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Since the end of 2010, qualifications are arranged in the new Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF). This affords every qualification a standardised level, as shown below in the QCF Levels table. Since qualifications have a designated level, they can more easily be compared.

In addition to the level at which study is undertaken, courses vary in size - the number of units they contain. According to OfQual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), the amount of study in a unit is to be specified in credits, so that the size of any qualification will be expressed in the same way - the sum of the credits for each of the units in the course.

Credits are a more flexible approach to studying and gaining qualifications, allowing students to progress by accumulating credits, which relate to a given number of hours of work for an average student.

So, courses and qualifications will be compared on the basis of size and level:

Qualification Size Level
BTEC Entry Level Award for IT Users (ITQ) 6 Credits At Entry Level 3
BTEC Level 1 Certificate for IT Users (ITQ) 13 Credits At Level 1
BTEC Level 2 Certificate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Leadership Skills 13 Credits At Level 2

Ofqual says that 1 credit represents 10 hours of Total Qualification Time (the Guided Learning hours plus all other time taken in study and preparation).

GCSE and GCE A-Level courses don't specify a number of Credits. However, some comparison can be made:
  A GCSE represents about 140 hours of study at Level 21
  A GCE A-Level represents about 360 hours of study at Level 32

The last entry in the table above specifies 130 hours of study.

  1. A GCSE is up to 140 Guided Learning Hours
  2. A GCE A-Level is 360 Guided Learning Hours

A selection of courses are shown for comparison in the table below: Qualifications and credits.

Some information on the University and College Admissions Service and tariffs is in the table: UCAS Tariffs.

This information has been compiled from and checked against these sources:
Awarding bodies and www.gov.uk - Education and Learning pages
Ofqual - www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofqual
Ofqual - Register of Regulated Qualifications
Accredited Qualifications - www.accreditedqualifications.org.uk
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Eduction - www.qaa.ac.uk
The British Computer Society - www.bcs.org; www.ucas.com

This page was updated: Sep. 2016.


QCF Levels

QCF Level Traditional Other types of qualifications General examples
Entry Key Stage 3
Functional Skills
(English, Maths and ICT)
Entry Level Certificate in Adult Literacy
BTEC Entry Level Certificate
BTEC Vocational Award
Functional Skills Entry Level Certificate

1 GCSE Grades 1 - 3
Functional Skills
(English, Maths and ICT)
Awards (1 - 12 credits)
Certificates (13 - 36 credits)
Diplomas (37 credits and over)

Level 1 Certificate in ...
Level 1 NVQ in ...
BTEC Award for IT Users (iTQ)
BTEC Introductory Certificate/Diploma
BTEC Vocational Certificate/Diploma
2 GCSE Grades 4 - 9
Functional Skills
(English, Maths and ICT)
Certificates (15 credits)
Extended Certificates (30 credits)
Diplomas (60 credits)

Level 2 NVQ in ...
Level 2 Diploma in ...
BTEC Award for IT Users (iTQ)
BTEC First Certificate/Diploma
BTEC Vocational Certificate/Diploma
National Certificate/Diploma
3 AS/A-Level
Certificates (30 credits)
Extended Certificates (60 credits)
Diplomas (120 credits)
Level 3 Certificate in ...
Level 3 NVQ in ...
BTEC National Certificate/Diploma
BTEC IT Certificate/Subsidiary Diploma/90 credit Diploma/Diploma
BTEC IT (Business) Certificate/Diploma
BTEC IT (Networking and System Support) Certificate/Dipl.
BTEC IT (Software Development) Certificate/Diploma
National Certificate/Diploma/Extended Diploma

4 University Degree
(BA, BSc)
Foundation Degree

Level 4 NVQ in ...
Level 4 National Diploma in ...
BTEC Higher National Certificate/Diploma
5 Level 5 NVQ in ...
BTEC Higher National Diploma in ...

Level 6 National Diploma in ...
7 Masters Degree
(MA, MSc, MPhil)
Level 7 National Diploma in ...
8 Doctorate

