As two of the most uncommon post-16 options, T-Levels and Apprenticeships are often forgotten by students choosing their paths after GCSEs. Both are excellent qualifications which will continue to be offered even after the government has completed the reformation of level 3 qualifications.
Whether you’re a student considering their next steps, or a parent interested in the education available, it won’t hurt to know more about these courses, the differences between them and the benefits of each.
Alongside A-Levels and BTECs, T-Levels and Apprenticeships are two of the options available for students moving on from GCSEs. Both are equally as valid and widely accepted by universities and other further education providers across the UK. However, there are also plenty of differences between the two, both positive and negative. This is why each is suited better to a different calibre of student.
For further detail into the differences between these two qualifications, the benefits of each and where they have the possibility to take you after finishing school, keep reading.
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What do T-Levels and Apprenticeships have in common?
T-Levels and Apprenticeships both have several similarities, as they are designed for students who have progressed to the same school level. Both are level 3 qualifications, which are generally taken by sixth form students.
Also known as further education in the UK, level 3 qualifications bridge the gap between the end of GCSEs and the start of university. T-Levels and Apprenticeships sit alongside many other courses at this level, including A-Levels and BTECs. For more information about level 3 qualifications in the UK, you can view this government article.
Another of the similarities between these two is how long it takes to study them. As with most level 3 qualifications, it takes about two years to complete either course. For most students, this is Years 12 and 13 of school, also known as sixth form.
Unlike A-Levels and some BTECs, Apprenticeships and T-Levels are always taken as single subjects. Despite this, they are still worth the equivalent of three A-Levels, as all qualifications in further education are. The difference is that an A-Level contains less content than T-Levels and Apprenticeships do. Therefore, they take the same amount of time to complete. This article details how many T-Levels can be taken at once.
What are the differences between T-Levels and Apprenticeships?
Whilst several parallels can be drawn between these two courses, there are plenty of ways in which the two are different. T-Levels are very new qualifications as they were introduced in 2020 to replace BTECs and other lesser-known qualifications. You can read more about the government’s plan to re-structure further education in the UK in this article.
For this reason, T-Levels haven’t been properly incorporated into education yet, and so no provision has been made for adult learners. Therefore, where an apprenticeship can be taken at any age, T-Levels can only be studied by students aged 16-18 in the UK currently.
What are the entry requirements for T-Levels and Apprenticeships?
T-Levels have very similar entry requirements to those of A-Levels. So long as you hold at least five or six GCSEs with grades 9-4, you have a strong chance of being accepted onto your chosen course. This can vary and certain subjects, such as Healthcare Science, may require high science grades. You should always properly research your course before applying.
However, with an apprenticeship, the requirements for entry are down to the employer. Usually, you are asked to send an official CV, which includes your GCSE grades, and covering letter and may even be interviewed. This is very rarely a requirement for T-Levels.
Lots of employers also choose to conduct an initial assessment. Due to the nature of an apprenticeship, being unlike any school subject, the company will want to get a grasp of how much you already know. This allows them to understand which roles you should start out in and what they will need to teach you.
This article gives a full description of the process undergone when applying for an apprenticeship. Alternatively, the government website provides an overview of the initial assessment, which you can find by clicking here.
How are T-Levels and Apprenticeships assessed?
The structure of each of these courses lend themselves to two different types of assessment. For T-Levels, there are two forms of assessment, and these are combined to give a final grade.
T-Levels consist of two final exams, one on the key knowledge of the subject and the other on working in the sector. These two papers make up two thirds of the final grade. The other third is decided by an employer-set project, as T-Levels are run partly by schools in partnership with real employers in the industry.
For an apprenticeship, the assessment process is slightly different. You’re assessed by an independent organisation, who will set several tasks to be completed and marked externally. Usually, this involves both a practical exam and sometimes a multiple-choice test as well.
However, there will also be a project to complete in the workplace setting and there may even be an interview, presentation, or both to finish as well. The EPAO (End-Point Assessment Organisation) will decide on a mixture of these examination techniques tailored to what you’ve learnt in your apprenticeship.
Are T-Levels worth taking?
T-Levels are very new to the educatory system, so not many students take them. However, this doesn’t mean to say that they are any better or worse than other Level 3 qualifications, such as Apprenticeships. In fact, lots of students will find that T-Levels suit them best, but it depends on what you look for in a qualification.
T-Levels can be taken at most sixth form colleges and some schools in the UK by Year 12 and 13 students. For more information on these new qualifications, click here to read the full government article. Additionally, you can read this article from the government detailing the subjects available if you’re interested in taking T-Levels in the future.
