport and exercise science(s)
  • Travel and tourism
  • Vehicle technology
  • Level 3

BTEC Level 3 qualifications are seen as spanning Level 3.


Grading is based on the following four domains:

  • Application of knowledge and understanding.
  • Development of practical and technical skills.
  • Personal development for occupational roles.
  • Application of generic skills.

Individual units are graded Pass, Merit and Distinction.

All qualification grading is based on the aggregation of points achieved in its constituent units. Grades at qualification level are: Pass, Merit, Distinction and Distinction* (P, M, D, D*).

Note: the D* grade was first introduced in results issued for QCF qualifications in 2012 (and for CPLD in 2014).

Large qualifications have double or triple grades as follows:

Certificate: Available grades: P, M, D, D*

Subsidiary Diploma: Available grades: P, M, D, D*

90-credit Diploma: Available grades: PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*

Diploma: Available grades: PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*

Extended Diploma: Available grades: PPP, MPP, MMP, MMM, DMM, DDM, DDD, D*DD, D*D*D, D*D*D*


Providers wishing to run BTEC Nationals require approval from Pearson Education Ltd.

All units of QCF BTEC Nationals are internally assessed. Students are set assignments. These may be in the form of briefs, scenarios, problem solving exercises and research investigations. They are contextualised using realistic, work-related scenarios, and may be provided by local employers. The assessment may require students to write a report, write a business proposal, deliver a presentation, give the solution to a mathematical problem, give the results, analysis and conclusions from a practical investigation, etc.

All assessment is criterion-referenced, based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes. Each unit in a qualification has specified assessment and grading criteria.

A summative unit grade can be awarded at Pass, Merit or Distinction.

Assessment and grading are subject to external moderation.

Note: The current NQF BTEC Nationals in Children’s Play, Learning and Development do contain some externally assessed units – see above "Education context".

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Learners who achieve the minimum eligible credit value specified by the rules of combination for a qualification will achieve the qualification at Pass grade.

Learners will be awarded a Merit, Distinction and Distinction* qualification grade by the aggregation of points gained through the successful achievement of individual units. The number of points available is dependent on the unit level and grade achieved, and the credit size of the unit.

For each Level 3 credit, students will achieve the following number of points:

  • Pass = 7
  • Merit = 8
  • Distinction = 9

Hence, for a unit with a credit value of 10, a student achieving Merit will achieve 80 points (8 x 10).

The grade distinction* (D*) is only available at qualification level, and reflects high level achievement across a number of units.

Pearson Education Ltd automatically calculates the qualification grade for learners when unit grades are submitted.

The grade ranges for each qualification are as follows:

BTEC Level 3 Certificate. Points range above Pass grade:

  • 230 – 249 Merit M
  • 250 – 259 Distinction D
  • 260 and above Distinction* D*

BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma. Points range above Pass grade:

  • 460 – 499 Merit M
  • 500 – 519 Distinction D
  • 520 and above Distinction* D*

BTEC Level 3 90-credit Diploma. Points range above Pass grade:

  • 660 – 689 MP
  • 690 – 719 MM
  • 720 – 749 DM
  • 750 – 769 DD

BTEC Level 3 Diploma. Points range above Pass grade:

  • 1,300 – 1,339 MPP
  • 1,340 – 1,379 MMP
  • 1,380 – 1,419 MMM
  • 1,420 – 1,459 DMM
  • 1,460 – 1,499 DDM
  • 1,500 – 1,529 DDD
  • 1,530 – 1,559 D*DD
  • 1,560 – 1,589 D*D*D
  • 1,590 and above D*D*D*
Resit arrangements

From September 2014, the rules for re-submission were changed. Learners are now allowed only one re-submission opportunity. The QCF requires learners to pass all units. Consequently, for the BTEC Nationals on the QCF, learners who have failed the unit are allowed one retake opportunity. This must be on a new task/assignment and achievement is capped at Pass grade.

