What Are A Level Qualifications?

If your child’s nearing the end of school, it’s probably time to think about next steps. They can do one of two things – study or get into industry by looking for a job. There’s also the option to do both which can help children leverage work experience whilst gaining professional, recognised qualifications. If your child’s not quite made up their mind and is unsure about where they see themselves, they may feel more comfortable continuing with their education for a little while. Post 16 they’ll have the option to study two types of qualifications – A levels and BTECs. A Levels are the most popular, amongst 70% of school leavers to be exact. We’ve teamed up with a top A level school in the UK to create this guide and give you a run down of what they are and how you can support your child with their choices.

So, What Are A Levels?

In a nutshell, A Levels are level 3 courses. They can be studied at either a sixth form or college and completed in conjunction with a BTEC if that’s what your child wishes to do. If we’re looking at just A Levels, your child will be able to study a maximum of 4. There are 20 hours required for full time study, so they will need to check what the commitments are for their chosen course.

What Are the Differences Between A Levels and BTECs?

The main difference between A levels and BTECs is that BTECs are vocation and mostly coursework based. A levels are deemed the more academic version although both prepare children well for the world of work and university. They are equivalent qualifications, so a BTEC distinction equates to the same value as an A at A level. It is true that A levels are exam based which can make them harder. It all depends on your child and their learning style. You may find a VARK survey helpful in gauging how your child learns best.


Another thing about A levels is that they are more widely accepted when it comes to applying for university courses. Entry requirements are now flexible and recognise the value of practical work, however, there are still a handful of educational establishments that prefer A Levels. If your child is passionate about going to university, perhaps look into the courses that they’d be interested in and work from there by looking at what they expect of their applicants.


As highlighted earlier, your child will have the opportunity to study up to a maximum of 4 A Levels, that means that they will have to narrow down from the subjects that they’re currently studying. It’s not an easy decision to make and should be given thought as it will ultimately determine the options available to them in the future. If they have an idea as to the career or course that they want to pursue, they will be able to find this information on the UCAS website or career tools.

Careers Advisers

An appointment with a careers adviser may offer some insight as they are trained at helping young people get into work and find what they’re passionate about. If your child’s school doesn’t have one, there are appointments that can be scheduled online where they can speak to a career’s adviser over the phone. Whatever decision they come to should ultimately be down to them and not forced as they will be the ones studying them for the next two years. They are much more in-depth compared to GCSEs so there’s a lot of commitment involved. If they are not passionate about their choices, they may struggle to complete their work and enjoy their time at college/sixth form.