What do these letters mean?

Changes from September 2000 have broadened the range of subjects that students will follow. Greater flexibility has also been introduced and depending upon where you are studying, it will be possible for you to combine different types of qualifications.

General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A Level)

Advanced level is available in a wide range of subjects in schools and the college. The structure of these courses has now changed. A new Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS) has been introduced. For students in Year 12 it will be possible to study four or five subjects. In the second year of A level you will probably study three subjects in greater depth. This part of the course is called A2.

In each year of A level there are 3 units so (AS 3 units + A2 3 units) = A Level = 6 units 

Advanced Vocational Certificate in Education (AVCE)

This qualification is available in a wide range of vocational subjects areas. If you are able to combine and be successful with these differing styles of learning you will find yourself well placed for either higher education or going into employment. 

General National Vocational Qualification (Intermediate)

These are broad based work related courses. They can be stepping stone to AVCEs. Usually they are built upon a number of modules and take one year to complete. 

General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

You are probably familiar with this qualification. It is what you may have studied in Years 10/11. If you are not satisfied with the grades that you have already gained, a limited range of subjects will be available for re-sits. It is really worth discussing any plans about re-sits with an adviser, who might be able to suggest alternative routes to improving your qualification. 

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)

These qualifications relate directly to a job. They are practical and show that you able to carry out a task to the standard required. They have no limit on achievement and can be built up one at a time. 


This is a widely respected vocational qualification offered by Edexcel 

BTEC National Diploma

This is a two-year course leading to a qualification of the same standard as AVCE or NVQ level 3. The courses are vocational and work related being suitable for entry into employment or higher education. 

Key Skills

The Key skills are:

  • Application of number
  • Communication
  • Information technology

A qualification is available in key skills. You will be able to sit a national test and will be expected to provide a file of evidence in support of your grade. To gain the certificate you must cover all 3 skills but it does not have to be at the same level. The certificate is awarded from level 1 rising to level 4. 

Further Key Skills units are available in:

  • Improving your own learning and performance
  • Problem solving
  • Working with others

These key skills are aimed at helping with your life, education, training and employment. They have been welcomed by higher education and employers as highly desirable abilities that all young people should seek to gain. 

BTEC First Diploma

This one year course, which is equivalent to NVQ level 2 and compares to the time taken to study up to good GCSE level. The course enables you to focus on a work related qualification and will help you prepare for work or for progression to other qualifications. Whilst on this course, you will receive assignments in which you can demonstrate your achievements. Success on this course is at various levels - at a pass, merit or distinction.

Last Modified: 05/12/2018
For more information contact:

Learning & Community Participation

Tel: 01633 648128

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