Note: In the case of the external assessment in the NQF BTEC Nationals in CPLD, learners can resit the external assessment up to two times after the first sitting – see earlier link. Within section 'Education context'.

Guided / notional learning hours
BTEC Certificate: 180 hours
BTEC Subsidiary Diploma: 360 hours
BTEC 90-credit Diploma: 540 hours
BTEC Diploma: 720 hours
BTEC Extended Diploma: 1080 hours
Guided / notional learning hours notes

BTEC Certificate. Credit value: 30

BTEC Subsidiary Diploma. Credit value: 60

BTEC 90-credit Diploma. Credit value: 90

BTEC Diploma. Credit value: 120

BTEC Extended Diploma. Credit value: 180

UCAS Tariff points

Pearson BTEC Certificate (QCF)

Grade Points
D* 28
D 24
M 16
P 8

Pearson BTEC Subsidiary Diploma (QCF)

Grade Points
D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16

Pearson BTEC 90-Credit Diploma (QCF)

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

Pearson BTEC Diploma (QCF)

Grade Points
D*D* 112
D*D 104
DD 96
DM 80
MM 64
MP 48
PP 32

Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF)

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

BTEC Level 3 (QCF) qualifications ("BTEC Nationals") are available in 40 subjects. Not all subjects are available at all sizes.

Information on the full range of subject titles and the content and assessment of the Level 3 BTEC National qualifications may be accessed at:

Note: There are also the Children’s Play, Learning and Development (CPLD) qualifications on the NQF – see earlier link for details, within section 'Education context'.

BTEC Level 3 qualifications are seen as spanning Level 3.

Students may combine BTEC qualifications with other qualifications, such as A level or AS, or may take a programme entirely made up of BTEC qualifications.

Subject relevance of BTEC Nationals to higher education programmes is often seen as particularly key for admissions tutors.

Timing of assessments and results

Students are assessed throughout their programme of learning and may submit units for qualification award at any point.

Results are provided on a rolling basis.

Students submitting units by the deadline for the summer, for calculation of their qualification grade, will receive results in July.

UCAS applicants will have their results sent directly to UCAS as they are processed during the summer. This will be mainly prior to A level results day.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current..

Details of legacy NQF BTEC Nationals introduced in 2007 are found at:

Certification information

Certification of BTEC Level 3 National qualifications is reported on the basis of the number of certificates achieved over a 12-month period. The reporting period has now been changed from 1 June to 31 May to the period from 1 September to 31 August. This puts it in line with the reporting of other Level 3 qualifications. In the 2013 – 2014 period 319,563 learners completed a qualification, broken down as follows:

BTEC Level 3 Certificate. Number achieving: 35,151 (11.0%)

BTEC Level 3 Susidiary Diploma. Number achieving: 90,120 (28.2%)

BTEC Level 3 90-Credit Diploma. Number achieving: 57,032 (17.8%)

BTEC Level 3 Diploma. Number achieving: 40,062 (12.5%)

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma. Number achieving: 97, 198 (30.4%)

Detailed results information by subject, grade, etc:

Further information

DfE guidance on requirements for vocational qualifications for inclusion within performance tables:

The BTEC Nationals are being revised. They will have a larger mandatory core and some of the assessments will be set and marked externally by Pearson. Where appropriate, maths and English have been strengthened in the new qualifications, as have research skills.

The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) has now been discontinued. The revised BTEC Nationals have been accredited to the new Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). This has resulted in minor changes to titling, the most significant being that the word ‘National’ has been reinstated in all titles and the Subsidiary Diploma (1 A level size) has changed to the Extended Certificate.

Different BTEC subjects are being phased in for first teaching in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Students taking these qualifications will progress to HE in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The new Pearson BTEC Level 3 National suite has already been included in the listings for the new UCAS Tariff.

Details of the revised specifications are found at the following web link: