Read This First - All About BTECWatch
Since there are so many queries on BTEC I have made a FAQ of common queries. For anything not answered on my FAQ, feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer it.
There is also some information on general college entry requirements etc.
What is a BTEC?
BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. BTECs are specialist vocational work-related qualifications, typically studied at further education colleges and sixth forms after a student leaves school.
They combine practical learning with subject and theory content. There are over 2,000 BTEC qualifications across 16 sectors – they are available from entry level through to professional qualifications at level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate study).
BTEC qualifications are flexible – you can take one alongside (or instead of) GCSEs and A levels in schools and colleges.
Example subjects you can study a BTEC in include:
- Animal Management
- Applied Science
- Art & Design
- Children's Care and Learning
- Creative Digital Media Production
- Early Years & Education
- Hair And Beauty
- Health & Social Care
- Music / Music Technology
- Performing Arts
- Public Services
- Sports Science
- Travel & Tourism
What sizes and levels of BTEC are there?
BTEC Firsts are available from entry level to Level 2 (similar standard to GCSEs). These offer an introduction to work in a vocational sector. Combined with other qualifications, these can enable you to go on to further study, to an apprenticeship, or into employment.
BTEC Nationals are available from Level 3 (similar standard to A levels). Many of these are well regarded by universities, further education colleges, and employers. A BTEC National qualification can lead to employment, continuing study, or professional development programmes.
BTEC Apprenticeships are available at Levels 2 to 5 across more than 25 sectors.
BTEC qualifications are graded differently from your typical A*-G or 9-1 at GCSE and A-Level. The four grades that BTEC offers are: Pass, Merit, Distinction and Distinction* (Pronounced Distinction-Star).
A BTEC Level 1 and 2 grading is equivalent to a GCSE. A Level 1 Pass is equivalent to grades D-G or 3-1 at GCSE.
At Level 2, a Pass grade is equivalent to a grade C or 4/5 at GCSE, a Merit Grade is equivalent to a B or 6 Grade at GCSE, a Distinction is equivalent to Grade A or 7 at GCSE and Distinction* (Pronounced Distinction-star) is equivalent to Grade A* or 8/9 at GCSE.
A Level 3 BTEC is equivalent to an A-Level and therefore grading is slightly different to allow and help students gain access to further education in University or Apprenticeships.
At Level 3, a Pass grade is equivalent to an E at A-Level, a Merit grade is equivalent to a C at A-Level, a Distinction is equivalent to an A at A-Level and lastly a Distinction* is equivalent to a A* at A-Level.
At both Level 1/2 and Level 3 BTECs, anything that does not meet the criteria for a Pass grade will receive a 'U' meaning 'Ungraded' and the pupil will subsequently not receive a BTEC qualification in that subject.
Additionally, grade Distinction* was introduced later, in 2010 to enable pupils to earn a grade equivalent to the top GCSE or A-Level grade and this meant that the cleverest students could be distinguished from a Distinction student to a Distinction* student.
The following Level 3 courses, known as BTEC Nationals, are intended for those with five or more GCSE grades A*-C including English, mathematics and science. See Attachment
The following Level 2 courses, known as BTEC Firsts, are intended for students at GCSE level as a vocational equivalent. There are no BTEC courses for English, or mathematics. See Attachment Below
Students who do not achieve the minimum Level 2 Pass grade will receive a Level 1 Pass in the given qualification equivalent to GCSE grades D-E and therefore does not count to the A*-C measurement system.
What GCSEs do I need to take a BTEC?
There are no GCSE grade requirements set in stone because it depends on the course and college. Some colleges will enter students for a course taking into account experience over qualifications.
However, a typical offer for a Level 3 Course is that the student has a minimum of 5 GCSEs graded A*-C (9 to 4) including Maths and English.
Note: If any of your GCSE level subjects were vocational courses equivalent to GCSE like a BTEC or City and Guilds, it might be worth just double checking that the College is happy to accept this as one of your GCSEs that contributes to the entry requirements if you do not already have 5 or more full size (not 1/2 GCSEs) standard GCSEs.
