When you finish your GCSEs you have a few different options to choose from – you can stick to academic learning with A-levels or go for something more vocational like Btecs, apprenticeships or T-levels.
T-levels are a new type of vocational course aimed at 16-to-19-year-olds. The scheme was launched with a handful of subjects in September 2020, with all 23 subjects due to be available by September 2023.
One T-level is the equivalent of three A-levels and takes two years to complete. It involves a mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job experience through industry placements.
What’s the point of T-levels?
There are already so many different qualifications and courses to choose from after your GCSEs – why add even more into the mix?
T-levels are meant to make things less confusing for students struggling to decide what to do, and are part of the government’s plan to streamline the choices available to students once they’ve done their GCSEs.
At the moment, there are more than 12,000 vocational qualifications and some are studied by hardly any students – or even none at all. There are also loads of different qualifications to choose from for some subjects. The Department for Education (DfE) plans to eventually stop funding many of these as it introduces T-levels in their place.
How are T-levels different from A-levels, apprenticeships and other vocational qualifications?
T-levels are 80% classroom-based and 20% on-the-job learning, while apprenticeships are typically the other way round, with 80% of the student’s time spent on their work placement and only 20% in the classroom.
And A-levels are usually entirely academic and classroom-based, so T-levels represent something in the middle of the two.
The Department for Education says that T-levels are different from other vocational courses like Btecs as they have a lot more contact hours: “we expect the total time for a T-level to be around 1,800 hours over the two years, including the industry placement. This is a significant increase on most technical education courses”.
What will I have to do on a T-level?
The exact content of the T-level will obviously depend on which course you’re taking, but there are a couple of elements that all T-levels have in common.
The first of these elements is the classroom-based one, which makes up the technical qualification. This involves learning core theory, concepts and skills for the industry you’re studying, as well as the specialist skills and knowledge you’ll need for a career within that industry. This will take up about 80% of your time.
The second is an on-the-job industry placement, where the idea is that you’ll be putting these skills into action. This will take up the remaining 20% of your time, and will last for at least 45 days.
What happens when I finish my T-level?
When you pass your T-level, you’ll get a nationally recognised certificate showing your overall grade – which will either be a pass, a merit, a distinction or a distinction*. It will also give details of what you learned on the course, to help you get a job or apprenticeship if that’s what you want to do.
It will also show a separate grade for the core component, from A* to E.
Finally, it will show a separate grade for each occupational specialism, which will be either pass, merit or distinction.
It will also confirm that you have completed the industry placement and met any other mandatory requirements.
If you don’t pass your T-level, you’ll get a T-level statement of achievement instead, which will show all of the elements that you did complete.
Will I be able to go to university with a T-level?
T-levels will be worth Ucas points, so in theory yes.
Ucas points will only be allocated to the overall T-level grade, so you will have to get at least an overall pass grade to receive Ucas points.
Here's how many Ucas points each overall T-level grade is worth:
|T-level overall grade||Ucas points|
|Pass (C or above on the core)||96|
|Pass (D or E on the core)||72|
You should still check the entry requirements for the university courses you're interested in though, as some may ask for A-levels or other qualifications.
In May 2022, the government updated this list of universities who confirmed that T-levels will be suitable for entry onto at least one of their courses.
What else can I do after a T-level?
If you don’t fancy going to university, you can use your T-level to get an apprenticeship or go straight into a job.
Like apprenticeships, T-levels are designed by employers and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to make sure you learn the knowledge and skills you need to get an industry job, as well as giving you a realistic idea of what your career will be like.
Where can I take a T-level?
You can find your closest T-level providers by entering your postcode on this website.
Which subjects can I take a T-level in?
These are the T-level subjects you will be able to take from September 2022:
- building services engineering for construction
- design, surveying and planning for construction
- design and development for engineering and manufacturing
- digital production, design and development
- digital business services
- digital support services
- education and childcare
- engineering, manufacturing, processing and control
- healthcare science
- maintenance, installation and repair for engineering and manufacturing
- management and administration
- onsite construction
And from September 2023, you will also be able to take T-levels in:
- animal care and management
- agriculture, land management and production
- craft and design
- hairdressing, barbering and beauty services
- legal services
- media, broadcast and production.
Want to take a T-level but don’t feel quite ready for it?
Starting from 2022, students can take a T-level Transition Programme before starting their T-level. This is a one-year course that is designed to get you prepared for whichever T-level you’ve chosen to take.
It will “give you the knowledge, practical and study skills and work experience to excel in your subject,” the DfE says.
If you think this could be a good option for you, your first step is to speak to the school or college where you’re planning on taking your T-level.
Looking for more information about T-levels? TSR member brainzistheword has made a really useful thread about them in our T-levels forum.