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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Entry level qualifications

If you want to gain a nationally recognised qualification, but don't feel ready for GCSEs or equivalent qualifications, an entry level certificate could be for you. They're available in a wide range of subjects.

What they are

Entry level qualifications can help you build skills, increase your knowledge and boost your confidence. They are known as 'certificates' or 'awards', and are open to anyone interested in gaining a nationally recognised qualification. There are no entry requirements.

Entry level qualifications focus on a particular subject or area of learning. They develop basic knowledge, skills and understanding and help you build confidence and prepare for further learning and work.

They may be suitable if you are not yet ready to take qualifications in one or more area of learning at level 1 of the National Qualifications Framework.

They could also be appropriate if you don't have traditional qualifications, or if you've been away from learning for a long time. You could also choose to take one to explore a subject that interests you.

Subjects available

There are over 100 entry level certificates to choose from. These include:

  • traditional subjects such as English, science and maths
  • skills areas such as literacy, numeracy and life skills
  • general vocational subjects that give you a broad introduction to the world of work
  • specific vocational subjects that tell you about a particular area of work, such as retail, hairdressing or office practice

You can search for entry level courses near you through the Next Step course search.

When and where you can take them

You can study entry level certificates at a pace that suits you; there is no set time about when you can take them. If you opt for certificates in National Curriculum subjects at school, they usually take one or two years to complete in Years 10 or 11 (ages 14 to 16).

Entry level qualifications are available in a number of learning settings. They are often studied in further education colleges or school, but can also be available in:

  • the workplace
  • community settings through voluntary work
  • prisons and young offenders' institutions
  • residential or daycare settings

How you are assessed

Entry level qualifications are made up of a number of units, each assessed separately. This means that your achievements are recognised at every step, as you complete each unit.

You are assessed on a combination of tests, assignments and tasks. These can be written, oral or practical.

Often, you'll also produce a portfolio that shows evidence of what you have achieved. It can contain things like witness statements (a written or oral account of your performance), video, audio and photographs. This is assessed by teachers in your school or learning centre.

Different subjects and courses will vary in structure, content and the number of units. When you complete all the units, you get the full certificate.

Study at a level to suit you

You can take entry level qualifications at three different levels:

  • entry 1
  • entry 2
  • entry 3

These levels are broadly the same as the National Curriculum levels 1, 2 and 3.

'Entry level' is the first level on the National Qualifications Framework. The framework shows how different types of qualifications compare, in terms of the demands they place on learners.


You can choose to retake individual units at any time.


If you're not happy with your result in a particular unit, speak to your teacher in your school or place of learning. If you're still not satisfied, you can contact the particular awarding body who offers the certificate you are taking.

Where they can lead

You can progress from one entry level to the next. At entry 3, the qualifications are designed to help you move on to related qualifications at level 1 of the National Qualifications Framework, such as: 

  • GCSEs
  • Key Skills
  • Skills for Life
  • NVQs
  • BTEC Introductory or Level 1 BTEC Awards, Certificates or Diplomas

They can also lead to work-based learning (such as an Apprenticeship) or straight into a job.

Help and advice

Speak to your teacher or contact your local college about the range of entry level qualifications on offer.

You can also search Next Step for information about courses or phone Next Step for advice.

  • Next Step: 0800 100 900

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