What are T-Level qualifications & what are they equivalent to?

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If you’re choosing what to study it is important that you know all of your options. This is especially important when finishing your GCSEs as this is the first big decision you’ll have to make about your education. You may want to study A-Levels, BTEC Nationals, an apprenticeship or maybe even a T-Level. Not sure what a T-Level is? You’re not alone, keep reading to find out.

In short, T-Levels are a new form of further education that combines classroom study and a work placement. Students spend 80% of their time in class and 20% of their time on a work placement, which is about 315 hours or 45 days, see the Government guide on T-Levels here. They are level 3 qualifications and are equivalent to A-Levels, Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, BTEC Nationals, Advanced Apprenticeships and other level 3 qualifications. To be exact, T-Levels are the equivalent of 3 A-Levels, this is similar to the BTEC National Extended Diploma.

Continue reading for more information about what T-Levels are and what is involved in them. If you’re considering you’re post-GCSE options, this article will be particularly useful to you.

What are T-Levels?

The term T-Level was introduced in September 2020 and is becoming more and more popular. This is especially as more and more people are realising that there are many different types of education, so they don’t need to stick to the traditional types. If you don’t want to carry on with traditional education, a T-Level may be perfect for you.

In the UK, a T-Level is a type of level 3 qualification. They are taken after GCSEs and will last about 2 academic years. The idea of them is to enable the student to develop hard skills, gain more knowledge as well as pick up soft skills to enable them to thrive in a work environment. For more information about T-Levels and when they started, check out this governmental guide.

In case you were wondering, hard skills are job-specific competencies that will enable you to carry out the duties of your job. Soft skills are personal qualities that instead enable you to thrive in the work environment and work both on your own and with others. For more information about these, check out this article from Indeed.com.

T-Levels are also vocational qualifications. A vocational qualification is one that will prepare you more directly for a specific trade. They combine more academic elements of your education with some hands-on training. For more information about vocational qualifications, check out this Think Student article.

Are T-Levels further education or higher education?

Further education is when you continue to study or be in some form of education after completing your GCSEs or National qualifications without doing higher education, which is explained below. Further education is generally a lot more specialised than secondary school education as you study fewer things and may even only be studying and working in one very specific role such as with an apprenticeship.

Further education tends to be more advanced than secondary school education because the qualifications that you get in further education are mostly level 3 qualifications (or level 6 in Scotland). However, qualifications of lower levels can also be taken as part of further education. For more information about further education, check out this Think Student article.

Higher education is when you continue to study or be in some form of education that is at a higher level than both secondary school education and further education. This means that you will usually begin higher education at the age of 18 or later, although it is not particularly essential for you to do so.

As higher education covers all the highest forms of education in the UK, it is generally a lot more specialised than other levels of education. This is because you will normally only study one subject. At the highest levels of further education, you could even be only studying a subtopic of your subject. For more information about higher education, check out this Think Student article.

In the England, Wales and Northern Ireland higher education specifically refers to all forms of education that are level 4 or above. Look at this governmental guide to see which qualifications you can get at this level. In Scotland, this is from a level 7 qualification or above. See this guide on SCQF levels from Glasgow Kelvin College to find out more.

As a level 3 qualification, T-Levels are a part of further education. This is especially clear as they are taken after finishing GCSEs or National qualifications but don’t meet the requirements to be higher education.

What are T-Levels equivalent to?

There are quite a few different types of further education that you can do, so it is a lot more flexible than earlier stages of education. As T-Levels are a form of further education, it has many equivalents in both academic education and vocational education.

Other than taking a T-Level, you can go to college or sixth form and study many different qualifications. The main ones of these are A-Levels, BTEC Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers. You can even start your career with an apprenticeship.

What you choose depends on your own preferences and interests, what qualifications you already have as well as where you live. For more on these alternative level 3 qualifications, check out this article from Think Student and continue reading.

T-Levels vs A-Levels

A-Levels are arguably the most traditional form of further education in the UK. Students typically study them after finishing GCSEs, at a sixth form or college. A-Levels can come in a range of subjects from English or Maths to Japanese or even Film Studies.

Typically, students will take 3 A-Level courses. However, with permission from your sixth form or college you may be able to take 4. Depending on what’s available at your school or college, you may also be able to combine A-Level study with other qualifications, such as BTECs. For more information about A-Levels, check out this Think Student article.

In many ways, T-Levels are very similar to A-Levels. This is mainly due to them both being types of further education. The main difference between them is that T-Level students only focus on one subject, whereas A-Level students normally focus on 3. Due to this, a T-Level is equivalent to 3 A-Levels. For more information about this, check out this Think Student article.

T-Levels vs Scottish Highers

Scottish Highers are a level 6 qualification in the SCQF levels and another form of further education. For more information about the SCQF levels, check out this guide by Glasgow Kelvin College. Students will typically take 4 or 5 Highers in S5 (Year 12) and take their exams at the end of the year. Due to this, they are quite similar to the old system of AS levels. Students can then take about 3 of these Highers into S6 (Year 13) and do Advanced Highers. For more information about Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, check out this Think Student article.

As Highers and Advanced Highers are academic qualifications, they are quite different to T-Levels. The main difference between them is that Highers students will take up to 5 subjects in their first year and are able to then take 3 of these into more advanced study in their second year. This makes Highers and Advanced Highers a lot more flexible than T-Levels.

