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Pros of doing BTEC vs A-Levels

(28 Posts)
IHeartHarryStyles Thu 20-Aug-20 20:26:31

Those on the corona cohort threads know that DD didn’t get what she (we) hoped for today in her GCSE results. She has been offered places on BTEC courses at 6th form as opposed to her preferred A-Levels.

She can transfer to a different 6th form to do a mixture of BTEC and A-Level but it means leaving her friends and a really highly regarded school.

She isn’t sure what to do. Right now it feels like the end of the world to her. What are the pros of a BTEC qualification. Can she realistically still go to uni or are BTEC the poor relation which will rule her out of all decent courses? I’ve tried geeing her up and bigging up BTEC courses but some real life examples would be great. From what I’ve read they seem like they could be a great option.

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clary Thu 20-Aug-20 20:46:41

She can certainly go to uni with BTEC post 16.

Yes, probably not Oxford or Warwick or Bristol. But these may not be what she was looking at anyway?

Have a look at what she would like to do, and look up the entry requirements at some unis she may like (eg nearby, far away, campus or city?). That will give you a better idea. What subject is/are the BTEC(s)?

IHeartHarryStyles Thu 20-Aug-20 20:59:19

Thanks @clary she’s been offered applied business, sports studies and health and social care with a possibility of ICT instead.

She had wanted to do PE, Business and Psychology A-Level with no real pathway settled on from there.

We’ve looked at business courses at a couple of unis and it looks possible that BTEC would be accepted but also needing grade 5 or 6 in English/Maths GCSE which she doesn’t have.

Wondering if sitting the exam would be worth it in the autumn. She’s just so sad, this set of results has completely blindsided her. She’s dropped grades in 5 subjects from what she was predicted at the end of year 10. Her yr 11 mocks were a disaster but we hoped everything else might outweigh them. Unfortunately it didn’t. Although on the one subject where she outperformed herself in her yr 11 mocks she didn’t get that grade either, reverting back to what she had been predicted at the end of yr 10.

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ThankyouPeter Thu 20-Aug-20 20:59:36

Looks like it's just me again grin if you and your daughter have a look on the university websites at courses she might be interested in then you can see that they almost all accept Btec. I just had a quick look at Exeter as it is obviously one of the better ones. They have psychology which requires AAA at A level or DDD at btec. Similar entry requirements for marketing for example. They carry the same ucas points at A and Distinction although there is no grade B equivalent so you drop to a C with a merit. They aren't an easy option but they can be much more suitable for some. You get to take each exam twice and they take your highest grade which is a huge bonus, and it is split between 4 or 5 modules with roughly half being coursework. I honestly couldn't be happier that we chose the Btec route. Far from closing doors it can actually allow them to access a university which they would never realistically have been able to attend if they had taken A levels. My advice is to have a look at some university websites and see the kind of grades you need for the courses. They say you generally drop a grade at A level compared to your GCSE grade so that is something to bear in mind. It is perfectly possible for a grade 4/5 student to achieve distinction at Btec. Good luck and I hope you get a few more replies.

ThankyouPeter Thu 20-Aug-20 21:03:21

Sorry I was typing so didn't see your last. Yes it might be worth her resitting the English and maths although I'm sure lots of places were only asking for grade 4 when we looked. They definitely don't all ask for a grade 5.

IHeartHarryStyles Thu 20-Aug-20 21:03:52

@ThankyouPeter thank you, your replies have been really helpful and have been so appreciated in making us feel better. It’s been such an emotional day.

