Choosing which step to take after GCSEs can be a difficult decision, especially if you are not certain about what you want to do. Many people see A-Levels as the natural path to follow to begin further education. However, there are various alternatives. It is likely you have thought about subjects you excel in or enjoy. You may have even thought about what career you want the qualifications to lead to.
Taking A-Levels may suit you if you enjoy traditional academic subjects. But if you enjoy the idea of less traditional courses or are not sure which subject you want to pursue, one of the options in the following list might work well for you.
Continue reading to discover a pathway into further education that best suits you. If you’re not sure what to do after GCSEs, this article will be particularly useful to you.
1. National Vocational Qualifications
An NVQ is a work-based qualification that focuses on the skills and knowledge a person has in order to do the chosen job. If you were to take this path, you would need to demonstrate the necessary knowledge, ability and understanding to show that you are able to do the tasks associated with the relevant job.
A National Vocational Qualification can be done in many subjects, including Business, Language, Social Care and Design. So, there will likely be a course available to suit you. Check out this Think Student article to learn more about Vocational courses.
Requirements for NVQ courses vary from subject to subject. Generally, five GCSE grades of 1 to 4 are needed for NVQ Level 1 and five grades of 4 to 9 for NVQ Level 2.
Taking an NVQ is an efficient route to becoming qualified for the workplace. Especially as it has no traditional examinations. Therefore, it is a great option to consider. If taking an NVQ looks interesting, you can find more information here on university compare.
Taking a BTEC may be the best option for you if you are looking for a career in a very practical field or have interest in a subject that involves a lot of hands-on work.
‘BTEC’ stands for ‘Business and Technology Education Council’, which is the name of the first council that managed these qualifications. A BTEC works differently to A-Levels as it involves a constant stream of assignments and coursework rather than a final exam at the end of the course.
Some BTECs may include an exam or two. But, unlike other qualifications, these exam results will only form part of the overall grade awarded.
When looking at taking a BTEC, there are many course options, ranging from Engineering to Animal Care. Each of the available subjects will provide the opportunity to gain vital practical skills that an employer looks for when hiring. This means that is possible to get your ideal job straight from college.
BTEC Nationals start from Level 3 and are what college students are generally offered. To be accepted onto a BTEC course, you generally need five GCSE grades of 4 to 9 in a range of related subjects.
To find out more about BTECs, check out this article.
A traineeship is a programme that helps people to develop skills necessary for the workplace, such as English, Maths and digital skills. This programme will help you to learn general skills such as CV writing, as well as skills specific to your chosen work area. Possible work areas include Retail, Engineering, Brickwork and other similar options.
The grade requirements change depending on the subject but a minimum of four GCSEs at grades 1 to 4 is generally necessary. If you do not meet these criteria, traineeships have an ‘introductory phase’ where you will partake in assessments to determine whether you can start the course.
Courses can take from 6 weeks to 1 year to complete and take place in a work environment relevant to the subject. At the end of the traineeship, your employer may offer you the opportunity to start an apprenticeship, or even a job.
This is a great opportunity if your GCSE results are not sufficient for the job or qualification you want. If you are interested in doing a traineeship, you can find out more here on GOV.UK.
Whether you have just finished a traineeship or completed your GCSEs, apprenticeships are a great option if you want to combine studying with working in a specific field.
There are a few different levels of apprenticeships that lead to qualifications such as a certain number of GCSEs or even a degree. An Advanced/Level 3 apprenticeship is equivalent to A-Levels and so would likely be the type you would apply for after GCSEs.
You can find apprenticeships in almost every subject, and so finding one that suits you will not be difficult.
The grades that are required for the course depend on the chosen subject area, but, for a Level 3, you will likely need at least five GCSE grades of 4 to 9. These always need to include English and Maths but may have to include other subjects, such as Biology, if the course requires it.
Apprenticeships provide the equivalent of an A-Level qualification as well as practical skills necessary for the chosen workplace, and so are a great option if you want to study while gaining valuable experience in a particular field. To find out more about apprenticeships, you should read this article.
T-Levels are qualifications that are like apprenticeships in the sense that they focus on developing skills for a specific career. What makes them different to an apprenticeship, however, is that, when taking T-Levels, you spend much more time in the classroom.
Each T-Level is composed of 80% theory in a classroom with the rest of the course spent learning practical skills on a work placement. If you choose a specific subject available, such as Animal Care or Accounting, you will learn skills specific to this field. But the skills learnt in T-Levels will be useful no matter the career you end up in. Therefore, T-Levels may be a good option if you are unsure about the job you would like to have.
