NCFE Qualification Levels 1-4 | What are They Equivalent To?

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As learning becomes more accessible, there are more pathways opening up to students every single day – one of these pathways is through NCFE. NCFE gives students the chance to earn qualifications in a wide variety of subject areas including core skills like English, Maths and IT. However, NCFE qualifications are divided into several levels that all offer students different things. What are these qualification levels, and what are their qualifications equivalent to?

NCFE Level 1 qualifications are equivalent to a level 1 diploma or award and GCSE grades 3-1. NCFE Level 1/2 qualifications are equivalent to GCSE grades 8.5-1; NCFE Level 2 qualifications are equivalent to GCSE grades 9-4. NCFE Level 3 qualifications are equivalent to A-Levels. NCFE Level 4 qualifications are equivalent to a level 4 award or the first year of an undergraduate degree.

This article will explain everything you need to know about NCFE qualification levels and their equivalents, so keep reading to find out more!

What is an NCFE qualification?

NCFE is a technical and vocational awarding organisation, certifying hundreds of thousands of students each year.

You can read more about NCFE and their purpose on this page of the NCFE website.

NCFE qualifications are awards in specific subject areas such as English, Maths, Health and Social Care, etc. that allow students to progress further into education or employment.

If you’d like to know more about what NCFE is and whether or not it’s a recognised qualification, I’d recommend checking out this Think Student article. [Link to article not yet published]

NCFE qualification entry level 1

There are three different entry-level qualifications available through NCFE.

‘Entry level’ is the lowest level of qualification standardised by the government, below level 1. An NCFE qualification at entry level 1 is equivalent to an ‘entry level’ qualification.

You can read more about qualification levels on this page of the government website.

Entry level 1 qualifications are to provide students with fundamental base knowledge in key areas, such as English and Maths.

NCFE offers 5 qualifications at entry level 1. You can see these in the list below:

  • NCFE Entry Level 1 Functional Skills Qualification in English
  • NCFE Entry Level 1 Award in Creative Craft
  • NCFE Entry Level 1 Functional Skills Qualification in Mathematics
  • NCFE Entry Level 1 Certificate in Essential Maths in Everyday Life
  • NCFE Entry Level 1 Certificate in Essential English in Everyday Life

You can check these out on the NCFE website, linked here.

NCFE qualification entry level 2

Like entry level 1, NCFE entry level 2 qualifications are equivalent to an ‘entry level’ qualifications.

Functional skills is a type of entry level qualification. As you can see in the list below, functional skills is offered at all three entry levels.

NCFE offers 6 qualifications at entry level 2. You can see these in the list below:

  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Award in Creative Craft
  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Certificate in Personal and Social Development
  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Functional Skills Qualification in Mathematics
  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Functional Skills Qualification in English
  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Certificate in Essential Maths in Everyday Life
  • NCFE Entry Level 2 Certificate in Essential English in Everyday Life

NCFE qualification entry level 3

NCFE entry level 3 qualifications are also equivalent to an ‘entry level’ qualification (below level 1).

Although there are different levels of entry level qualifications, they are all encompassed under the ‘entry level’ bracket. Entry level 3 is the most difficult of entry level qualifications.

NCFE offers 18 qualifications at entry level 3. A few examples are listed below:

  • NCFE Entry Level 3 Certificate in Occupational Studies for the Workplace
  • NCFE Entry Level 3 Award in Employability Skills
  • NCFE Entry Level 3 Essential Digital Skills

NCFE qualification level 1

The levels of qualification standardised by the government is essential to understanding NCFE qualification equivalents. From this point onward in the article, refer to this page of the government website for a list of qualification levels in the UK.

NCFE qualification level 1 is a level 1 qualification. Level 1 qualifications can include a level 1 award, certificate, diploma, and GCSE grades 1-3 or D-G, among others.

Level 1 qualifications do share some overlap with entry level qualifications to allow for a smooth transition between qualification levels.

As an example, check out this page from the NCFE website, with details about the qualification “NCFE Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Schools.”

NCFE qualification level 1/2

There is no official government qualification level 1/2 – this is unique to NCFE and other vocational qualifications, such as Cambridge Nationals.

The NCFE qualification level 1/2 is equivalent to GCSEs.

Using this NCFE qualification factsheet as an example, NCFE states that “the qualification is graded at level 1 pass/merit/distinction and level 2 pass/merit/distinction (equivalent to GCSE grades 8.5 to 1”.

As you can see on the government website, GCSE grades 3-1 are equivalent to a level 1 qualification, whereas GCSE grades 9-4 are equivalent to a level 2 qualification.

Therefore, as an NCFE qualification level 1/2 encompasses both grade boundaries, it is designed as a ‘middle ground’ between the two government qualification levels.

NCFE qualification level 2

NCFE qualification level 2 is equivalent to GCSEs 9-4 or A*-C.

They are aligned with the government qualification level 2, which encompasses qualifications like GCSEs 9-4, intermediate apprenticeships, level 2 diploma and more.

It’s important to note that these are only equivalents – an NCFE level 2 qualification is not a GCSE. They are on the same level, meaning they are of equivalent difficulty, but they are not the same qualification.

NCFE offers over 100 qualifications at level 2. To check them out, visit this page of the NCFE website.

NCFE qualification level 3

NCFE qualification level 3 is equivalent to the government qualification level 3.

Level 3 qualifications include qualifications such as A-Levels, T-Levels, level 3 national diplomas, advanced apprenticeships, and more.

Some (but not all) NCFE level 3 qualifications are worth UCAS points. For example, check out this qualification factsheet on the NCFE website, for the NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Data. This qualification is worth UCAS points.

NCFE level 3 qualifications often have the same entry requirements as government standard level 3 qualifications, such as being aged 16 or over (which is the same for qualifications in the same bracket as A-Levels).

NCFE qualification level 4

NCFE qualification level 4 is equivalent to the government qualification level 4, or a foundation year/first year of undergraduate degree.

NCFE level 4 qualifications don’t have a specific qualification equivalent, like level 2 and 3 qualifications with GCSEs and A-Levels respectively.

As an example, have a look at this qualification factsheet provided by the NCFE website, for the NCFE Level 4 Award in Programming.

The factsheets states that “the NCFE Level 4 Award in Programming is designed to give learners the knowledge and skills to enter work in a programming role”.

This is the same as other level 4 qualifications, which help students move into employment.

Do NCFE levels go above level 4?

Yes, NCFE levels do go above level 4. NCFE qualifications go up to level 6 although the government qualification levels go beyond this up to level 8.

Level 6 qualifications are equivalent to a degree apprenticeship and an undergraduate degree. However, the number of level 5 and 6 qualifications that NCFE offer is very limited.

What does ‘credit value’ mean on an NCFE certificate?

A unit’s credit value is “the value that has been given to the unit based on the expected learning time for an average learner.” 1 unit credit is equivalent to 10 learning hours.

You can read more about this on this page of the NCFE website.

NCFE credits value the time it takes to complete the qualification, and not the actual credit value of the qualification, unlike UCAS credits.

As mentioned earlier in this article, some NCFE qualifications (at level 3) do have UCAS credit values, but these are not the same as credit values ascribed to qualifications by NCFE.

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