Specialist Awards




Qualifications and Credits

Course Level GLH TQT Credits GCSE A-Level
AQA GCSE(9-1) Mathematics 1
CIE Certificate(9-1) Mathematics 1/2 130 200   1.00  
Edexcel GCSE(9-1) Mathematics 1
AQA GCSE(9-1) Biology 1
AQA GCSE(9-1) History 1
OCR GCSE(9-1) Computer Science 1
AQA GCSE(9-1) Business 1/2 120     1.00  
OCR GCSE(9-1) English Language 1
1AQA GCSE(A*-G) Mathematics A 1
1AQA GCSE(A*-G) Mathematics B 1
2CCEA GCSE(A*-G) Mathematics 1
Edexcel IGCSE Mathematics A 1/2 140     1.00  
Edexcel IGCSE Biology 1/2 140     1.00  
BTEC Award for IT Users(ITQ) 2 70 80 10    
BTEC Certificate for IT Users(ITQ) 2 120 130 16 1.00  
BTEC Diploma IT User Skills(ITQ) 2 280 360 38    
NCFE Certificate in Maths 2 170 170 17    
1BTEC Certificate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Leadership Skills 2 130 130 13  
City & Guilds Diploma in Legal Studies 2 209 213 37    
Edexcel NVQ Diploma in Laboratory Science 2 214 331 37    
Ascentis Diploma in Business 2 291 370 37    


Course Level GLH TQT Credits GCSE A-Level
CCEA Advanced GCE in Physics 3 360       1.00
AQA Advanced GCE in Spanish 3 360       1.00
WJEC Advanced GCE in Biology 3 360       1.00
OCR Advanced GCE in ICT 3 360       1.00
City & Guilds Advanced Technical Certificate in Engineering 3 360        
OCR Advanced GCE in English Language 3 360        
OCR AS GCE in Biology A 3 180        
Edexcel AS GCE in History 3 180        
CCEA AS GCE in Pure Mathematics 3 180        
BTEC Award for IT Users(ITQ) 3 85 95 12    
BTEC Diploma in IT User Skills(ITQ) 3 280 360 39    


Course Level GLH TQT Credits GCSE A-Level
Entry 1 Certificate in Maths E1 170 170 17    
Entry 2 Certificate in Maths E2 210 210 21    
Entry 3 Certificate in Maths E3 230 230 23    
BTEC Entry 3 Award for IT Users(ITQ) E3 45 60 6    
BTEC Entry 3 Certificate for IT Users(ITQ) E3 95 130 13    
BTEC Award for IT Users(ITQ) 1 60 90 9    
BTEC Certificate for IT Users(ITQ) 1 90 130 13    
BTEC Diploma for IT Users(ITQ) 1 250 370 37    
NCFE Award in Maths: Working with Statistics 1 20 20 2    
NCFE Award in Maths: Handling Data 1 40 40 4    
NCFE Certificate in Maths 1 170 170 17    
1BTEC Certificate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths Leadership Skills 1 130 130 13    



GLH: Guided learning hours

TQT: Total Qualification Time

1: Courses no longer available

2: Wales and N.Ireland

All of the Courses listed here are keyed into the new Credit rating system - they have the suffix 'QCF' in the Specification Title in the National Database entry.

It used to be the case that courses other than GCSE and GCE would rate themselves as being equivalent to so many GCSEs (or so many A-Levels). We were apt to say "How many GCSEs is an NVQ?" or "How many GCSEs is a BTEC?" This is still a sensible comparison to make - a GCSE is a Certificate at Level 2 and an NVQ or a BTEC at Level 2 and requiring a similar number of hours of study is broadly equivalent always bearing in mind that a GCSE is an academic qualification whereas an NVQ or BTEC is a vocational one.

According to OfQual, every unit and qualification has a credit value that is linked to the number of Guided Learning Hours assigned to the course and the Level of study involved. The size of qualifications conforms to this general scale:

Size Value  
Award 1 - 12 Credits
Certificate 13 - 36 Credits
Diploma above 36 Credits


Guided Learning Hours stand at around 6 hours per Credit... more for lower levels of study and depending on the nature of the course material. The student can expect to spend more time doing the work and practicing than the quoted Guided Learning Hours.

Scroll down further for the UCAS Tariffs table.



UCAS Tariff Points

The only sure way, really, to find out if your results or your intended results at A-Level will get you a place at any of the universities or colleges of your choice is to enquire with those universities directly. UCAS Tariff Points is a system for standardising the value of different qualifications and grades - some universities use UCAS Tariff Points whereas others require specific grades in particular subjects and some universities use both. The table below is intended as a general guide. The average entrance requirement is around 120 UCAS Tariff Points.

BTEC Nationals
UCAS tariff points AS Level A Level UCAS tariff points Award Certificate Diploma
56   A*   168     D*D*D*
48   A   160     D*D*D
40   B   152     D*DD
32   C   144     DDD
24   D   128     DDM
20 A     112     DMM
16 B E   96   DD MMM
12 C     80   DM MMP
10 D     64   MM MPP
6 E     48 D MP PPP
        32 M PP  
        16 P    

    Number of points per GCE

P: Pass; M: Merit; D: Distinction