Making the grade – understanding assessment methods

Assessments are a large part of our journey through education. They help us track our progress and allow us to show what we have learnt. Before looking at the different assessment methods, it’s important to understand the difference between A-levels and BTECs.

Although it largely depends on the subject, generally BTEC qualifications aim to prepare you for a particular career, whereas A-levels are more focused on academic understanding. Whereas A-levels are mostly based in the classroom, BTECs focus on coursework and work experience.

How are A-levels assessed?
A-levels are usually assessed through written exams and coursework. These are graded separately, then added together to make up your overall grade.

How are BTECs assessed?
During your course, you will complete several work experience placements. You’ll also complete coursework assignments that combine the theory taught in the classroom with what you’ve learned while out on placements. There is no big exam at the end – you will be assessed throughout your course and awarded marks for individual assignments, which go towards your final grade.

Making a choice
How do you choose between A-levels or BTEC? This all depends on the individual. Everyone is different. For example, some people fly through exams while others struggle. If you feel the pressure of a final exam would be too much, a BTEC might be the best option for you, as you’re marked throughout your course.

People also learn differently. Some thrive in a classroom-based environment, while others prefer a more practical experience. So again, it all comes down to personal preference.

There is a myth that universities look down on BTEC qualifications, but this not the case. In fact, almost one-quarter of university entrants will have completed a BTEC. Both A-levels and BTECS can take you to university, so don’t be put off studying a BTEC if you want to go to university.

What can I do next?
There are several paths you can take with A-Level and BTEC qualifications:

  • You could move on the university to focus on your chosen subject.
  • You could do an apprenticeship, where you will learn on the job and get paid for it – read our guide to apprenticeships here.
  • You can go straight into employment.


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