To take a T-Level course, you will need to have at least five GCSE grades of 4 to 9.
Subjects taken for T-Levels will be graded as Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction* and would be determined by a combination of examinations and practical skills tests. Once the course is completed, you would be awarded with a certificate and a breakdown of how you achieved the grades.
T-Levels can be a great way to gain knowledge as well as practical experience. To find out more, check out this article.
6. School Leaver Schemes
School Leaver Schemes allow students to earn money while gaining skills in the workplace, straight from GCSEs.
These schemes are often found in Accountancy, IT, Engineering and other sectors. They allow you to train and gain real experience in the workplace.
Unlike apprenticeships, these programmes last between 4-6 years, and generally require five GCSEs of grades 4 to 9, although this varies between courses.
If you know the career you want to pursue, but don’t want to spend any more time in education, School Leaver Schemes are a good option. Find out more at inside careers.
7. International Baccalaureate
The International Baccalaureate (IB) organisation is a non-profit foundation that offers four education programmes of varying levels. The most studied programme is the Diploma Programme, which is the same level as A-Levels.
The Diploma Programme is completed over two years and is made up of six subject areas. Students tend to study three subjects to an advanced level and three to a standard level. Subject areas include Language and Literature, Arts, Sciences and Maths. As well as these subject groups, students must take a course on Theory of Knowledge and produce a 4000-word research essay.
In order to take part in this programme, six GCSEs at grades 4 to 9 are needed.
Each subject taken is scored individually and converted into a points system. Students are assessed on coursework as well as through final examinations. 24 points are necessary to gain an IB qualification, 45 points being the maximum. 30 IB points equates to 3 and ½ A’s at A-Levels, which is the standard for many universities, while 38 points reflects 5 A’s at A-Levels.
The wider approach an IB qualification offers allows students to gain breadth of knowledge as well as depth, and so an IB is often preferred by more prestigious universities.
If doing an International Baccalaureate interests you, visit The Good Schools Guidefor more information.
8. Advanced Diploma Qualification
Due to its higher level, an Advanced Diploma Qualification is a good option if you are certain you want to go to university and are confident about the area you wish to study.
Advanced Diplomas can be taken in subjects such as Hair and Beauty Studies, Music Production, Travel and Tourism and many more. This qualification focusses on gaining advanced and specific skills and knowledge to ensure students can easily transition to university.
The course is assessed through both applied knowledge and practical skill examinations. The course will take approximately two years.
Due to how specific and detailed this qualification is, you must know what you want to do as a career for this to be the best option. But, if you do, an Advanced Diploma Qualification is ideal. You can find out more about the courses available at Academic Courses.
9. Supported Internships
Supported Internships are work-based programmes for those with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) who have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.
Instead of GCSE grades, this qualification focuses on four ‘Key Principles’. These include requirements such as having time management skills. As well as, ensuring that the student is following a study curriculum of at least English and Maths alongside the internship.
Supported Internships can last from 6 months up to a year, and about 70% of the course takes place in a real work environment. This programme aims to provides the students with necessary skills and qualities to ensure they can access sustained and paid employment in the future.
To find out more, visit GOV.UK.
10. Cambridge Pre-U Diploma
The Cambridge Pre-U Diploma provides students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed at university.
There are 26 principal subjects available and up to four can be taken. The Cambridge Pre-U Diploma is a two-year course and results in either a certificate or a diploma. Alongside these subjects, a GPR (Global Perspectives and Research) task will be required. This involves writing an extended research report and allows students to develop important writing and research skills.
This diploma is based on subject specialism and is ideal if you are looking to study an academic subject at university. Find out more at UCAS.com.
11. Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers
Scottish students will study four or five Highers in academic subjects during their fifth year of secondary school. These consist of set coursework and external examinations.This Think Student article provides an in-depth look at Scottish Highers.
Four or five Highers are generally needed for university, but more competitive fields, like Medicine, may require Advanced Highers in later years. Advanced Highers can be studied once Highers are achieved and would give you a much higher chance of an unconditional offer when applying for university. Find out more at the complete university guide here.
12. Extended Project Qualification
This qualification gives students the opportunity to demonstrate project management and extended writing skills that are necessary for higher education and employment.
This course is often taken alongside another Level 3 qualification to improve employability and your university application. It consists of 50 hours teaching time and 70 hours independent work. At the end, there is an internally assessed project such as a presentation or report.
This qualification will be useful in any career choice, but especially in the Business sector. This is due to the project management skills that you gain along the course.
To find out more information, visit UCAS.com.