If you don't meet this requirement, you can normally study a Level 2 Course first and then be considered for entry onto the Level 3 Course based on the grades you got at Level 2.
A typical requirement for progression to Level 3 is that the student has achieved a Merit or above for their Level 2 qualification.
You can't jump from completing Level 1 to then progressing to a Level 3 course.
Do I have to resit Maths and English GCSEs at College?
It is a Government Requirement for any student who fails to get a C (4) in Maths and English by 16 to resit these GCSEs until they are 18.
Those who achieve below a D (3) in these GCSEs will be enrolled to complete stepping-stone qualifications first, such as Functional Skills.
Functional Skills are qualifications available from Entry Level 1-3, Level 1 and Level 2 which are designed to show a student has the essential skills in Maths, English and ICT. Please note that while there is an ICT test, you will not have to sit this at College as ICT is not a mandatory GCSE subject.
Functional Skills is staged and you must complete it up to Level 2 before you can go onto GCSE. There is normally no fast-tracking.
Example: Student X starts at Entry Level 3. Before they can go to GCSE, they must do Level 1 and Level 2.
Colleges may ask you to sit diagnostic assessments in Maths and English upon starting College to assess your ability in Maths and English. This will help decide if you are ready for GCSE and if not, what level of Functional Skills to take first.
You may be asked to do the ICT diagnostic as well, especially if you are doing a computing qualification and don't already have some form of qualification in the subject, to ensure you have the essential skills in ICT needed to complete the course.
Functional Skills qualifications focus on the ability to solve real-life everyday problems; they require the learner to apply their knowledge and understanding in a range of familiar and unfamiliar situations.
The Maths/English variations of Functional Skills are a mandatory part of Apprenticeships unless the student already has a C (4) at GCSE.
Functional Skills can be taken on a computer or by exam paper.
Anybody retaking Maths or English at GCSE or Functional Skills level as a daytime College student will have these lessons timetabled within their normal day.
Will my course/BTEC be free?
If you are/will be aged 16, 17 or 18 on 31 August in the academic year when you begin a programme of study, you DO NOT have to pay tuition fees, college registration fees or examination/board registration fees. This includes any Maths and or English GCSE resits/Functional Skills.
Fees for trips are exempt. You may have to pay some form of enrolment charge if it includes study resources and trips.
Do I have to do Work Experience?
All college students will do 40 hours in total of Work Experience per year of their course. Work Experience will normally be completed on your college study days (the days you are not in college). Typically, a college student will be in college for 3 out of 5 working days, sometimes 4.
Can I have a part-time job whilst at College?
College students are more than welcome to have a part-time job.
However, your part-time job must not interfere with your College attendance or Work Experience placement (can't be at work at these times).
Colleges recommend no more than 16 hours a week of part-time work. This is so you have enough time to complete your College studies.
Warning: Please bear in mind that your College may not allow your part-time job to also count for your Work Experience hours, as Work Experience is meant to be unpaid. They may also not allow it on the grounds that your job is not related to the subject you are studying. Work Experience ideally must have some strong link to your area of study.
Work Experience hours can normally also be stacked up by doing activities at your College, like helping out at open days.
Employability sessions at College
For every year of College, you will also complete about an hour or so of Employability sessions per week.
These Employability sessions are mandatory and are set by the Government. They are designed to help learners develop skills in CV writing, interviews, applying for work or university/Apprenticeships, and budgeting. You will also have sessions focused on areas such as healthy eating, internet safety and quitting smoking.
This time will also be used to find and apply for Work Experience placements.
Do I need to be aged 16-18 to do a BTEC?
Not at all. Adult learners aged 19+ can take a BTEC, but they will pay if they are 19 or over on the day it commences. However, colleges these days do offer loans and reductions to help. Depending on your circumstances fees may be waived.
You are also likely to pay fees for any GCSE or Functional Skills resits as an adult learner.