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ThankyouPeter Thu 20-Aug-20 21:16:17

Ah, I remember being exactly where you are. Nottingham Trent is a good example. Only need a grade 4 at gcse and DDM for their business degree. They also do plenty of alternatives if business feels a bit maths heavy. Marketing for example or HR or even a joint honours with 2 subjects that interest her. The other great thing about btec is that is a continuous assessment and there is no final exam- great for their mental health. You keep submitting your coursework until you get the grade you want (there is a lot of it) and my son had 3 attempts at one of his exams to get the best grade. Sounds like she can do sport and business too. My son really wanted to do psychology at A level but they wouldn't let him. He is doing it as part of his degree course now though smile

IHeartHarryStyles Thu 20-Aug-20 21:27:04

Thank you it really helps. I think we need to look at uni courses in more depth. Which feels very overwhelming for her given the disappointment of the day.

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Baileyscoffeeandcampfires Thu 20-Aug-20 22:05:25

Dd has decided to do one btec in business and then 2 a levels in accounting and computer science . She has no clue what she wants to do career wise or even if she wants to do uni

She doesn't want to do 3 a levels as is nervy at having her first experience of formal exams being final a levels . Doing a btec with coursework will take some pressure off. Honestly I would rather she did a double btec and one a level .

Ds has just completed his a levels and his friends who did btecs had no issue with getting uni interviews and places . One got a triple distinction star in public services and is joining the met on a degree apprenticeship. No debt and a £30k salary in 3 years .

clary Thu 20-Aug-20 23:27:09

Yh op I am sure there are plenty of degree courses which don't require 5/6 in maths and English - friend of Dd's gift 4 in maths IIRC and got uni offers.

Those BTECs seem to chime in pretty well with her A level choices I would say. Might well be a better option; 4/5 at GCSE doesn't tend to predicate a high A level grade but much more likely to pull up with a BTEC if she's up for hard dedicated work.

Flyingarcher Fri 21-Aug-20 06:50:03

Hi. Btecs are fab. They really suit the organised and those who are bright but just seem to flunk exams. My son's GCSEs weren't great so he had to do an intermediary year of maths &English gcse plus a couple of L2 Btec. It was the making of him as he got into the Btec way of working. He got his Level 3s and achieved Distinction star in one of his subjects. He is at uni now.

Things to be aware of....
The maths & english are really dull and do get in the way of other studies
Btec consists of modules with submission dates and you have to hit those dates. You get a chance at a resub but then that's it for that module.
Tasks are ordered in terms of tarrifs so there are Pass, Merit and Distinction grades. What wasn't explained to us is that only getting a pass for two submissions and then pass for three modules, irrespective of how many Merits and Distinctions they have got will then only accrue the points for a Pass. If you only get a Pass for year1 then it is impossible to get a Distinction overall. Thanks to a really super crap PE lecturer, this is what happened to DS and he had to change his uni subject choice because of it. We were never told this and not warned that for his very last tiny assignment he only got a pass. He did pull a blinder in year 2 and got a Merit but the predicted grades meant we were restricted as to which unis he could apply for.

All the submission dates for the subjects all seem to come at once. All very stressful (think this is what happened with PE). Lots of very hard work

All work is on line and very little note taking etc.

They never really write a long essay and DS has found this difficult now at uni where he has to, i've had to help him quite a bit with this aspect.

The college staff vary and really don't give much of a shit, frankly. The Btec students constantly lose out to the A level students so if Lecturer is off sick for A level, they will draft in the Btec person in to teach that and the Btec guys are left with cover. This happened A LOT in his final year.
However, my son got good grades and he wouldn't have done well in A level. Btec sport includes no practical sport. This waffle that they are practical subjects is bollocks.

baremineral Fri 21-Aug-20 06:56:24

I would 100% do BTEC sport science over A Level PE. I teach both and unless your DD is at a national level in a sport, she will struggle to reach higher grades. The BTEC allows them to reach the highest grades more easily and with more coursework. There are a couple of exams, which they have to pass it they fail the course (for the course I've taught), but it's heavily coursework based.

I have many students who have studied at 6th form doing only BTECs and have gone on to great unis and are doing well for themselves in great jobs.

