How Are Apprenticeships Graded?

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As a student, choosing what you want to study can be really difficult. There are so many options of what you can do. But at times, it can feel like you have 1000 reasons why they’re not right for you. After you finish your GCSEs or National qualifications, the choices only get harder. From here, you have to choose what kind of education you want to do.

If you decide that school or college isn’t right for you, then you may decide that you want to work. If you know the career you want or at least the field it’s in, then taking an apprenticeship may just be for you. They are assessed and graded slightly differently to other qualifications and so could be perfect if school just wasn’t your thing.

In short, Apprenticeships are graded using the pass, merit, distinction system. This is similar to how many other vocational courses, such as BTECs, are graded. These grades are calculated from the final assessment that apprentices will need to do at the end of their training. This assessment is called an end-point assessment (EPA). An end-point assessment is unlike exams of traditional education courses, such as GCSEs or A-Levels. It can be done through a range of methods, but this will depend on what is most suited to the job role itself.

Read on for more information about this grading system, the end-point assessments and more. This will be particularly useful to you if you’re planning to take an apprenticeship and want to know more before you begin or even if you’re just considering your options.

How are Apprenticeships graded?

When thinking of grades, you may think of the number or letter that your teacher has written on the front of your test paper. Or a more official results day with a list of grades inside a brown envelope may instead come to mind. However, Apprenticeships are very unlike traditional qualifications, such as GCSEs or A-Levels.

Apprenticeships use a different grading system. This is the pass, merit, distinction grading system. With pass being the lowest grade and distinction being the highest.

This is similar to the grading system of other vocational courses. For example, BTECs are also graded with pass, merit, or distinction. For more information about the BTEC grading system, you can look at another one of our articles here. If you want to know more about how Apprenticeships are graded, you can check out this article from FE News.

How are Apprenticeships assessed?

Understanding the apprenticeship grading system is important so that it can help you to properly understand Apprenticeships as a whole. This is essential if you want to take an apprenticeship. But what do these grades mean and where do they come from?

Apprentices are assessed at the end of their training to see if they can perform their role correctly. This assessment is called an end-point assessment (EPA).

Previously, apprentices would be assessed throughout their course. For this, they would have needed to build a portfolio that could be sent to the awarding bodies. This was changed as it was seen as time-consuming and unnecessary. For more information about the changes, look at this article from FE News. Please note that assessments will still need to be done throughout the apprenticeship to track progress. For more information about this, check out this guide from City & Guilds.

What is an End-Point Assessment?

An end-point assessment (EPA) is the final exam that apprentices have to take. This tests the knowledge, skills and everything else that they have learnt from undertaking the apprenticeship. This is to show whether or not the apprentice is able in their role. The point of this is mainly for the apprentice’s employer and potential future employers to be able to understand how well they have performed.

Before apprentices can do the EPA, they will need to successfully complete the gateway. This is an in-between point in the training where the apprentice’s performance is reviewed to see if they are ready for the EPA. To be considered ready, they will need to have met some specific requirements, such as having passed functional skills in maths and/or English, having completed all mandatory training and so on. For more information about what an EPA is and the requirements to do one look at this governmental guide.

In the EPA itself, apprentices must be assessed with at least 2 methods. There are 5 main assessment methods although others can be used. Each scenario is different, and the ones used in each will be the one most suited to the job. The main methods are the following:

  • A practical assessment
  • An interview
  • A project
  • A written and/or multiple-choice test
  • A presentation or sales pitch

For more information about what is involved in an end-point assessment, look here at this article by the government.

How long does it take to get the results from an EPA?

In traditional education, such as GCSE qualifications or A-Levels, the time between taking the exams can be quite long. You would typically take these exams between late May and mid-June and then get the results in August. This leaves you with about a 2-month well-deserved break. For more information about this check out these Think Student articles relating to GCSEs and A-Levels with their respective links.

But with the nature of the end-point assessment and even Apprenticeships themselves being so different to these qualifications, you may wonder when the results for this assessment come out.

In the 2020/21 academic year, 161,900 apprentices started their Apprenticeships. For more information about this statistic, look at this governmental guide.

Due to this, it’s no wonder that when you get the results of you end-point assessment is going to depend on your employer. Officially, the government will post out certificates of completion with the grade included within 10 days of deciding a grade. For more information about this, check out this governmental guide.

With private companies it’s a little different but often only takes about a week or a little over. Although, some employers may even take up to 6 weeks. For a definitive time, it’s best for you to check with your employer.

Can you get UCAS Points for an Apprenticeship?

When thinking about Apprenticeships, you may think that they train you for one specific job and that’s the end of the story. But that’s not true, especially not anymore. After taking an Apprenticeship, there are many more options for you to continue studying in many different shapes and forms. This includes going to university.

While a level 3 apprenticeship is often seen as an equivalent to A-Levels, it is also different in many ways. One of these being that it doesn’t actually have UCAS points for the apprenticeship itself. This is most likely mainly due to the nature of an apprenticeship being so different to that of traditional education, which would make converting the training into UCAS tariff points slightly more difficult.

However, many Apprenticeships also include other qualifications in their framework. This means that during your study hours at college or university, you will also be working towards this other qualification.

As UCAS points are attributed to level 3 qualifications (which an Advanced Apprenticeship is), you could be doing a level 3 NVQ, a level 3 vocational course, such as a BTEC or City & Guilds progression award or a functional skills qualification. For more information about Apprenticeships and these qualifications, look at this UCAS guide.

Depending on what you get on these qualifications, if they’re a part of your apprenticeship, is how many UCAS points you can get. If you’re curious about how BTEC qualifications are graded, check out this Think Student article. For more information about getting into university with an apprenticeship, look at this guide from Linking London.

What is the point of grading Apprenticeships?

Throughout the education system, students have to take tests. Sometimes, these tests are small and only meant as a progress tracker. But sometimes they’re really important and this can make them really stressful. While actually being assessed for your ability in a subject, course or job role can make sense, the grades you get back can sometimes feel pointless.

Before being updated, Apprenticeships didn’t used to have distinctive grades. They would do little assessments throughout the training and make a portfolio of each apprentice from the results. The grading system was much more straightforward. It was either a pass and you would be deemed as “competent” in your role, or you wouldn’t be. For more information about how it was before and about the changes look at this article by FE News.

However, this pass or fail system was also quite vague. The idea of the new pass, merit, distinction is so that the employer and future employers can fully grasp how well the apprentice has actually performed. On top of that, it can give the apprentice more motivation to challenge themselves and aim for that distinction. Also, it can show how well the apprentice is progressing more easily. For more information about the benefits of grading Apprenticeships (as well as the drawbacks) look at this article from OneFile.

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