If you were to become 19 or older on the day that you commence your second year of a two year BTEC, you shouldn't need to pay, as I believe the pay rule is down to your age when you start the course at Year 1 of a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma. Double check with your College to be sure of this though.
Full information on who has their fees waived
Can be found on your local College website.
How are BTECs assessed?
BTECs are assessed mainly by a portfolio of set assignments, of which for each assignment there will be a certain number of Pass, Merit and Distinction criteria to complete.
There will be a certain number of assignments to complete per unit. There are a certain number of mandatory and optional units, which your college will normally select for you. The units studied can therefore slightly vary by college.
You will normally be set these assignments by your lecturer online and will be required to submit them online.
Students are typically awarded at least one opportunity to resubmit work after it has been marked to increase their grade. Speak to your lecturers to find out what policies your college has in place.
Likewise, you can normally get time extensions if there are any mitigating circumstances affecting your college study.
In order to achieve a certain grade per unit, you have to complete successfully all the criteria relating to that grade.
For example to get a Distinction for a unit, you would need to complete all the Distinctions for every assignment. Failure to achieve one would bump you down to a Merit or Pass. To get the top grade, you would also need to complete all the Passes and Merits.
A Pass is the minimum grade you can successfully complete a unit with. If your BTEC uses the new RQF/NQF framework, you can still pass your qualification if you get the Near Pass (N) grade in one or more examined units providing you achieve enough overall points from your assignment units. There are resit opportunities for exams. You should speak to your College for full advice on resit opportunities and exam grades.
I need Assignment Help!
If you are struggling with an assignment, the first thing you should do is ensure that you have the unit specification ready to hand as this details the content you need to include. These can be found on the Pearson website.
If you are studying a course on the QCF framework, due to its age there should be previous student work on the internet. Make a search on Google for the unit and you should be able to see previous work that will give you an idea on content, how to structure and write your assignment. As the NQF/RQF qualifications are relatively new, this facility is not available with those qualifications.
You could also ask a friend on your course for advice, your lecturer or a user here on the Student Room.
When asking on the forum, to avoid confusion ensure you say the full course name e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 IT Practitioners Extended Diploma, unit name and number e.g. Unit 26 - Mathematics for IT Practitioners, assignment title e.g. Assignment 1 and criteria e.g. P4
Tip: To help ensure you get the grade you want first time round, print off the specification and brief so you can tick off the parts you have included in your assignment as you go along. This will help avoid missing bits out.
Warning: The work you produce must be your own. Any information sourced offline (e.g. from newspapers, magazine articles, books e.t.c.) or from the internet which is used in your assignment needs to be properly referenced. Copying work and passing it as your own without appropriate citation could result in a penalty in line with your Colleges policies. You should ask your College about how they would like your work referenced.
If you ever work on a project that involves collating and using digital assets (e.g. music, video) these need to be your own or copyright free. There may be some citation needed in line with the Creative Commons Licensing.
What is the difference between NQF/QCF/RQF?
This is the framework your course is assessed with.
Whilst I did mention earlier the majority of your course is assessed with assignments, if you are studying a new NQF or RQF qualification there might also be examinations and project based controlled assessments contributing to your final grade.
The QCF batch of qualifications are assessed 100% by coursework.
When you start your tutors should explain the structure. It may also be available on the website of your college where the course is advertised to new students.
What books/equipment do I need?
This will depend on the course so you should ask your college.
I would however recommend buying a USB flash drive to save assignments and some stationary (pens, pencils, ruler, rubber, A4 notepad, calculator etc). A USB memory stick is also handy because may need to use software that is offline and installed directly on the computer which cannot connect to the Cloud for saving work.
For most courses a 8GB USB 3.0 Memory Stick will be just fine:
Tip: Attach your USB stick to your college lanyard or any lanyard to avoid it getting lost! Securing your memory stick with encryption software (many good free ones online) will prevent files being deleted if somebody finds and uses your lost memory stick.
Check the colleges advertisement page for your course as some courses in areas like Music and Media may want alternative flash storage to be used such as a External HDD.
