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BTEC versus A levels

(59 Posts)
GaribaldiGirl Fri 08-Mar-19 09:04:16

My son is in GCSE year. He has an above average IQ but has slow processing and a poor working memory - he therefore has always found schoolwork and exams harder than most. I think he’ll get 5/6s in most subjects.

I’m wondering whether BTECs are better suited to pupils like him. I believe they have more coursework.

Any advice appreciated, particularly from anyone with experience of BTECs. Most people I know seem very A level focused.

He’s going to move schools for sixth form and one of the ones we’ve looked at has a BTEC option. His current school is strictly A levels or Baccalaureate only.

OP’s posts: |
TeenTimesTwo Fri 08-Mar-19 09:14:15

My DD got 5/6 equivalent grades, also with some SpLD. She did a BTEC Diploma (2 A level equiv) and Spanish AS (failed so dropped for 2nd year). She found the BTEC quite hard as, for her course at least, to get the best grades you had to have good research and analysis skills which were not her strong point.

BTECs do indeed have more coursework, though they all now, I believe, have some exam element. I think there is a lot to be said for BTECs.
1) Some will be doing them because they 'have to stay in education' so behaviour may be more of an issue if the college isn't on top of it
2) It does cut down university options if you are considering that. Though if only expecting 5/6s probably doesn't cut out the ones he would be aiming for anyway.

Can he find a BTEC he is interested in? If he were doing A levels what sort of subjects would he go for? Is he looking to do a mix A level & BTEC, or an Extended Diploma BTEC which is 3 A level equivalent? (e.g. There is a computing one).

GaribaldiGirl Fri 08-Mar-19 09:43:11

Thanks, that’s interesting. Did your daughter go on to further study with her BTEC?

He definitely isn’t a Russell group candidate but I’d like to think he’ll go to university.

It’s business I think he’d choose. I see you can do a BTEC which is equivalent to an A level or a course which is equivalent to 3 A levels. Maybe a mix would be good.

I see your point about distraction. Most pupils I know of who’ve done BTECs are the ones who are difficult and not interested in working. My son is diligent so don’t want that to change!

OP’s posts: |
TeenTimesTwo Fri 08-Mar-19 09:46:30

No she didn't go on to uni. It was never on the cards, her brain just isn't up to it.

If you hang around there is a poster who works in FE who might turn up. Otherwise search this board for 'BTEC Support Thread' and a couple will come up that may be of interest.

onaroll Fri 08-Mar-19 09:47:17

My son has completed an extended BTEC.
He decided he wanted to be an ‘engineer’.
He had the choices of doing 3 A’levels (maths, physics & probably history) or as he chose : leave his school- go to another college a take Maths A’level & Extended BTEC in Engineering.

He is someone that finds big exams hard.

After his 1st term he spoke to us & said he wanted to drop the maths A’level as he wanted to concentrate on and get great grades in his BTEC rather than fair results in them all. He did drop it - I’m retrospectively glad he did.

He worked hard throughout and made sure on every assessment he got a distinction grade (rather than a pass or merit).

He completed his BTEC and his final grade was DD*D - so the highest grade that could be achieved.
This is equivalent to 3x A* Alevels in UCAS points.
He himself acknowledges he doesn’t feel if he had gone the A’level route - he would of got 3 x A*.

He choose not to go Uni but wanted a degree.
He is now doing a Higher level (degree) apprenticeship. His high UCAS points meant he had the requirements for this.
He feels the way he worked and the assessments within the BTEC have trained him well for his degree course - follows the same format of learning.

He has friends from his course that had an overall lower grade (passes & Merits) , the UCAS points drop considerably - some didn’t get enough to apply for a degree at Uni /higher level apprenticeship.
Working hard throughout the BTEC course and making sure of high grades throughout - definitely pays off.

My Dd is in GCSE year now , she has watched her brother go successfully along a different route to the A’level one recommended by her/their school for 6th form.
If what she wanted to do had the BTEC / apprenticeship route - I think she would choose it - but it doesn’t so she will be staying on for 6th Form and doing A’levels.


Diangled Fri 08-Mar-19 09:48:48

My DS is nearing the end of his BTEC level 3 & is off to university this September. It’s been the making of him as he had to do 2 days a week at a work experience placement which helped his confidence no end. It also kept him interested in his course as whilst being intelligent he isn’t one for traditional book learning 5 days a week.

onaroll Fri 08-Mar-19 09:49:44

Whoops - didn’t proof read
He got DD*D
(In my post above)

onaroll Fri 08-Mar-19 09:50:16

D* D* D* even

SuziQ10 Fri 08-Mar-19 09:55:07

I would encourage A Levels.

JustBeenNosey Fri 08-Mar-19 09:56:24

I did BTEC at college rather than A levels. I always found myself stressing about the exams and could always do the coursework to a much higher standard.

Has your son said what he would prefer to do?

When I did my GCSE's in 2010, we were on the letters still for grading. I got 4 B's and 7 C's so I was quite bright but I just didn't like doing exams.

When I did my BTEC course in Social Care, I got Distinction+, Distinction+, Distinction. (Equivalent of A+, A+, A) I think..
if I'd have done A levels instead, I don't think I would have managed to get such a good grade.

What does your son want to go on to do, career wise?

