If you're thinking about taking a full-time course after Year 11 here's all the information you need. Find out more about the types and levels of qualifications and where they lead as well as about the different courses and qualifications offered at sixth forms, colleges and other providers. We've also included some top tips for completing your application and dealing with any interviews.
Qualifications fall into three main types:
- Academic - these are subject based, the most common being A levels, and are usually assessed by exams. You'll study particular subjects in-depth which can then lead on to higher education (university), an apprenticeship, or employment.
- Applied general - these cover broad vocational areas and give you an introduction to an industry, such as travel and tourism, engineering, health and social care. They combine academic study with practical learning and are usually assessed by a mixture of coursework and exams. They include BTEC and OCR qualifications and can lead on to higher education (university), an apprenticeship or employment.
- Vocational or technical - these are for those of you who have a clear idea of what you want to do. They focus on a specific industry or occupation and are usually assessed by a mixture of coursework and practical, work-based tasks. They recognise the skills and knowledge you need to do the job. They include the new T Levels, NVQs, some BTEC and OCR qualifications, as well as diplomas and certificates from other awarding bodies such as City & Guilds. They will prepare you primarily for employment and may form part of an apprenticeship.
When making a choice you need to think about three things:
Which type of qualification fits your future plans?
- To check entry routes for any careers that you are interested in look at the National Careers Service job profiles
How do you learn best?
- Check which course fits in with your preferred learning style. Do you learn best through the use of images, maps and graphs (visual), through listening and speaking (auditory), through words (reading and writing), or are you a hands-on learner (kinaesthetic).
Which level is best for you?
What to study?
There are lots of different types of courses to choose from in further education ranging from general academic study, such as A levels, to technical courses such as T Levels and courses with a more work-related or vocational focus, such as BTECs and OCR Cambridge Technical qualifications.
Some courses will even prepare you for a specific job but all courses will help you progress towards your career goals.
Don't forget! There are courses available for everyone in further education regardless of how well you have done at school.
You may be able to take a combination of courses, for instance, study a general course alongside a vocational one.
AS and A levels (Level 3)
Extended Project Qualification (Level 3)
BTEC qualifications (Levels 1, 2 and 3)
T Levels (Level 3)
OCR Cambridge Technical qualifications (Levels 2 and 3)
Job-related qualifications (Levels 1, 2 and 3)
Foundation Learning (Level 1)
In Norfolk you can study full time:
Don't forget you can find details of Norfolk's post-16 education providers and their courses here on Help You Choose in the Opportunities section.
All post-16 course providers have open events and evenings giving you the chance to have a look around and speak to teachers, tutors and current students. Don't forget to ask questions to help you make the right decision.
Which is right for me?
School sixth forms/centres
Mainly offer academic courses like A levels, and possibly some vocational courses. If your school has a sixth form:
If your school doesn't have its own sixth form or if you wish to change schools, then you can apply to go to a sixth form in another school.
Sixth form colleges
Offer an extensive range of A Levels and vocational courses such as BTECs, OCR Cambridge technicals and nationals. Some may offer GCSEs and personalised programmes. Sixth form colleges:
Further education colleges
Offer a wide range of courses including academic, vocational and specialist occupational courses. They:
Other Norfolk providers
There are several providers in Norfolk who offer full-time Level 2 and Level 3 courses in specialist areas such as art and design, music, musical theatre, media, creative IT and computing. Others offer study programmes for young people who haven't achieved 9-4 grades at GCSE which give you the chance to try out various vocational options including engineering, childcare, performing arts and many more.
Colleges outside of Norfolk
Outside Norfolk, there are some specialist colleges, such as dance and drama schools, or colleges offering courses for students with a disability or learning difficulty. If you want to find out more about specialist colleges speak to your school's careers leader or adviser.
All providers of post-16 education provide help and support for their students, but you are expected to take on more responsibility for your own learning.
Sixth forms or colleges in Norfolk require different qualifications and/or qualities to access them.
If you want to do a Level 3 course, you'll usually need at least four GCSEs at grade 4 or better. Level 3 courses include A and AS Levels, BTEC Nationals and OCR Cambridge technicals and from September 2020, a brand new qualification called T Levels was launched. Many sixth forms and colleges may ask for certain grades in certain subjects in order to continue with them at a higher level.
If you are looking at Level 2 courses, you might be asked for some grade 4s or 3s at GCSE. Sometimes an interest in the subject is as important as your GCSE grades. Level 2 courses include GCSEs, BTEC Firsts, NVQ2 or OCR Cambridge technicals and nationals.