T-Levels vs BTEC Nationals

BTEC Nationals are a level 3 form of BTEC qualifications. Unlike A-Levels, they tend to be more practical, and work based. They also tend not to have the long exams at the end of the two years and instead are assessed more gradually with smaller tests or coursework throughout the course.

There are 3 types of BTEC National, that you can take at school or college, these are: the BTEC National Extended Certificate, the BTEC National Diploma and the BTEC National Extended Diploma (although these may also be called alternative names).

The best way to distinguish between them is to think about how many A-Levels they are equivalent to. Generally, the Extended Certificate is only worth 1 A-Level, the Diploma is worth 2 A-Levels and the Extended Diploma is worth 3 A-Levels. For more information about BTECs, check out this Think Student article.

Due to this, T-Levels are very similar to BTECs. They are both vocational qualifications and depending on the type, they can even both be the equivalent of 3 A-Levels. For more similarities and differences, check out this Think Student article. T-Levels are so similar to BTEC Nationals as they are set to replace them as the government are phasing BTECs out. For more information about how and why they are replacing them, check out this Think Student article.

T-Levels vs advanced apprenticeships

Advanced apprenticeships are the level 3 form of apprenticeships. They are roughly equivalent to 2 A-Level passes. Unlike other forms of further education, apprenticeships combine full-time work with part-time study. This combination is to train you within the specific job or career sector and to also give you practice in doing it. For more information about advanced apprenticeships, look at this article by UCAS.

The combination of work and study makes apprenticeships very similar to T-Levels. The main difference is that a T-Level student will spend majority of their time within the classroom, although they will also have a significant amount of time at a work placement. An apprentice, on the other hand, will mostly be working with some college or training days. For more information about the differences between apprenticeships and T-Levels, check out this article from MK College.

What subjects can you get a T-Level in?

During a T-Level you only study one subject. This makes it even more important for you to choose the right one. But without knowing what options are available to you, that would be incredibly difficult. For more information about the number of T-Levels you take, check out this Think Student article.

The subjects available to study as a T-Level are quite limited. This is mainly because T-Levels were introduced in 2020 and as of 2022 new subjects are still being made available. It is also due to the nature of a T-Level being a mixture of classroom study and a work placement. This is because it limits what is even possible to study as a T-Level.

Having come out in either 2020 or 2021, there are 10 T-Level subjects that you can study. These are the following:

  • Building Services Engineering for Construction
  • Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction
  • Digital Business Services
  • Digital Production, Design and Development
  • Digital Support Services
  • Education and Childcare
  • Health
  • Healthcare Science
  • Onsite Construction
  • Science

New options are to be made available in the September of 2022 and 2023. This will bring the total of T-Level subjects that you can study up to 23. The additional 13 that will be made available in either 2022 or 2023 are as follows:

  • Accounting
  • Agriculture, Land Management and Production
  • Animal Care and Management
  • Catering
  • Craft and Design
  • Design and Development for Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Engineering, Manufacturing, Processing and Control
  • Finance
  • Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy
  • Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Management and Administration
  • Media, Broadcast and Production
  • Legal Services

For more information about T-Levels and what subjects you can study them in, check out this governmental guide

What is involved in a T-Level?

During a T-Level, your time is split between being taught in a classroom and having work experience at an actual business. In this way, it is like a mixture of a BTEC and an apprenticeship.

During the 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 what you have learnt into practice. For more information about this, check out this governmental guide.

The industry placement will make up about 20% of your time, while you’ll be in the classroom for 80% of your time. This split enables you to benefit from having lots of contact time with a teacher and more traditional learning. If this is a learning style that suits you better, then in many ways a T-Level can suit you much better than an apprenticeship.

The 315 hours of work placement also allow your learning to be more varied and more relevant. For more information about what is involved in an apprenticeship, look at this governmental guide.

How are T-Levels graded?

T-Levels are very different to other qualifications due to their combination of classroom study with a work placement. Due to this, it’s no surprise that the ways they are assessed and how the final grade is reached is also pretty different.

To get a T-Level certificate, students will need to do quite a lot. From passing their technical components (the core component and the occupational specialisms) to completing an industry placement and meeting any other requirements, T-Level students have a lot to do.

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 and this guide from Tes.com.

The final grade will be either a Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction*. This is similar to BTECs, if you want to know more about the BTEC grading system, check out this Think Student article. The T-Level final grade is calculated from the core component grade and the occupational specialism grade.

All 3 of these grades will be present on the T-Level certificate. The core component is graded using A*-E grades, similar to A-Levels. The occupational specialism is also graded using Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction*. For more information about this, check out this governmental guide.

Can you go to university with a T-Level?

T-Levels are designed to train students more directly for work, while still being at school. Despite this, it is still possible for T-Level students to go to university.

However, due to the nature of T-Levels it is a lot more difficult for students with a T-Level to get into university. This is mainly as T-Levels aren’t seen as preparing students with the right skills, mindset, or motivation to complete a university degree. The two main universities that do not accept T-Levels for these reasons are the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.  For more information about getting into university with a T-Level, check out this Think Student article.

How many UCAS points can you get from a T-Level?

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 qualifications have UCAS Tariff points, but many do.

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.

But 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 have been attributed 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 * 168 A*A*A*
Distinction 144 AAA
Merit 120 BBB
Pass (C or above on the core) 96 CCC
Pass (D or E on the core) 72 DDD

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

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