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Qualifications Explained

UCAS information

Qualifications explained

A’ Levels

A’ levels are subject-based qualifications and if you wish to go to University, most higher education courses require specific A’ Levels or a combination of A’ Levels. Once completed these can also lead to further study, training, or work. A’ levels would normally be assessed by a series of examinations.


The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects. GCSEs were introduced in 1988 with the aim of establishing a national qualification.


The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is offered to students to prepare them for A’ Level, BTEC Level 3, International Baccalaureate and other equivalents.

The IGCSE is an international alternative to the GCSE and as the subjects are normally exam based only, make them ideal for students who are unable to attend a local school or college. This means there is no need to carry out science practical exams or find a school that will mark and authenticate your coursework.

Functional Skills

Functional Skills qualifications assist the self-improvement of practical skills in English, maths and ICT. They have been created to help students gain the essential knowledge needed to enable them to progress confidently and independently in life in general or a workplace environment.

QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework)

The QCF provides flexible routes to full qualifications.

To give you an idea how long it takes to complete the qualification, each unit has a credit value, with one credit representing 10 hours’ of work. The higher the level the more challenging the qualification, i.e., level 2 would be equivalent to GCSE and level 3 equivalent to A’ Level. Level 8 being the highest level

RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework)

The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) was officially launched in 2015 and was implemented in order to help people understand all the qualifications regulated by Ofqual and how they relate to each other. The intention is to improve consistency amongst awarding organisation and how they describe the size, challenge or demand of any qualifications they offer.

Certificate of Achievement

The completion of this course alone does not lead to an Ofqual regulated qualification, but may be used as evidence of knowledge and skills; providing employers with confidence that you have achieved the necessary level of knowledge required for a particular subject. This can also open up more career opportunities to you and enhance your college or university application.

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