If you’re currently in high school, and are having to think about the next stage to take in your life, then there is a chance that you will feel a little overwhelmed about all of the options that face you.

In the past, it would have been as simple as a choice of leaving school and getting a job, or staying on to do your A Levels – however there are now even more choices for school leavers than ever before.

The introduction and growing popularity of BTECs, and universitys’ decisions to accept them as part of entrance criteria, has now opened the world of higher education to an even wider section of young people.

However, if you’re confused about whether you should be doing BTECs or A Levels, this post will give you the vital information that you need to help you make your decisions.

What are BTECs?

It is only relatively recently that colleges have started to offer BTECs as a study option for its students, so many people still aren’t too sure about exactly what the qualification entails.

The name itself stands for “Business Technology Education Council” – which was the name of the body that first introduced the qualification.

Although this post specifically addresses the comparison between BTECs and A Levels, BTECs are actually available at many different levels, including GCSE.

If you are taking BTECs in replacement of A Levels, then it is likely that you will be studying a Level 3 course.

What type of subjects can I study?

If you choose to study a BTEC course, then you will notice that it is more vocational than you would expect from more traditional A Levels.

This means that you can study things such as business studies, information technology and travel and tourism – where you could expect to gain practical experience alongside any formal study.

If you choose to take A Levels, then the subjects are what you would expect from school, such as English, Maths or History – traditional choices that have been a part of further education for a long time.

How will I be assessed?

Many students struggle with assessments for many reasons. Those who are not very good at revising find that they don’t do too well with traditional exams, whereas people who may not be good at timekeeping struggle with coursework based assessments.

A huge part of deciding what kind of course to study comes with the type of assessment that you feel you would excel at the most – as working to your strengths would give you the best possible chance of getting top grades and moving on to the next level of your education or working life – whichever you choose.

If you take A Levels, then you will be expected to sit your exams at the end of two years. This means that you would learn all of the material over an extended period of time, and then try to consolidate it all before taking part in the exam.

This is a more traditional way of examination, and has long since been a part of the education system. BTECs, on the other hand, assess students as they work their way through the course, and the types of assessment vary much more than they would for A Levels.

For example, in addition to written papers, if you choose to study a BTEC you can also expect to have to take part in more practical tests, submit coursework, and make presentations. If you enjoy having lots of different things to get stuck into, and you get bored studying in just one way, then this might be a good choice for you.

Will I be able to get into university with my chosen course?

If you are looking to get into university, then it is important that you get to grips with the entrance requirements as soon as you have decided which university you would like to apply to.

There are lots of different requirements that can be in place, and may include the need to achieve specific grades, or even take specific subjects.

The vast majority of universities give offers via a points system that include A Levels – and many now also accept BTECs as an alternative option. Universities are coming to the realisation that BTECs are actually a great choice to make, and can help shape a student’s knowledge and ability in preparation for university.

You should be aware, however, that not all courses and universities accept every single qualification as entrance criteria, so it’s incredibly important to check to avoid disappointment.

Pros and cons: an overview


+ A range of subjects to choose from
+ No huge formal exams at the end of two years
- Lots of small examinations, meaning multiple deadlines
- Can be time consuming when it comes to practical subject related experience

A Levels

+ Recognised by the majority of universities
+ The exams at the end of two years will benefit those who excel academically
- Usually only one type of exam, which wouldn’t benefit anyone who struggles to perform well under pressure, or to revise
- Could be boring for anyone who prefers to get hands on experience in their subject of interest

Although, traditionally, A Levels were always seen as the route to get students their chosen university place, there is no doubt that times are changing, and with that comes an increase in choices when it comes to making the decision about what to study to get to where you need to be.

It is of great benefit to those who may not have excelled at school in traditional subjects, as they would get a great chance to show where they really shine, and this means that their abilities would be allowed to shine through in different ways.

So, if you are currently trying to think of what you want to do when you leave school, and are wondering whether A Levels or BTECs would be the right choice for you, the information above should certainly go some way to helping you make that important decision.

Further information

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