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.
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.
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 students 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.