Having survived the revision period, handled the exams as best you could, how on earth do you decide where to go after Year 11? The choices made now, will, for some, affect the rest of your lives- so how do you know you’ve chosen wisely?

It’s bad enough choosing those options in Year 9, but deciding whether to stay on at Sixth form, make the leap to college or pursue the apprenticeship route can cause undue stress (not to mention the arguments!)

BTec or A Levels?

For those of you who don’t know the difference, here’s a short guide to help you get to grips with them:

A Level

A Levels are academic qualifications, covering the core subjects (maths, science, English) and others including Languages, Psychology, Law and Economics. With the new curriculum disbanding with the AS Level, all A Levels are now a straight 2 year course, with no AS Level after Year 12. The concluding exam after Year 13 will determine your final grade.

A Levels are qualifications for entry to higher education, with each A Level earning UCAS tariff points. Most sixth form encourage pupils to choose 4 subjects at the start of Year 12, with a view to dropping 1 within the first term. Pupils tend to study 3 A Levels.


Level 3 BTec’s are classed as vocational qualifications and are available in a wide range of subjects. The course differs from the A Level in that it offers a mix of theory and practice, with an element of work experience in preparation for the real world.

Level 3 BTec courses are studied full-time at college, or in sixth form and can also be taken in conjunction with an A Level. It’s worth noting though that as it’s a Level 3 qualification, it is classed as the equivalent of 3 A Levels (with the UCAS Points graded accordingly with Pass, Merit and Distinction).

Unlike A Levels, which are purely final exam based, the BTec methods of assessment are varied. These include:

  • assignments
  • modular tests
  • performance observations
  • role-play
  • work placement assessment
  • production of visual or audio materials

  What’s my Best Fit?

This all comes down to what career choice you’ve decided on. If, like many youngsters, you haven’t discovered your purpose and just can’t decide, taking a few different subjects (which can lead to varying areas of industry) would be beneficial.

believe in Yourself wriiten on board

There are several places to go for help, if your careers advisor at school didn’t get anywhere. It’s important to dig deep inside and be brutally honest with yourself first though!

ARE you adept at studying and do you enjoy it?

Can you see yourself going to University and do you REALLY need that degree for your chosen career?

Does an apprenticeship in a skilled trade appeal to you, even if all your friends are going to sixth form?

These decisions can ONLY be answered by YOU! Speak to your close group and listen to their advice, BUT remember it won’t be their future!!

Not all of us own that massive goal at the age of 16 but with a strong support system around you, and a wealth of opportunity at your fingertips the world really is YOUR oyster, so choose wisely and follow your dream- whatever it may be…

Images by Angela_Yuriko_Smith, geralt