Level 1 courses have names like Entry, Foundation or Introductory. Some lower grades at GCSE might be required or a good report from your school or college. Really wanting to do the course is just as important.
Entry requirements vary between sixth forms and colleges
You might be completely confused about it all at this point but don't worry, Help You Choose can point you in the right direction.
It's really important to check with each sixth form/college that you are interested in going to for up-to-date information on their entry requirements, You can find out the entry requirements for a specific course by searching for it on Help You Choose, then clicking the View button next to it.
Whether you are applying to college or sixth form (or both) you will be asked to complete an application form. This may be the first time you have been faced with this task so below you will find some help and advice on completing some of the more difficult sections. Do make sure you follow any instructions that you might find at the top of the application form or at the beginning of each section that you have to complete. Do a rough copy first in a word document or similar first. You can then usually copy and paste it into the actual application form when you have corrected all your mistakes, used spellchecker etc.
Whether you complete an online or paper application form you will usually be faced with a section where you have to write something about yourself - usually called a personal statement.
It can be a bit daunting to have to 'sell' yourself but basically the college/sixth form include this section to give you the opportunity to tell them a bit about yourself including why you would make a good student at their college/sixth form.
It's useful to structure your personal statement to include the following:-
- your reasons for why you want to attend that particular college/sixth form (is it because of their facilities, their courses, their reputation for certain subjects, or something else?)
- your career plans if you have any. You may want to say how the course or courses you are applying for will help you with your future plans. If you don't have any clear career ideas you could describe what it is that interests you about the course(s) you are applying for.
- anything you do outside of normal school lessons such as playing for a sports team, learning a musical instrument or being part of a drama club. If you can link your hobby to a skill that you have developed this is a good thing to mention to any potential sixth form or college. Playing a sport can help you work well in a team; drama is great for building confidence and learning a musical instrument shows a dedication to developing new skills.
The Student Room has a useful article on completing personal statements.
If you have had a part-time job, completed school work experience or been involved in any volunteering, this section is a really good place to display what skills you have gained. List the key skills you learned from the work place, such as working in a team, communication and customer service skills. Try and give as much information as possible about the activities you carried out such as “I was responsible for taking all telephone bookings and updating the database, to ensure the salon was organised.”
Spelling, grammar & punctuation
It’s easy to think that you don’t have to be formal when completing an application form, however sixth forms and colleges will be looking at your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Your application may be the first impression they have of you, so taking the time to check your application before you send it is really important. Get someone else to read it through to make sure it all makes sense and that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. If you complete your application online on Help You Choose you can check to see what it will look like before you send it.
This may be the first formal interview that you have ever had so here are some top tips to help you prepare for a successful college or sixth form interview:
- Arrive early – Make sure you know how long your journey will take and allow extra time for traffic if you are travelling by car or public transport.
- Take any documents you have been asked to provide with you eg certificates etc
- Take a copy of your application form so you can read it through beforehand. You may also wish to refer to it in your interview.
- It's natural to be feeling nervous – try to relax and be yourself, listen carefully to the questions and ask if you don't understand.
- Be enthusiastic – colleges and sixth forms want to know you are keen and motivated to do well if you get a place on their course.
- Be honest - for example, don’t lie about your potential grades. If you don’t get the required grades to meet the course the college or sixth form may be able to offer you an alternative course.
Questions you may be asked at interview
Why do you want to study with us?
Let the interviewer know your reasons for applying. Did you like the tutors at the open event, the facilities on offer etc.
Why are you interested in the course?
Say what it is that you like about the subject of the course.
What are you hoping to gain from the course?
Tell the interviewer what your plans are when you have finished, whether it’s going onto university, an apprenticeship or going into the work place and how completing the course can help you move onto your next step.
What are your future career plans?
Let the interviewer know what your career plans are and how the course will help you to achieve these. If you currently don’t have any firm career plans, be honest and explain how the course is the next step you want to take and how it may help you decide on your future direction.
Do you have any questions you would like to ask?
It’s always good to have at least a couple of questions that you would like to ask to show that you are really interested. You might want to know about your tutors, the course or the facilities etc. You can write your questions down before the interview and refer to your notes when you're asked.
You may also like to look at these interview tips from UCAS
The section below has everything you need to help you prepare for subjects and learning in Year 12. Take a look at the guides and have a go at some of the activities during Year 11 or over the summer holidays. You can explore different subjects and view guides and videos from local colleges and sixth forms. This section gives you the chance to try out subjects to see if you might like them before committing to them. You might see activities at a college or sixth form you are planning to go to but even if it isn't listed, have a go at some of the activities at other sixth forms and colleges.