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Qualifications after GCSEs

There is a huge range of courses available - do shadowing or taster days to try out courses and make sure they’re right for you.  Also go to open evenings and course information sessions.  These are often quite early in the Autumn term so check school and college websites.

Remember - It’s fine to apply to apply to Sixth Forms and Colleges and always apply for a back up course in case you don’t get the grades you need.  If you apply you will be called for an interview which will give you a chance to find out more.

AS/A levels

  • You can carry on with GCSE subjects like English or Geography or try new ones like Economics or Psychology.  You’ll need at least four or five C grades at GCSE and probably some Bs, particularly for maths, sciences and languages.  Choose subjects you enjoy, will do well at and which will lead you to where you want to go.  Afterwards you can go onto a wide range of courses at university or to an Apprenticeship.
  • Until recently, you would start with AS levels, drop one at the end of Year 12 and take the rest of your subjects on to a full A level taking modules in January and June with the chance to retake some if you needed to improve your grades. Changes are now being phased in so that exams are taken only at the end of Year 13 and AS levels are stand alone qualifications which cannot be taken on to A level.

Vocational courses

  • “Vocational” means “related to a career area”.  Vocational courses are available in a wide range of subjects including: Health & Social Care, Beauty Therapy, Hairdressing, Motor Mechanics, Business Studies, Sport, Animal Care, ICT and Engineering. 
  • Vocational courses are available at four levels, depending on your GCSE grades:



A* - C

Level 3

Two year course, equivalent to two or three A levels (depending on how many units you do) but more practical and course work based.

→  similar subject at university or an Apprenticeship 


Level 2

One year course, equivalent to 4 Cs at GCSE.

→ Level 3 course or an Apprenticeship

E – G

Foundation/Level 1/Traineeship

One year course, → Level 2 course or an Apprenticeship  

Gs or additional needs

Pre Foundation/SEND Course

If you have Learning Difficulties or Additional Needs there will be a course to suit you – contact your local college for details

A levels v Level 3 Vocational Courses - things to consider:

A levels

  • academically demanding and often exam based 
  • can lead to a wide range of university courses
  • some university courses require specific A level subjects
  • a huge range of university courses will accept various subjects
  • Can lead to a Higher Level or Degree Apprenticeship

Vocational Level 3

  • not an easy alternative to A levels but a different way of working
  • more practical and course work based
  • can lead to a similar subject at university
  • level 2 courses available if your grades slip
  • Can lead to a Higher Level or Degree Apprenticeship


  • Whatever course you chose you will have to retake maths and/or English language if you do not get a C+ grade in Year 11.  If you really struggle with either of these subjects, ask schools and colleges about literacy and numeracy qualifications which are more practical alternatives which can give you a qualification equivalent to a GCSE.


  • Bursaries – you may be entitled to means tested financial help from college or sixth form – see school and college websites for details.