As PPs have said, look at uni entry requirements but you'll find that pretty much all of them accept BTEC. It is no longer the poor relation to A Levels!

pilates Fri 21-Aug-20 07:06:27

My DD did Health & Social work BTEC at college. She blossomed at college and needed two distinctions and one credit to go to university which she got. She has just finished her first year with a 2/1. Good luck to your DD. A lot of her friends dropped out of their A levels btw.

BertieBotts Fri 21-Aug-20 07:17:32

BTEC ND is a really good qualification.

It's more independent /uni like than school. The tasks are more practical and give you real experience. The tutors often have links with industry which can be really valuable in terms of longer term career plans. You get a better sense of which unis are good for the degree subject you want rather than the usual list of "good" unis which might be more traditional.

It doesn't sound like A Levels are right for her with the mix of subjects she wants to take. The only caveat I'd say is if she's still quite young in terms of organising her own work and time, A Levels might suit better.

I would not be swayed by friends at this point. Like the transition to secondary school, by a couple of weeks /months into the term often all the old friendship links have been rearranged anyway. And at 16 they tend to keep in touch if that's something they want to do, too.

I really enjoyed mine but I struggled with the workload and self sufficiency /organisation and ended up getting downgraded to a different qualification. I have ADHD which I didn't know at the time, it was diagnosed when I was 27. I think there's better diagnosis and awareness of this kind of thing in colleges and schools than there was 20 years ago, though.

Cherryonthetop2019 Fri 21-Aug-20 07:21:00

DD got grades to do A Leveks but is choosing to do A level art and a BTec Graphics. She is doing it a school. The school have a great history of kids going to top universities with DD at Btec Level so I’m super confident that they know what they are doing. The mix of A level Art and Graphics leads into design based degrees (DD is very keen on this route) and I think this combo will open a lot more doors than if she had to do all A levels.
BTec is not a soft option! It requires 2 years sustained effort.

FoolsAssassin Fri 21-Aug-20 07:57:02

Sent you a PM.

sashh Fri 21-Aug-20 08:24:15

I'd tactfully suggest her A Level choices would not be the best to get into uni.

BTEC is great for those who work hard all year and don't do as well in terminal exams. There is an examined element but the majority is coursework.

You need to look at the actual units taught and the requirements for uni eg I taught health and social care, most students went from that to nursing or allied professions but if they had not taken the anatomy and physiology unit then the universities were asking for a B grade A Level in human biology / biology.

When you look at a prospectus it will say the core units nnd then list 'options' these options are the teacher's (or school's) option not the students.

You also need to consider the facilities as this can impact on the way it is taught eg part of the health and safety unit asks students to identify hazards in a HSC setting, when I'm teaching in a college with a clinical room I can srt up a disaster with cables trailing over the bed, the 'patient' smoking while on oxygen etc. I can then sit with a list and tick off anything the students identify.

If I'm in a classroom and that's it I have to ask for an essay or at best present them with a drawing to identify hazards.

A lot depends on the teachers too, I'm a BSL user so in the communication unit students learn the alphabet and how to introduce themselves in BSL.

Another advantage of BTEC is that if you go to uni for an HNC/HND follow the same structure so it is an easy transition.

FlyingPandas Fri 21-Aug-20 08:33:34

Good luck to your DD @IHeartHarryStyles it must have been a tough day yesterday but it sounds as if there are lots of potential options for her. I hope she finds a course that she is interested in and happy with flowers

I just also wanted to say thank you to the posters on this thread who have outlined the pros and cons of BTECs so thoroughly, my DS is contemplating swapping an A level for a BTEC so it has been really helpful to read your responses.

