T-Level Grading System Explained

In A-Level, General by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

For some people finishing GCSEs, academic education doesn’t sound right for them, but they also don’t want to leave education entirely. If this sounds like you, then a vocational qualification, such as T-Levels, may be great for you. Like a mixture between a BTEC and an apprenticeship, a T-Level is a vocational course that mixes classroom study with a work placement. This blend can give you the best of both worlds in whatever subject area you choose and can give you a better idea of what you want to do in the future. However, no matter what these future plans may be, grades will be some kind of a factor, so it is important to understand how the grading of T-Levels works.

Continue reading to learn everything from what the grades on the certificate themselves mean to how those grades are finally reached to even what you can do with them in the future.

How are T-Levels graded?

T-Levels combine classroom study with workplace experience in a way that makes them similar to both apprenticeships and BTECs. However, they are also very different in other ways. Due to this, it’s no surprise that how the final grade is reached is also pretty different.

The final grade itself isn’t actually very unique. T-Levels use the Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction* grading system. This is similar to what is used for BTECs and many other vocational courses. If you would like to learn more about the BTEC grading system, look here and for more on vocational courses, click here.

The final T-Level grade is calculated by combining the core component grade and the occupational specialism grade. For more information about these, please refer to the ‘What is involved in a T-Level?’ section below.

Both the individual grades and the overall grade will be present on the T-Level certificate. The core component is graded using A*-E grades, similarly to A-Levels. The occupational specialism is then graded using Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction*. For more information about how T-Levels are graded, check out this Think Student article.

How are T-Levels assessed?

Depending on who you are, getting your results and final grades can be exciting, relieving or maybe even scary. You may feel that you’ve got a really good grade or maybe one that you’re not quite happy. However, in the end, it’s all up to what the T-Level certificate says.

As these final grades aren’t plucked from thin air, how well you do will likely reflect the feelings you have beforehand. However, sometimes it can be confusing to understand where the final grades come from with qualifications like T-Levels.

The T-Level assessment process is rigorous. You’ll need to pass the technical components (the core component and the occupational specialisms) and complete an industry placement alongside meeting any other requirements. T-Levels make it clear that vocational courses can be just as tough as academic ones.

To assess these components, students may need to do a combination of exams, coursework and other assessments. The exact methods used will depend on the exact course. For more information about this, check out this Think Student article or this guide from Tes.com.

What is involved in a T-Level?

T-Levels were only introduced in September 2020. As they are newer than most other qualifications in the UK, they are also structured very differently. If you would like to learn more about T-Levels, check out this article. Without properly understanding how T-Levels work, it’s near impossible to understand how they are graded and where each part of the grade comes from.

A T-Level is made up of the technical qualification and the industry placement. This is separated into 80% in classroom study with the technical qualification and other requirements and 20% in the industry placement. You will also be required to resit English and Maths GCSEs alongside your other studies if you failed them in Year 11.

This split is pretty much the exact opposite of an apprenticeship, where the majority of time is spent working. If you would like to know more about the differences between T-Levels and apprenticeships, check out this article. For more information about how T-Levels are split up, look at this governmental guide.

What is the technical qualification in a T-Level?

The technical qualification is the main part of your T-Level that is studied in the classroom. It is also where most of the T-Level grade comes from, although the rest of the course will still need to be passed. The technical qualification is made up of the core component and the occupational specialism.

As mentioned above, these each get their own grade, which is factored into the overall final grade. For more about what is involved in a T-Level and the technical qualification, check out this article by Tes Magazine.

The core component is the academic bit. This part of your course will teach you about the theories and concepts within your subject area. The occupational specialism is more specific. The idea of the occupational specialism is to prepare you for work in a specific career.

For more information about the core component and the occupational specialism, check out this course information from QualHub.co.uk. Please note that while it is for a specific course its explanations of the core components and occupational specialism are relevant to all T-Levels.

What is the industry placement part of a T-Level?

The industry placement is just as it sounds. It is a work placement that T-Level students have to do within the specific sector that their T-Level is in. This placement is what makes T-Levels different from other vocational courses, such as BTECs. As it is such a fundamental part of T-Levels, it is compulsory.

The industry placement will make up about 20% of your time as a T-Level student. During the entire course, you will have to meet the minimum amount of time on a work placement. This is about 315 hours or 45 days of hands-on experience. This will allow you to build up your skills and put into practice what you have learnt in your occupational specialism.

When you do your industry placement will depend on what your employer offers and how your specific course works. This may mean that you have a day release every so often throughout the two years of your course. On the other hand, you might have a block release for longer periods of just working. You may even have a mixture of the two, depending on the circumstances and what’s available.

For more information about the industry placement in T-Levels, check out this guide from the local government association.

Are T-Levels graded differently to other qualifications?

T-Levels are a much newer form of further education than the more traditional qualifications, such as A-Levels and BTECs. As they were launched in 2020, they have been made with new considerations and so are arguably more up to date than other qualifications in the UK.

This is especially the case as T-Levels were made in collaboration with employers and education providers. It means the qualifications thoroughly prepare students for the world of work whilst they’re still at school. For more information about when T-Levels were introduced and the reasoning behind this, look at this governmental guide.

Due to their status as “new” qualifications, it’s important to recognise how the grading system for T-Levels compares to other Level 3 qualifications.

Are T-Levels graded differently to A-Levels?

A-Levels are arguably the most traditional form of further education in the UK. A-Levels and T-Levels are both level 3 qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information about these qualification levels, look at this governmental guide. In this way, they’re both quite similar.