What is the American equivalent of the A levels? ›
For those considering US universities, the American equivalent for A Levels are the AP examinations.What are choices for students after GCSE in UK? ›
Your main choices are: Full-time study, such as for A-levels, BTECs or a different college course. An apprenticeship or traineeship. A mix of work with part-time study.What is the Australian equivalent to A levels? ›
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) – awarded since 2009 - is considered comparable to the overall A Level standard.What are alternatives for GCSE? ›
BTECs and OCR Cambridge Nationals are vocational qualifications designed to give students the skills they need to move on to higher education or to go straight into employment. By applying learning to real-life situations, these qualifications offer a more practical approach than traditional courses.What is GCSE equivalent in USA? ›
The closest thing that would be considered an American equivalent to GCSEs is thought to be the high school diploma (although that isn't the exact equal).Is A Levels available in USA? ›
Cambridge International AS & A Levels are considered college-level courses of study. In the USA, good grades in carefully-chosen Cambridge International A Level subjects can result in up to one year of university course credit.Can I go to Oxford after GCSE? ›
None of our courses have a specific GCSE requirement; however, there are some parts of our admissions process that use GCSE grades to contextualise applicants' performance, and we are not able to use other Level 2 qualifications (or equivalent) to replicate those measures for students not taking GCSEs.What are alternatives to GCSE in England? ›
- Business and Technician Education Council.
- National Vocational Qualifications.
- International General Certificate of Secondary Education.
- Functional Skills Certification.
- Cambridge Nationals.
- Scottish National Qualification.
According to the British Council, A Levels are similar to the American Advanced Placement courses which are themselves equivalent to first-year courses of America's four-year bachelor's degrees.What is year 12 Australia equivalent to in the US? ›
It is also known as "senior year" in parts of Australia, where it is the final year of compulsory education. Year Twelve in England and Wales, and in New Zealand, is the equivalent of Eleventh grade, junior year, or grade 11 in the US and parts of Canada.
What are 4 A Levels the equivalent to in America? ›
A levels are considered the equivalent of a 12th grade education in the US.What do Germans do instead of GCSE? ›
Assessment is carried out by means of frequent 'Arbeiten' (tests or exams). Reports are given annually, and pupils can take the 'Mittlere Reife' which is roughly equivalent to the English GCSE/O-Level exams.What is the best GCSE option? ›
If you are looking for a future career or course in science then choose double or triple Science. If you want to have a career in art or design in the future, then choose an arts focused GCSE. if you want to deal with customers from other countries or work abroad then a language will be very useful.Do American colleges accept GCSE? ›
Entry requirements for American Universities
Entry requirements will vary across the US but as a minimum you will likely need 5 GCSEs A* - C to include English and Maths. You will need to be studying post-16 qualifications (ie A-Levels) for four-year universities but you could get into a community college with less.
Instead, the US universities will generally ask for GCSE's and AS level results, along with an indication of academic progress in the final (A2) year. Additionally, A levels can sometimes count for US university credit: usually one A-level can equal 3 undergraduate credits.Do GCSEs matter in America? ›
US schools look at all grades throughout high school (9–12) for US applicants, so GCSE and A level would be the equivalent for British students.Can US students take A Levels? ›
Do universities in the Unites States accept A Levels? US universities do accept A Levels. In fact, A Levels are often a key factor for many universities in the United States when it comes to admitting students from the UK.Can US students do A Levels? ›
Yes, it is possible for students in the United States to take A-level exams. A-level exams are offered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) board, which is a part of the University of Cambridge.Does Harvard accept A Levels? ›
Over 880 universities in the US formally accept Cambridge International AS & A Levels, including all Ivy League and Ivy Plus universities. These universities include Brown, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Yale. Many more US universities accept Cambridge qualifications on application.Is Oxford better than Harvard? ›
They have consistently ranked among the top 10 institutes in the global rankings. According to the world university rank 2023, Oxford University ranked top and Harvard University ranked second in the list, whilst in the QS world university list Oxford University ranked fourth and Harvard University ranked fifth.
How hard is it for an American to get into Oxford? ›
It is, therefore, expected that the University of Oxford is a highly selective institution with an astonishing average acceptance rate of 17.5%. The acceptance rate for international students is even lower, estimated at 9%.Do you need straight A's to get into Oxford? ›
However Oxford usually only has around 3,300 places each year so even excellent grades will not guarantee you an offer. Offers for Oxford places are between A*A*A and AAA at A-level, depending on the course. (See course pages.) See a list of Oxford courses with conditional offers including at least one A*.What are the most respected GCSEs? ›
GCSE options do matter
English and maths (sometimes science) are the GCSEs that universities are most likely to be interested in – and you don't get the option of dropping these. So whatever GCSEs you choose, you'll still have a broad range of unis to make up your mind over (if you get the grades, that is).
