What are NVQs?
NVQs stand for National Vocational Qualifications in England and are equivalent to the Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) in Scotland. Both of these awards are work based awards, achieved through assessments and training. Studying for an NVQ is a good option if you know exactly what job you would like to progress to.
When will I study these?
An NVQ can be studied at a school or college if you have a work placement, it can also be be studied by full-time employees at the workplace, or by part-time workers if they need to further a particular skill. You may also study for an NVQ as part of an apprenticeship (Learn more on what are apprenticeships). It is a great qualification to study for as you do not have to give up work to earn the qualification. As there are different levels of NVQs, each is very accessible to study as and when suits you, depending on your current experience.
How should I choose what to study?
There are more than 1000 subjects to study so it can be very daunting when choosing what to study at NVQ level. When deciding on what to study at NVQ level you should consider both your current educational qualifications and your personal interests. If you are unsure on what subject could help your study or job, you can talk to a career advisor at your school or college; they will be able to look through your previous exam results and stronger subjects and help you decide how these might translate into an NVQ subject. Finally consider what you enjoy doing the most and what you would like to do in the future, although it is advised to get as much information from those around you, ultimately the decision has to be yours and should not be made or you should not be pressured by anyone else.
How long do they take to study?
Each level of the NVQ can take any amount of time to complete, but it usually takes around a year to complete each NVQ Level 1 and NVQ Level 2. On reaching NVQ Level 3 it may take a further year or even two further years due to the higher level.
Each NVQ is a competency grading which shows how able you are at a particular job, therefore the higher your level the higher your proven ability to complete a task. You can either start at Level 1 or a higher level dependent on your current ability.
NVQ Level 1 – this is the entry level NVQ and shows that you are able to apply a range of basic skills and knowledge in a routine and predictable way within the workplace.
NVQ Level 2 – achieving the second level allows you to use your range of skills and knowledge in a variety of contexts and varied tasks, as well as complex issues or non-routine aspects of the job. You are required to demonstrate your teamwork skills and must showcase some individual work and individual responsibility.
NVQ Level 3 – to reach Level 3, you must use your range of skills and knowledge in complex or non-routine aspects more often than not. You must be trusted with more responsibility, and you are often left to guide others.
NVQ Level 4 – this higher level showcases your good knowledge of workplace skills and knowledge in all situations. You will hold a substantial degree of responsibility, and you will direct others, it will often be left up to you to allocate resources.
NVQ Level 5 – As the hardest level to achieve you will hold a high degree of responsibility for other workers, taking responsibility for their work as well as allocating resources. You will be able to use a variety of skills in any situation that may occur, including those that are unplanned and unpredictable. You are responsible for analysis, diagnosis, design, planning, executing and evaluating.
How is it assessed?
The NVQ is a practical work based qualification and is based on your practical skills that have been learnt; therefore the NVQ is assessed in the workplace.
Throughout your time studying for an NVQ, you will complete training, building up a portfolio and will undergo two final assessments, during which an NVQ assessor will observe and ask questions. Firstly will be your portfolio assessment, within this portfolio, you will present a selection of work and evidence to prove the skills you have learnt while at work. Secondly, you will have an observation by an NVQ assessor. Your assessor will observe you while you are at work to ensure that you can do the skills required for your particular job.
How are they graded?
After your NVQ assessor has completed all the necessary steps to observe and record your progress you will be awarded either a successful ‘competent’ award or, if further work needs doing you will receive a ‘not yet competent’. Throughout the five levels, you will be assessed against national standards for the job that you wish to do.
Although the NVQ doesn’t directly translate into other grade options, there are rough guidelines set out by the government. NVQ Level 1 translates to GCSEs at D-G grades, NVQ Level 2 to GCSEs A*-C, NVQ Level 3 to AS and A Level, NVQ Level 4 to a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and 5 to a Higher National Diploma (HND). NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3 are most common and both Level 4 and 5 are leveled to Higher Education and may be used to enter university. It would be likely you would choose a degree course in the same field as your NVQ, but as there will be many variations of a degree, make sure you pick the one that suits your work and study personalities best. Also choosing the right university where you study is just as important, if you’re looking to move away from home is essential you look into student accommodation, as there are a lot more choices than you think.
What can I progress to do?
What you do after studying an NVQ very much depends on the level that you have just completed. If you have just completed entry level 1, it is likely that you will progress onto the higher levels, when you’re given more responsibility in the workplace, and you will gather more and more experience. On achieving the three levels you can continue with further study in the same area as your NVQ, such as working towards a Higher National Certificate (HNC), or Higher National Diploma (HND), you could apply for a foundation degree or even a bachelor’s degree. When applying for university a personal statement is needed in order to apply for university, your experiences in your NVQ would be essential to add into the statement, to look at personal statements examples or use our personal statement editor.