You should also use a cloud storage service e.g. OneDrive to backup your work.
Colleges should offer you a Office 365 hosted email address (normally also your computer login) e.g. [email protected] which you can use throughout your time at college.
This will allow you to send emails to your lecturers if you have any queries and should also allow you to download Microsoft Office to your own computer for home study. There should also be 1TB of free OneDrive cloud storage also included.
You will also be able to sign up for Unidays and Student Beans student discounts with this.
Can a BTEC be used for entry to University?
Most UK universities accept students with a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma equivalent to 3 A Levels.
Degree apprenticeship schemes also normally accept students with a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma equivalent to 3 A Levels.
However, a BTEC at Level 1/2 will not allow you entry for University on its own as it does not accrue UCAS points.
Entry requirements do vary by course and university so please check things out for yourself, for example some Computer Science courses want a GCSE B in Maths or an A Level in it and Cambridge, Oxford and UCL want other qualifications as well.
Tip: Research early the course you wish to do at University where possible as some require you to have a BTEC in a subject that is related to the degree you want to do and some ask for specific units to have been studied.
However, a typical grade requirement is the Extended Diploma at a DMM or DDM.
Please also note that you will normally also need your GCSE grade 4 (C) in Maths and English as well. Some universities will accept Functional Skills/Key Skills as a replacement for not having the C (4) at GCSE.
Where a university takes Functional Skills in lieu of a GCSE in Maths and English, they will normally expect your Functional Skills qualification to be at Level 2.
Some universities also request 3 to 5 GCSEs and or a Science GCSE at a C (4).
Do I do a BTEC or A Levels?
Obviously in the end this decision is down to you, but here is my personal opinion and recommendation.
If you are more academic and prefer examinations, then A Levels are probably for you, especially if you got high grades at GCSE. A Levels are also best if you want to go to a top Russell Group University as you will pretty much be guaranteed a place providing you get the grades, whereas with BTEC it is a bit flaky as some like particular unit grades and or a certain A Level on top of the BTEC qualification.
If you prefer practical work and assessment with continual reports, then a BTEC might be better for you, as you don't necessarily have the pressure of revising for unit and end of year tests.
BTECs are also good when it comes to specializing in a certain subject and focusing on the one thing. For example, if you have left school and know you want to be a singer and go into the Music industry, than a Music related BTEC will allow you to purely focus on your musical acumen.
If you also left school with an array of C grades (4) at GCSE versus top end A/A* (9) then a BTEC would probably also be better for you as the jump wouldn't be as big and you might struggle at A Level. A Levels in subjects such as Maths are a big step up from GCSE, and Sixth Forms normally need you to have a GCSE first in the subject you intend to do at A Level at higher than a C.
Example: GCSE Physics required to study A Level Physics. (Some courses at College may ask for a GCSE in the subject as well, but will take a C)
However, with BTEC you need to be focused and be prepared to be writing and submitting reports frequently, you can't afford to leave it to the last minute.
Which is easiest, BTEC or A Levels?
This is a difficult one, and again my opinion.
Overall, I would say that a BTEC is easier than A Levels as the qualifications are designed to match the understanding of a C grade GCSE entrant and the content you study is therefore likely to be simpler to understand.
However, with the new BTECs, there will be content that overlaps and makes the difficulty at times on par with the associated A Level.
The advantage to the new BTECs is that they do teach you how to manage coursework and exams, a skill needed at University.
How can I work out the grades I need?
Using the Grade Calculator Spreadsheets. (Microsoft Excel 2010 or later required)
NQF and RQF Grade Calculator
BTEC Tech Awards 2017/8
BTEC Technicals 2017/8
BTEC Nationals 2017/8
BTEC Firsts from 2012
BTEC Level 3 National QCF Grade Calculator http://www.speedking.eu/grade-calculator/. (This one is all online)
BTEC Level 3 National QCF Grade Calculator (Unofficial Spreadsheet)
BTEC Nationals NQF/RQF 2017/8 Raw to Points Calculator
How many Distinctions for DMM etc?
