Difference between Levels 1, 2 & 3 | Poole Dorset | Rockley


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What are the different types of courses at College?

There are so many college courses out there, sometimes it’s hard to work through them all, let alone understand what they all mean or what they’ll cover! Head of Education Clare Hicks explains all.

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Here’s a run-down for you, to help you with all the courses that are available to you at College. 

1. Let’s start with the levels.

Level 1 - Level 1 programmes are often referred to as Foundation level. These courses are designed for students who have gained a range of GCSE’s at grade 1 – 3. 

Level 2 – Level 2 programmes are equivalent to GCSE level study, normally for students who have gained a range of grade 3’s at GCSE. These programmes will often be combined with English and Maths GCSEs. You can complete Level 2 programmes from a range of exam boards like NCFE, BTEC, OCR and City and Guilds. You can also complete Apprenticeships at Level 2. 

Level 3 – Level 3 programmes are equivalent to A-level study and are predominantly for students who have gained at least four or five GCSEs at grade 4 and above. There are a wide range of courses for you to study at this level in a wide range of areas and subjects. Some programmes are equivalent to one A-level, some two and some three A-levels. You can complete Level 3 programmes from a wide range of exam boards, just like you can at Level 2, such as AQA, NCFE, OCR and BTEC. You can also complete Apprenticeships at Level 3. At Rockley, we run the NCFE Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport and Physical Activity (Outdoors). This is a two-year course and equivalent to 3 A-levels. We also run the Level 3 Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship. This course is 12 – 18 months long and is equivalent to 2 A-levels. 

2. A-levels or Vocational course?

At Colleges you tend to have options to study either an A-level route, often referred to as an Academic route or a Vocational route. But what does this mean? A-levels have been around forever and are the most well known route for the majority of people that have been to college or sixth form. 

Vocational courses have also been available, however they have not always been seen as favourably as A-levels. This changed in the 90’s, when there was a big boom in Educational Vocational courses, which saw the introduction of Level 2 and Level 3 Diplomas and Extended Diplomas. Over time, there has been an abundance of Vocational programmes from exam boards covering a range of topics, including NVQ’s, GNVQ’s BTEC’s, NCFE, CNAT etc.  

Colleges all over the country now offer a range of credible courses in a variety of subjects and activities. Your decision now, is whether to study A-levels in traditional subjects, such as maths, history, physics or whether a Vocational course or Apprenticeship in areas such as: Sport, Business, Childcare, Travel and Tourism, Engineering etc would be more appealing and suit the career path you are pursuing. 

3. How are these programmes assessed?

Assessment is really where the courses are different. Quick question - do you like exams, enjoy learning, retaining and revising content and then sitting an exam at the end of a 2-year programme? Or, do you prefer coursework, projects and more applied practical learning? This is really where you will see real differences in the courses available at Colleges, and where it is really is important to decide what suits you best. 

Selecting a two-year programme which involves lots of exams end of the end of those two years which will depict your overall grade, might be perfect for you, or, it may be the most daunting thing ever. Likewise, completing lots of coursework throughout the two years may suit the way you learn, or again, might be the worst thing for you. If you like exams, go for A-levels. If you like projects and assignment work without exams, go for a Vocational programme or an Apprenticeship. 

How do I Choose?

Choosing a College course is ironically firstly about understanding the language and understanding what everyone is talking about. Make sure you do your research, make use of all the rescouces at your school and speak to as many people as possible who may be able to offer help and advise including career advisors, teachers, fellow students and your family and friends. there's a lot of information out there which will enable you to make the right decision for you!

At Rockley we cover the following courses:

Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport and Physical Activity (Outdoors)

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Level 3 Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship

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Level 3 Outdoor Instructor Traineeship

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If you would like to find out more about courses at Rockley and what we have to offer, why not visit us at our next Open Event on 29th January, 10am-12pm at Rockley Point Training Centre. Click below to register for free via Eventbrite:

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