What are the advantages of taking T-Levels?
The first main advantage of taking T-Levels is that they provide students with UCAS points on completion. Depending on the grade received from Distinction*- Pass, there are varying numbers of points up for grabs.
Students can earn a maximum of 168 UCAS points, all the way through to 72 points on a low pass. Click here on the UCAS website to read more about the UCAS points available from T-Levels.
There are only 20 T-Levels offered by schools around the UK. Although this may sound like a disadvantage, limiting the number of subjects is what the government aimed for. The hope is that choosing a path for Level 3 education will become much simpler. This should benefit students who are finding it difficult to decide on their future.
T-Levels are designed for students who enjoy studying both theoretical and practical elements of a subject. Due to the structure, students spend 80% of their time looking at the informational side and 20% completing projects for an employer.
This structure is massively useful for students who are unsure of where they want to go in terms of higher education. The qualifications can prepare you for both factually based courses at university and practical courses such as higher Apprenticeships. In fact, it’s not uncommon for T-Level students to go straight into the workplace on finishing sixth form.
What are the disadvantages of taking T-Levels?
Despite the fact that T-Levels provide UCAS points, there are still some universities, particularly at the top end, who do not accept students with these qualifications. 90% of universities in the UK are more than willing to take on T-Level students.
However, there are several institutions, Oxbridge included, who are dubious. The hope is that over the next few years as the qualifications become a large part of Level 3 education, that these universities will become more open to the prospect. This article will describe the ins and outs of which universities accept T-Level students.
One of the disadvantages for students who are not interested in the academic side of learning is that T-Levels involve several written exams. The course is designed for students who want to keep their options open post-18. This is to the detriment of those who are avoiding end of year assessments and classroom work.
On the flip side of this, students who aren’t keen on completing practical work or participating in workplace tasks will not be very well suited to the style of T-Level study.
As T-Levels are so new, they haven’t been fully integrated into the education system yet. For this reason, there are no provisions in place yet for adult learners. Pretty much every other Level 3 qualification can be taken by students of any age at various colleges across the UK.
In the future, the government plans to introduce T-Levels into adult education once they’ve become more popular as qualifications for younger students.
Are Apprenticeships worth taking?
Apprenticeships are similar to T-Levels on the surface in that they are both designed for students who are certain of what they want to do in later life. However, the way that each qualification has been structured is tailored to a different type of students. There are both pros and cons for each, depending on what you enjoy.
What are the advantages of taking Apprenticeships?
One of the biggest advantages for students taking Apprenticeships is that there are usually no formal written exams. There are sometimes multiple-choice tests, as mentioned previously, which are set by the EPAO. However, these are just a small part of a student’s overall achievement. In comparison with T-Levels, Apprenticeships have a very limited number of formal exams.
A huge benefit of taking an apprenticeship is that you can be paid at the same time. An apprenticeship is taken with a real company and involves carrying out various jobs in a workplace. With labour laws and other factors in mind, employers must pay fair wages.
How much you earn will depend on who you work for and a range of other factors. No other level 3 qualifications pay in this way, including T-Levels. Therefore, Apprenticeships are excellent for students who are required to be in full-time education until age 18 but want some independence and a form of income.
Depending on the apprenticeship you apply to, the entry requirements can often be quite low. If you’re applying to a course such as engineering, then there will obviously be the expectation that you acquired a decent Physics GCSE grade.
However, beyond this, they are more interested in your willingness to learn and try hard on the job. This is because most Apprenticeships are unrelated to any school subjects. They are more about the practical side of work.
What are the disadvantages of taking Apprenticeships?
Unfortunately, one of the biggest disadvantages to taking an Apprenticeship is that they are not accepted by most universities. As Apprenticeships are all practical work and have no academic focus, they do not properly prepare students for university.
This article from the Complete Apprenticeship Guide provides more information about why Apprenticeships are not suitable for university applications.
On the plus side, you can take a Higher Apprenticeship or Degree Apprenticeship in whichever field you have chosen, which can be the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or further, depending on its level. Apprentices can earn the same qualifications as other students without needing to go to university.
Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage mainly depends on the setting you prefer to learn in. Apprenticeships cannot be taken within schools or colleges. You must apply for your chosen course through an actual employer who you will work for throughout the two years.
The only problem with this is the number of apprenticeship positions available and the training quality. The quality of teaching is near enough consistent from T-Level teachers. Sometimes, the same unfortunately cannot be said of apprenticeship employers.
It is important to remember that whatever you choose to study, you should fully research all the available courses before making an informed decision. More information about the similarities and differences between T-Levels and Apprenticeships can be found here, in this UniAssist Hub article.