A-Levels are graded using the letter grading system. This is where you will receive a final grade for each A-Level you pass between A* and E. If you’ve not passed, you will receive a U grade. A-Level grades are calculated from the final exams that are done in the summer of Year 13 as well as any non-exam assessments (NEAs) that make up a part of the course.

NEAs are simply another name for coursework. If you would like to learn more about what a non-exam assessment is, look at this guide by Settle College. If you would like to learn more about A-Levels in general and how they’re assessed and graded, check out this article.

The core component of a T-Level is also graded using the letter grading system, just like A-Levels. However, both the occupational specialism and overall grade use the Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction* grading system.

Despite the difference in the names of each grade, the qualifications are assessed quite similarly. Both use exams and coursework to reach the final grade. The main difference is that A-Levels have standardised exams at the end of the year, whereas T-Levels do not.

There are many similarities and differences between T-Levels and A-Levels and if you want to learn more about these, look at this article.

Are T-Levels graded differently to BTEC Nationals?

BTEC Nationals and T-Levels are similar in many ways. The term BTEC National covers a group of different level 3 BTEC qualifications. For more information about BTEC Nationals, check out this article by a Think Student writer. T-Levels and BTECs are similar as they are both vocational qualifications. This means that both BTECs and T-Levels are intended to train students for a specific job sector.

The main difference between these two qualifications is that a T-Level goes a bit further with direct industry training. It contains the occupational specialism and industry placement, which a BTEC doesn’t. If you would like to learn more about vocational qualifications, check out this Think Student article.

The way they are graded are also similar as both BTECs and T-Levels use the Distinction* to Pass grading system. The main difference in grading between them is that the final grade of a T-Level is made up of the core component grade and the occupational specialism grade.

On the other hand, BTECs are assessed through a mixture of internal and external assessments. This means that BTEC students will do both coursework and more standardised exams, from which their final grades will be calculated. This is closer to the assessment process for A-Levels than T-Levels. For more information about the BTEC grading system, check out this Think Student article.

As T-Levels were brought in to eventually replace BTECs, it’s no wonder that they’re so similar. To learn more about this, look here. But despite this, both can be great options for further education depending on what you’re looking for. To learn more about the pros and cons of each, check out this article.

Are T-Levels graded differently to apprenticeships?

T-Levels and apprenticeships are both forms of further education that break away from the traditional model of academic study. They both train you more directly for the working world. The difference is that an apprenticeship does this more directly as you are working more often than studying. However, the structure of a T-Level with its industry placement furthers how comparable T-Levels are to apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are also graded using the Pass, Merit, Distinction system although the Distinction* is not used. While not exactly the same, this is quite similar to T-Levels. The real difference in how T-Levels and apprenticeships are graded comes about due to how the final grade is reached.

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). To complete this end-point assessment, apprentices will most likely have to do a written test, a practical assessment or an interview.

There is such a wide range of ways that apprenticeships can be assessed. Therefore whilst apprenticeships and T-Levels are graded in similar ways, their assessment methods are fairly different. For more information about the EPA, check out this governmental blog. If you would like to learn more about how apprenticeships are graded, check out this Think Student article.

There are much more similarities and difference between T-Levels and apprenticeships than just how they’re graded. If you would like to find out more about these, look at this Think Student article.

Can you go to university with T-Levels?

T-Levels were designed with employers and education providers so that what was being taught matched up with what students need to know for specific job sectors. In this way, they were designed to enable students to go straight into work or an apprenticeship after finishing the course.

Despite what they are designed for, getting into university with T-Level grades is entirely possible. There are around 123 universities across the UK who have confirmed that T-Levels are acceptable for at least one of their courses. If you would like to look at the official governmental documentation of these universities, then click here.

However, despite it being possible to get into university the nature of T-Levels makes slightly more difficult for T-Level students. The structure of the T-Level course is seen as lacking in the proper preparation for students applying to university. Some institutions say that A-Levels teach students the right skills, mindset, or motivation to complete a degree which T-Levels do not.

The two main universities that do not accept T-Levels for these reasons are the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. You can read the University of Oxford’s full statement on why T-Levels are not accepted here. For more information about getting into other universities with a T-Level and about the complications, check out this great Think Student article.

Can you get UCAS Points from T-Levels?

UCAS Tariff points or simply UCAS points, are the numerical values of level 3 qualifications that are based on the type of qualification you study as well as the grade you get. Not all further education qualifications have UCAS Tariff points but at least all of the main ones do (other than apprenticeships).

These UCAS Tariff points are used by higher education (HE) providers, such as universities or higher education colleges. These HE providers may use UCAS Tariff points to set out their entry requirements, instead of saying specific grades.

Please note that not all HE providers do this. Higher education providers may still consider your application even if the course you previously studied doesn’t have UCAS Tariff points. For more information about UCAS Tariff points, check out this guide by UCAS.

Due to the way they’re graded, T-Levels can be converted into UCAS Tariff points. T-Levels are the equivalent to 3 A-Levels and have been given UCAS points in this way. They are as follows:

T-Level grade UCAS Tariff points A-Level grade
Distinction * (A* on the core component and distinction in the occupational specialism) 168 A*A*A*
Distinction 144 AAA
Merit 120 BBB
Pass (C or above on the core component) 96 CCC
Pass (D or E on the core component) 72 DDD

For more information about the UCAS points of T-Levels, check out this guide by UCAS.

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