Cassimin Fri 08-Mar-19 10:05:53

My daughter doesn’t do too well in exams, always lacked confidence.
She was never very good at maths and despite having a tutor failed to get c GCSE by 1 mark.
She had to go to college to resit and decided to do foundation maths and btec in health and social care.
She loved doing this, it boosted her confidence.
She passed gcse in first year and did really well in her btec.
She’s now at uni doing health and social care and loving it.
She wants to go into some sort of work working with vulnerable people but not completely sure exactly what just yet.

Fazackerley Fri 08-Mar-19 10:09:27

Dd has done an extended btec and there is a lot of coursework. She made sure she got distinctions in everything and is on for a d* , which as far as UCAS points go is the equiv of an A* at a level. She enjoyed it as it was more practical and she's great at coursework.

GaribaldiGirl Fri 08-Mar-19 11:11:26

Wow, thanks everyone. Good to hear people’s experience, which seem mostly positive.

Don’t think my son has a career plan, but I think a business BTEC might suit him. He’s more creative than mathematical and, frankly, a bit of a dippy dreamer regarding his future!

OP’s posts: |
JustBeenNosey Fri 08-Mar-19 13:47:59

If he's more creative then I'd deffo recommend a BTEC rather than A level x

FiveHoursSleep Sun 10-Mar-19 17:47:09

My DD2 has a diagnosis of ASD and although academically able ( predicted 6/7s in most things, might get an 8 in music) really struggles with exams. Her short term memory is not good, she is hugely anxious and suffers from panic attacks.
She wants to go to uni eventually and do either animation or concept art, so has decided to do a BTech in Game Design at a college local to her secondary school. She also hopes to get a part time job.
DD1 suits the current school system much more than DD2, got all 8s and 9s for GCSEs and is finding A levels to be a lot of hard work. I can't imagine DD2 coping without a lot of stress so I think she's making the right decision.

Meredith12 Sun 10-Mar-19 21:24:45

My DD is predicted grade 5 through to 9's in her GCSE's and she would probably get on to A levels without much bother, but she said she can't think of anything worse. She's applied to do a creative media extended BTEC. As long as DD is happy with her choice, I'm happy smile

Good luck with whatever you son decides.

MaybeitsMaybelline Sun 10-Mar-19 21:33:14

If your dc is not the most academic I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend BTEC or a combination of ALevels and BTEC subsidiary diplomas. Both my DC did a combination, DS graduated from a modern uni with a First and DD from a Russell Group with a 2:1(uni of Leeds). They are not necessarily career limiting whatever some people think. DDs uni friends were mostly private or state grammar school educated with 3-4 solid ALevels. She was state co-ed comprehensive.

They didn’t graduate with any better degree than her.

GaribaldiGirl Sun 10-Mar-19 22:08:21

Thanks. Really interesting. I feel he should perhaps do a mix. He always struggles with exams and his teachers are a bit disappointed thinking he should have done better. Think an option with more coursework might work better, although it seems you have to get good grades in the BTEC to get Uni place.
Part of the reason I’m asking is that he is a bit resistant - some of his friends are a bit scathing about BTECS I think.

OP’s posts: |
Fazackerley Mon 11-Mar-19 05:45:39

Yes you have to get a D in a single btec for a decent uni. DDD in the extended diploma and check which subjects they accept.

errorofjudgement Mon 11-Mar-19 06:22:58

Re the slow processing, this is new to me but DD has just been assessed as having mild dyslexia and slow processing. As a result she will be getting extra time in her exams.
Your comment about teachers thinking he should do better than his actual results show, makes me wonder if this is less about his academic ability and more to do with needing more support for slow processing.
Not that this would necessarily impact on his choice to do a BTEC rather than A levels.

goldengummybear Mon 11-Mar-19 19:50:01

DS does an A-level and 2xLevel 3 BTECs at Sixth Firm. He's hopefully off to Uni in the autumn. He is intelligent but didn't work consistently during GCSEs. He could get away with not studying until a day or two before. BTECs forced him to continuously work on assignments and tests. The research on assignments is great practice for unit and knowing your grades in assignments and module exams ahead of time is also a bonus.

GaribaldiGirl Mon 11-Mar-19 20:30:05

errorofjudgement - actually he gets amazing support at school and extra time in exams.
I just think some pupils with slow processing and problems with their working memory will always find exams hard. Hoping he’ll defy expectations in his GCSEs but history suggests not. BTEC option sounds good for him.
I feel he slogs away and then often doesn’t reap the rewards so need a different approach.
Hard for him because he has very academic siblings who sail through exams. Slightly dreading results day to be honest.

OP’s posts: |
cricketballs3 Tue 12-Mar-19 06:01:16

For the ext dip Business there are 7 mandatory units, 4 of which are externally assessed.

These external assessments include an exam (finance - personal and business including having to remember accounting ratios), the other 3 are 3 hour write ups in controlled conditions. The remaining mandatory are large coursework units with each one covering 5 learning aims.

The other units are from an optional list which whilst officially are 'optional' will be selected normally by the college i.e. I select unit 8 and 27 for all my students but I do give the group the choice for the others but a neighbouring college preselects all optional units therefore that is a question to ask.

cricketballs3 Tue 12-Mar-19 06:04:35

I would ask if the college still does old spec given your DS needs (colleges can still run old spec) which is 100% coursework but I'm not sure as to current uni acceptance on old spec

TapasForTwo Tue 12-Mar-19 06:28:06

Why SuziQ10?

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