- Classical Civilisation. Classical Civilisation is a particularly easy A-Level, especially as you don't need to learn languages such as Greek or Latin. ...
- Environmental Science. ...
- Food Studies. ...
- Drama. ...
- Geography. ...
- Textiles. ...
- Film Studies. ...
- GCSE French (And Other Modern Languages).
- GCSE Geography.
- GCSE Art.
- GCSE History.
- GCSE Design and Technology (DT).
- GCSE Additional and Combined Science.
- GCSE Science.
- GCSE English Literature.
The IGCSE or International General Certificate of Secondary Education is an international qualification for Year 10 and 11 students studying in non-UK countries. It is equivalent to the GCSE and is accepted by UK institutions and UK universities.What is GCSE called in UK? ›
GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education.Can I go to university without GCSE UK? ›
While universities usually require a passing grade in GCSE Maths and English, it's certainly possible to get in with no GCSEs. However, you will have to fill out your application with plenty of impressive-sounding skills and character traits.Is US grading system harder than UK? ›
The UK grading system is not very different from the grading systems in many countries, like China, India, the USA, or European Countries. The top grades go to students who get very high percentages, and the pass grades are given to anyone who manages to achieve the minimum grade required.What SAT score is required for UK? ›
|UK requirement (A-level)||SAT equivalent|
|BBC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 600 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|BCC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 550 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|CCC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 500 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
What college is equivalent to A Levels UK? ›
NVQ's are on the job qualifications where you're assessed on your ability to complete tasks in a workplace. NVQ's start at a Level 1 and go up to a Level 5. Achieving a Level 3 is the same as an A Level. They're usually offered by a college, school, or workplace.What is Grade 12 called in USA? ›
|Age||UK Years||US/International Grades|
|14 - 15||Year 10||9th Grade (Freshman)|
|15 - 16||Year 11||10th Grade (Sophomore)|
|16 - 17||Year 12 / Lower 6th||11th Grade (Junior)|
|17 - 18||Year 13 / Upper 6th||12th Grade (Senior)|
Twelfth graders are referred to as Seniors. Many students consider the twelfth grade, also known as the senior year of high school, a year to relax and prepare for the transition out of their old lives into college/university or the workplace.What is year 10 equivalent to in America? ›
United States. The tenth grade is typically the second year of high school, called sophomore year.What are the USA academic levels? ›
Education in the United States follows a pattern similar to that in many systems. Early childhood education is followed by primary school (called elementary school in the United States), middle school, secondary school (called high school in the United States), and then postsecondary (tertiary) education.What is sixth form in America? ›
Sixth form colleges in the United States are: universities with academically and intellectually gifted programs for 13-16 year olds, who attend for four years until 16–19 years of age, community colleges that award associate's degrees to 16-17 year olds (or under!), or.Are A Levels harder than American school? ›
Are A levels (England) harder than the high school exams they take in the US? Yes, the UK A-levels are much harder than the US high school exams, but it's not about the “exam format.” Instead, it's about the “exam specialisation”. In the UK, most children take a wide range of subjects at age 14–15.What is the least passed GCSE? ›
Equivalent GCSE grades
The Government has said that grade 4 is a 'standard pass'. Grade 5 is a 'strong pass' and equivalent to a high C and low B on the old grading system. Grade 4 remains the level that students must achieve without needing to resit English and Maths post-16.
The reformed GCSE qualifications will be awarded on a grade scale of 9 (the highest grade) to 1 (the lowest).What are the hardest A levels? ›
What are the 12 Hardest A-Level Subjects? The 12 hardest A-Level subjects are Mathematics, Further Mathematics, History, Chemistry, Biology and Physics. The list also includes English Literature, Art, Psychology, Computer Programming and Music. You might be looking at some of these subjects and thinking, “No way!
Are A Levels like AP classes? ›
While the A Levels and IB are complete high school curricula, the APs are additional college-level courses offered in US high schools or through an online high school.Are A Levels harder than AP? ›
A levels are harder, imo. like the poster above me mentioned, people usually do 3-4 A levels, while american students easily do 7+ APs. "College Board data showed that only 2.7 percent of AP students took six or more tests in the past three years, as Daniels did.Is A Level equal to bachelor's degree in America? ›
A-level is always considered as a 12th class completion degree. In any university, in the USA, you can find references regarding this equivalency.