To work this out you need to use the grade calculator for your course.
Can I do a BTEC Level 3 Course and a Maths A Level?
This is not impossible and holding an A Level in Maths would certainly open the door to more university courses when it comes to Science based subjects.
Do some research into the structure of the BTEC course and the A Level in Maths. See how much time you will have, how difficult it would be. Contact sixth forms and explain the situation.
Remember your BTEC must come first.
Could I leave my course after Year 1 of a two year Level 3 Course?
Yes. Providing you completed everything to a minimum of a pass, you would still get the Foundation/Subsidiary Diploma. You could then move onto an Apprenticeship or another Level 3 Course.
You have to stay in some form of education until 18.
Do I have to pursue the same subject after finishing one College course and preparing to start a new one?
If you decide after finishing your course that for your remaining time at College you wish to do something else then that is perfectly fine.
Please however take into account that the subject may require your course to have some link to the new subject you want to study and for you to possess a higher grade in the qualification you just finished than if you had continued with the same subject.
I haven't got the BTEC grades I need for University. What can I do?
Don't threat, there are many options.
1) Your course might offer a foundation year. Foundation years are for those who don't quite meet the grades and therefore offer lower entry requirements. You can still do your main course, but you will do an extra year where you will learn content to get you up to speed with other students. A foundation year can also allow you to enter your intended course when you didn't have the BTEC or A Level subjects needed for main entry.
2) Go through Clearing. UCAS run a service called Clearing where they can match you to other degree courses which have spaces and or meet the grades you do have.
You are Eligible if:
You apply after 30 June
You are not holding any offers from universities or colleges you’ve applied to
Your place is not confirmed after exam results are published
3) Take a gap year. Some decide to take a "gap year" to clear their heads and decide what they want to do. A gap year is seen as an interim period of 7 or 8 months between sixth form/FE and Uni where you can gain life experience through travel or volunteering.
4) Enter employment or apply for an apprenticeship. You could also decide to go into work or apply for an apprenticeship. A degree apprenticeship would still allow you to do a degree but it would be part of a programme that includes paid work with the employer as well. You can learn on the job with a degree apprenticeship as well as the classroom, with no tuition fee debt.
5) If you failed an exam and that is the issue, you might be able to do a degree/another course at your FE college centre and resit the exam.
Just because you applied to Uni, it does not mean you have to go.
Knowing my final BTEC result
Those studying a BTEC on the QCF framework will be able to find out if they have met their entry requirements for HE, another college course or an Apprenticeship when all their assignment units are complete by putting these grades in the calculator.
Those studying a BTEC on the NQF or RQF framework that have examined assessments will know their final result when examination results are released in August and by adding these to their assignment grades in the calculator.
The calculator for NQF/RQF is a bit complicated to understand, you will need to get from your college a points value to enter into the calculator for each examined unit. This points value is dependent on your raw exam mark.
If your college can't give that to you at the time - don't threat! You can use the mark to points calculator spreadsheet to work out your points from your raw mark on the results slip. Ensure that you get at least the raw mark from your College.
Further reading on the new "N" grade and external assessments
- the new 'N' grade.
- the new external assessments
I’m taking on the new btec course that include exams and was wondering what result I would get if I get near pass on all my exams and Distinctions in all my coursework.
Hello there thank you so much for this information is it very helpful indeed!. I am going to be doing the BTEC level 3 extended diploma/foundation diploma RQF in IT but when I read through the course content it doesnt tell me what its equivalent too in A levels and the UCAS points I will need. Will I still be able to go to university if I take this course?
Depends how much weight the exams carry, i did 3 exams and they were all double weighted units. I got all distinctions in all my units apart from one and for the exams i didnt do so well. I got a P, M and the other one was predicted so i have no idea what that was and i still ended up with a really good grade of a D*DD
I’m doing the new btec Extended diploma business Course which consists of 4 exams. Is their anyway I can calculate the grade and outcomes over the 12 units?
Hope this helps
If some unis specify they want RQF, can you enrol if you have NQF?