Understanding all of the different qualifications out there can be very tricky - with so many on offer it can get confusing. However, the government has split all of its qualifications into educational 'levels'. The table below shows the three educational levels covered between the ages of 14 and 19. It is split into academic qualifications, most of which you will already know and understand; vocational qualifications, which are taken alone, in tangent with academic qualifications or as part an apprenticeship; and other qualifications, which often offer a combination of academic learning and skills training to prepare students for the world of work. To find out more about each qualification, follow the links to an in-depth explanation.

 Academic Qualifications

 Vocational Qualifications

 Other Qualifications 

 Level 1

GCSE (grades D-G) 

NVQ level 1

Foundation Diploma

Cambridge National Level 1

 Level 2

GCSE (grades A*-C)

NVQ level 2

BTEC Firsts

Higher Diploma

Cambridge National Level 2

 Level 3

AS and A Levels


NVQ level 3

BTEC National/ BTEC level 3

Progression/ Advanced Diploma


Cambridge Technical

You should be aware that this table represents the qualifications available in England. The levels remain the same for Wales and Northern Ireland but some of the qualifications (The Diplomas) are only available in England. In Scotland, the system is very different so the levels are not applicable. However, the system is much simpler and there are far fewer qualifications on offer so levels are not so necessary.

There are 5 more educational levels covering further, higher and postgraduate education. Both NVQs and BTECs are available until level 7, the equivalent of a master’s degree. To find out more, see the government’s qualifications comparison table.