ThankyouPeter Fri 21-Aug-20 08:52:10

To be honest I am talking a good job after the event but it was extremely difficult at the time. What actually happened was we were caught unawares like you and hadn't considered he wouldn't be able to do A levels with his friends in the school sixth form. We looked at colleges but I knew he would probably drop out if he didn't like it. Staying at school felt like a much more secure option to get him the next level of qualifications. He didn't even decide to look at university until everyone else was filling out their UCAS applications. I was in a bit of a panic but was pleasantly surprised by the options available to him. Once we had made the decision that he should stay at school we had exactly the same limited Btec choice as you. He went for sport, business and IT. My advice would be to just decide where she will be happiest studying and once that decision is made then the rest will probably be mapped out by that choice. I appreciate its far too soon to be thinking about university and very overwhelming at 16. Just take one step at a time. Does she want to get level 3 qualifications? If she does then I would look at where she will be happiest and make the make decision from what will be on offer. The rest will follow in due course. Have just remembered by son only has a grade 4 in maths and hasn't been an issue.

OublietteBravo Fri 21-Aug-20 09:00:35

We’re in a similar place. DD’s grades meet her original offer for sixth form college, but they’re now saying she needs an average of 6.5 to do A-levels (and hers is 6.2 due to a disappointing 5-5 in science - they all did the foundation paper mock in October due to teacher illness, and we think they’ve been very cautious about their predictions). We’re not even sure that she’ll be allowed to go there for BTECs at the moment. They’re oversubscribed and some of the feeder schools seem to have been more optimistic with predicted grades.

IHeartHarryStyles Fri 21-Aug-20 09:04:35

I genuinely can’t thank you all enough. I thought it was the stress of yesterday and seeing DD so distraught that meant I kept welling up in tears myself. Nope. Turns out all of your lovely responses today have done the same thing. I think I need to have a word with myself 😂

I need to check my prejudices at the door, I’m not too big to admit that I knew nothing of BTECs and what I thought I knew I judged as the poorer relation to A-Levels. I can see this is really not the case and in almost all respects might be a great thing for my DD. It’s not the path we had imagined but it might just be the very best path she could end up on. Thank you all so much again. Your children sound great and an absolute credit to you all.

Those of you who teach who have taken the time to respond as well it’s really appreciated to have that insight.

I’m going to wait until DD emerges and have a good chat with her about what comes next. It was all too fraught after a certain point yesterday, I’ll be able to explain to her all of the stuff you have said and hopefully it will help her as much as it did me.

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Flyingarcher Fri 21-Aug-20 09:20:21

Thats good. So many pupils do A levels who really shouldn't and then struggle, crash and, at best, with loads of input and hard work, come out with a C when they'd have got distnction star at Btec. The grades are worth the same UCAS points so a Dstar is an A star, Distinction = A, Merit = C and Pass I think is an E (not quite sure on that).

She will be fine. Do suggest getting the course text books from Ebay though - that really helped us through.

LilyE1234 Fri 21-Aug-20 09:33:12

I started A levels, did absolutely awfully in my mocks (U’s all round) and had left sixth form by 2nd term. Started a BTEC at college in the September and absolutely loved it. Applied for uni to do business management and got offered places but also had a job offer lined up too which I decided to go for instead. A few years on, I’m at the same level in terms of career to my peers who went to uni and did a levels so it didn’t hold me back.

There is definitely a snobbery towards BTECs, just like there is towards people who do not go to uni which frustrates me but sometimes it pays off to go against the grain!

TeenPlusTwenties Fri 21-Aug-20 09:47:29

Would she/you consider a single Level 3 Extended Diploma BTEC ('worth' 3 A levels) over 3 separate BTECs? (Might need to move to a college though)

The disadvantage is it is narrowing things down more.

The advantage is more in depth on one area, making her potentially more employable at 18 if she decides university isn't for her.

if you want a crash course on BTECs see the very first post of . It is a bit out of date as all BTECs now have an examined element, but it will give you and idea.

IHeartHarryStyles Fri 21-Aug-20 10:15:08

Thanks for the link @TeenPlusTwenties, I’m not sure what you mean by the first bit though can you explain a bit for me.

As I understand it each of the BTEC that she is looking at are equivalent to an A-level.

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