These qualifications meet the interim-reformed requirements for 2016 and 2017 performance tables.
- Northern Ireland
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.
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.
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.
The Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals (QCF) 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
D. Synoptic Assessment
E. External Assessment
G. Employer involvement (Technical Level Qualifications only)
I. Proven Track Record
As noted in the table above, the 2016 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.
- Pearson (Edexcel)
There are five different sizes of Pearson BTEC Level 3 National (QCF) qualifications:
- Certificate - 180 GLH
- Subsidiary Diploma - 360 GLH
- 90-credit Diploma - 540 GLH
- Diploma - 720 GLH
- Extended Diploma - 1080 GLH
Not all subjects have qualifications at each size.
The specifications are modular in structure and are made up of a series of units, categorised by their guided learning hours (GLH). 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.
Most qualification sizes contain both mandatory and optional content, with the number of mandatory units increasing from the smallest to largest sizes. The number of mandatory units for a particular size may also vary across subject areas.
For more detailed information on the units/structure of a Pearson BTEC National, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the Pearson website.
- Aircraft maintenance
- Aeronautical engineering
- Applied law
- Applied science
- Art and design
- Aviation operations
- Beauty therapy
- Blacksmithing and metalworking
- Construction and the built environment
- Countryside management
- Creative media production
- Dental technology
- Electrical/electronic engineering
- Enterprise and entrepreneurship
- Environmental sustainability
- Fish management
- Forestry and arboriculture
- Health and social care
- Horse management
- Information technology
- Land-based technology
- Manufacturing engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Music technology
- Operations and maintenance engineering
- Performing arts
- Personal and business finance
- Pharmaceutical science
- Production arts
- Public services
- Sport and exercise science(s)
- Travel and tourism
- Vehicle technology
- Level 3
These Pearson BTEC Level 3 National qualifications are regulated to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).¹
Level 3 is broadly aligned to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 / 7.
¹ The QCF was a credit-based transfer system which recognised qualifications and units by awarding credits. It has now been withdrawn for all new qualifications and replaced by the RQF. The RQF is the new system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual, indexing them by level and size.
The overall qualifications are graded as follows:
- Certificate: P, M, D, D*
- Subsidiary Diploma: P, M, D, D*
- 90-credit Diploma: PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*
- Diploma: PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*
- Extended Diploma: PPP, MPP, MMP, MMM, DMM, DDM, DDD, D*DD, D*D*D, D*D*D*
Note: the D* grade was first introduced in results issued for QCF qualifications in 2012 (and for CPLD in 2014).
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.
Providers wishing to run BTEC Nationals require approval from Pearson Education Ltd.
All units of QCF BTEC Nationals are internally assessed. They are contextualised using realistic, work-related scenarios, and may be provided by local employers. These units usually involve assignments, but may be exams. They may be in the form of:
- written reports/business proposals,
- solving and explaining a mathematical problem
- reporting on the findings of a practical investigation
All assessment is criterion-referenced, based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes. Each unit in a qualification has specified assessment and grading criteria.
Assessment and grading are subject to external moderation. For more detailed assessment information, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the Pearson website.
Learners who achieve the minimum eligible credit value specified by the rules of combination for a qualification will achieve the qualification at Pass grade. The credit values for each qualification size are:
- Certificate: 30
- Subsidiary Diploma: 60
- 90-credit Diploma: 90
- Diploma: 120
- Extended Diploma: 180
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:
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:
BTEC Level 3 Diploma
Points range above Pass grade:
1,590 and above D*D*D*
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.
Pearson BTEC Certificate (QCF)
Pearson BTEC Subsidiary Diploma (QCF)
Pearson BTEC 90-Credit Diploma (QCF)
Pearson BTEC Diploma (QCF)
Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF)
Tech level qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to specialise in a specific industry, occupation, or occupational group. They equip students with specialist 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 Tech level 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.
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 for calculation of their qualification grade by the deadline for the summer will receive results in July.
These qualifications are current.
Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals 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.