Male student making notes

Understand your post-16 options and choose the best route for yourself and your future plans

  • 11 January 2022
  • 3 min read

From apprenticeships, to finding a job and going to college or sixth form, different pathways and qualifications suit different people.

But the good news is, there are many options available to pick from. Finding the one that suits you can help you make the best choices for your future. This page looks at some of the things you can do next.

Explore your options after Year 11
Not sure about what to do when you leave school?

Go through the different qualifications you could do when you leave Year 11, as well as some of the key things to consider.

Qualifications and study levels

Before we look at the different pathways, let's talk about qualifications and study levels. At school and college, you usually call qualifications by their name, like ‘GCSE’ and 'A Level'. The same qualifications are referred to by their level in college, university and employment, such as 'Level 3'.

Your GCSEs are Level 2 qualifications. Typically, you'll move onto Level 3 once you leave Year 11. Although you may need to complete an extra Level 2 qualification first, for example if you choose to study a subject you’ve never done before.

Types of Level 3 qualifications

The following qualifications are study options available at Level 3:

  • A Levels – study subjects and related subjects you took for GCSE at a higher level
  • T Levels – partner with employers to get skills for the workplace
  • Level 3 vocational qualifications such as BTECs – get practical skills for a particular area of employment
  • Advanced apprenticeships – combine work and study

A Levels

Studying A Levels at Level 3 is a good choice if you want to study a range of subjects and prefer exams to ongoing assessments. You'll study 3 subjects equally and complete some coursework, but most of your assessments will be exams at the end of Year 13.

T Levels

T Levels are a great choice if you like a mixture of classroom teaching and hands-on, practical learning. If you choose to study T Levels, you'll study 1 subject and undertake industry placements during your course. You'll spend 20% of your time in the workplace and the rest of your time in college.

Vocational studies

Vocational courses are great if you learn best by doing things and prefer coursework to exams. You'll study 1 subject area and gain work experience as part of your course. You'll be assessed by regular practical assessments, coursework, and some exams on most qualifications.

Apprenticeships

An advanced apprenticeship is a good choice if you’d like to move away from the classroom and start to experience the world of work. You’ll gain practical on-the-job experience, spending 20% of your time in college or with a training provider. You’ll be assessed on completing tasks in the workplace, and take part in a final assessment at the end of your course.

How to pick the best option for you

  • Check the entry requirements for any future degree courses or jobs you'd like to do
  • Ask yourself how you learn best? Then look at which pathway is likely to offer you the best chance of success
  • Consider whether your subject choices link with your interests and future plans
  • Think back on your experiences at school and what you've learnt about yourself to see which option is a good fit for you

Want to find out more about level 3 choices and what you can do at 16? Take a look at UCAS or Career Pilot, or explore work-based learning options with All About School Leavers.

Hear from some of our students about the choices they made and their different pathways to university
Students' journey to the University of Portsmouth

Thinking about your next steps and considering going to uni in the future? We asked some of our students about their journey to higher education.


Keep learning