In the UK, there are four main qualifications available in further education which students can opt to take: A-Levels, BTECs, T-Levels and apprenticeships. However, alongside these, there are many smaller qualifications offered by various exam boards, one of which is the CTEC. Although there aren’t many students taking CTECs, knowing what they are will allow you to further understand the further education system and why the government wants to reform it.
CTECs are equivalent to BTECs in almost every way except that they are released by a different exam board. BTECs are run by Pearson, whereas OCR opted to create their own version of the qualification called a CTEC, short for Cambridge Technicals. These are not usually opted for, but some schools and colleges find the information provided by OCR easier to understand and teach than Pearson.
To find out more about what a CTEC is, how it differs from other qualifications and whether CTECs are better or worse than other qualifications at Level 3, keep reading.
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What is a CTEC equivalent to?
A CTEC is one of the lesser-known Level 2 and 3 qualifications available in the UK. Standing for Cambridge Technicals, these courses are almost equivalent to BTECs, but are released by Cambridge International where BTECs are released by Pearson.
CTECs are part of what is known as further education in the UK. You can read more about this concept in this Think Student article. Further education is ideally designed for students aged between 16-19 who are studying in school or at sixth form college. Other examples of further education are A-Levels, BTECs and apprenticeships.
Further education is also known as Level 3, which encompasses all of these qualifications. This governmental article describes the different levels of education in further detail. Alongside the Level 3 qualification, it is also possible to take a CTEC at Level 2. This is the equivalent of GCSE Level education, but is rarely opted for by students.
What is the structure of a CTEC?
As BTECs and CTECs are very similar qualifications, the structure of each is near enough the same with some small differences introduced by each exam board. Both BTECs and CTECs are designed for students who want to further their education in a specific subject without as much academic focus as A-Levels.
Most BTECs and CTECs are assessed through group projects, assignments, and coursework. Only very few subjects require students to take a formal, externally marked exam as part of the course, as mentioned in this Think Student article. For this reason, lots of students who struggle with the pressure of exams or prefer coursework opt to take CTECs.
As of the summer of 2022, there are nine different CTEC subjects available for UK students to take at both Levels 2 and 3. This is one of the main differences with BTECs as there are around 150 subjects which these can be taken in. However, this is often a bad thing as it is then difficult to decide which to study when so many of the subjects are so similar.
For more information about the structure of a CTEC, including which subjects are available, click here for a document released by OCR.
How many types of CTEC are there?
CTECs are a classification of qualification but can also be taken in several forms. The Level 3 CTEC can be taken in one of five forms, each carrying a different weight. These are as follows:
- Certificate – this involves 180 hours of in-person teaching as well as independent study outside lessons and is equivalent to half an A-Level (known as an AS Level)
- Extended Certificate – this takes double the time a certificate would, 360 hours of guided learning in total, and is therefore worth one A-Level
- Foundation Diploma – this qualification takes 540 guided hours and is worth one A-Level and an AS Level (1.5 A-Levels in total)
- Diploma – A full CTEC Level 3 Diploma takes 720 teaching hours to complete and is worth 2 full A-Levels
- Extended Diploma – the most complex of the Level 3 CTECs requires 1080 hours of taught lessons and is equivalent to 3 GCE A-Levels
This levelling system lines up with the classification of Pearson BTECs, as shown in this complete Think Student guide to the BTEC system. These levels apply to all nine of the CTEC subjects, so you can opt to take any subject at any level you want.
This system allows students to mix and match between subjects. For example, if you wanted to follow a similar structure to the A-Level system and take three separate subjects this would be possible. On the other hand, someone who has a very specific career path in mind for the future may wish to take a full extended diploma in one single subject.
Who can take CTECs?
CTECs can be taken by anyone who is aged 14 and above. The qualifications are offered at both Levels 2 and 3, allowing all students beyond secondary education to take them. They must be Key Stage 4 and above.
However, as part of the government’s funding of adult education, the qualifications are also available in colleges for mature students across the UK. At Level 2, adults must pay for their education. However, if you are over the age of 24 and have no Level 3 qualifications to your name yet, you may be eligible for funding from the National Skills Fund.
Although your course will not be fully paid for, if you earn less than the national living wage, (which in 2022 is £18,525 per year), you could receive £600 funding per subject. This article from the government describes how the National Skills Fund works.
Can you get into university with a CTEC qualification?
As with most Level 3 qualifications, CTECs carry UCAS points meaning that students taking these courses can attend university in later life. Due to their similarity to BTECs, CTECs are accepted by most places of higher education in the UK.
However, should you be looking to attend one of the highest quality institutions in the UK, then you may need to investigate taking A-Levels alongside your CTECs. For example, Oxford and Cambridge both state that students should have at least two A-Levels as well as other qualifications to be allowed to apply.
The beauty of the qualifications is that they can be mixed and matched to allow students to take some of each qualification. As long as you end up with the equivalent of three full A-Levels by the end of sixth form, most universities will allow you to apply.
The reason some universities may not allow students only holding BTECs and CTECs is because of the nature of university study. It can depend on your subject, but generally the style of teaching at university is very academically focussed in a similar way to A-Level.
Some CTECs and BTECs do prepare students for fast-paced, academic teaching. However, universities prefer to see that students can complete A-Levels to ensure that they will cope with university life. You can read more about whether universities accept BTECs and CTECs in this Think Student article.
How many UCAS points is a CTEC worth?
The number of UCAS points a CTEC is worth depends on how many A-Levels it is equivalent to. The system has been refined to make sure students receive the same number of points as a student taking the A-Level equivalent working at the same grade.
As UCAS points are based on the grades received, the system can become slightly more complex as CTEC grading is different to A-Level. Where an A* is equal to 56 points, an A is 48 points and so on, a CTEC is graded with D*, D, M and P. The D* is worth 56, D is 48 and so on.
However, this only applies if students are taking three extended certificates. For a student taking an extended diploma, they are given an overall set of three grades which adds up to their total UCAS points. For example, for a grade D*DD, you would acquire 152 UCAS points. For DDD, the total points would be 144.
You can read a full list of the UCAS points earnt from various combinations of CTEC grades on this OCR webpage.
Will CTECs exist in the future?
In July 2021, the government announced its plans to reform Level 3 education in the UK. The point of this ongoing reform is to simplify the process of choosing a path in further education for students finishing their GCSEs. This includes removing several existing qualifications and replacing them with a condensed list of new courses.
The main aim of the project is to remove BTEC qualifications, of which there are currently over 150, and replace them with the new T-Level courses. There will only be 20 subjects available by the end of 2024. However, lots of BTEC subjects overlapped or were very similar, so the new T-Levels cover the same breadth of subject areas but with less choice.
The government have not yet laid out plans for subjects like CTECs. On the one hand, they are very similar qualifications to BTECs, meaning they may be removed alongside them. On top of this, they are also unpopular in comparison to the major further education options such as A-Levels and BTECs.
However, there are only very few subjects available as CTECs, meaning that they may fit in with the government’s further education plans in the future. For now, the future of CTECs is uncertain. For now, you can read this Think Student article to learn more about what is happening with the qualifications reform in general.