Always Learning

 What is the GCSE or A level equivalent of my BTEC? 

It is not always a simple task to equate grades for BTEC qualifications to grades for GCSEs and A levels. However, it is possible to compare BTECs with GCSEs and A levels on the basis of the number of school performance points or UCAS Tariff points that each one is awarded.

BTECs are graded on a 3-point (Pass, Merit, Distinction) or 4-point (Pass, Merit, Distinction, Distinction*) scale, whereas GCSEs are graded on an 8-point scale (A* - G) and A levels on a 5-point scale (A - E). This makes it difficult to equate grades for BTEC qualifications to grades for GCSEs and A levels.

What are school performance points?

Schools and colleges within the United Kingdom are ranked according to how well they perform against measures set by the government.

They accrue points based on the number of students achieving GCSEs and A levels, or equivalent qualifications.  

 A school’s ‘headline measures’ score is the percentage of students who achieve:

  • five GCSEs at grades A*-C
  • two A Levels at grades A-E
  • or the equivalent in other qualifications.

All qualifications aligned with level 2 and level 3 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) can be measured against GCSEs or A levels for the purpose of School and College Achievement and Attainment Tables (SCAAT).

How many school performance points is my BTEC worth?

The tables below show how different grade outcomes for each of the BTEC qualifications at level 2 and level 3 score school performance points and contribute to the level thresholds.

View Level 2 table

BTEC Level 2 Diploma Grade BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate Grade BTEC Level 2 Certificate Grade GCSE Grade Contribution to L1 and L2 threshold Performance Points
Distinction* 80% 232
Distinction 80% 208
Merit 80% 184
Pass 80% 160
Distinction* 40% 116
Distinction 40% 104
Merit 40% 92
Pass 40% 80
Distinction* A* 20% 58
Distinction A 20% 52
Merit B 20% 46
Pass C 20% 40
D 20% 34
E 20% 28
F 20% 22
G 20% 16

View Level 3 table

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma Grade BTEC Level 3 Diploma Grade BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma Grade BTEC Level 3 Certificate Grade A level Grade Contribution to L3 and L2 threshold Performance Points

Distinction* Distinction* Distinction*

150% 810
Distinction* Distinction* Distinction 150% 765
Distinction* Distinction Distinction 150% 720
Distinction Distinction Distinction 150% 675
Distinction Distinction Merit 150% 645
Distinction Merit Merit 150% 615
Merit Merit Merit 150% 585
Merit Merit Pass 150% 555
Merit Pass Pass 150% 525
Pass Pass Pass 150% 495
Distinction* Distinction* 100% 540
Distinction* Distinction 100% 495
Distinction Distinction 100% 450
Distinction Merit 100% 420
Merit Merit 100% 390
Merit Pass 100% 360
Pass Pass 100% 330
A* 50% 300
Distinction* A 50% 270
B 50% 240
Distinction 50% 225
C 50% 210
Merit 50% 195
D 50% 180
Pass 50% 165
E 50% 150
Distinction* 25% 135
Distinction 25% 112.50
Merit 25% 97.50
Pass 25% 82.50

What does ‘contribution to level threshold’ mean?

The level thresholds are shown in the table below:

Level 1 threshold Level 2 threshold Level 3 threshold
5 GCSEs grades A*-G 5 GCSEs graded A*-C 2 A levels grades A*-E

A ‘complete’ contribution to the threshold is 100%, so if a qualification contributes 20% to the L1 and L2 threshold then it is equivalent to one GCSE.

5 GCSEs graded A*-G x 20% = 1 GCSE 

If a qualification contributes 25% to the L3 and L2 threshold then it is equivalent to half an A level (an AS level).
2 A levels graded A*-E x 25% = 0.5 A level = 1 AS level

Frequently Asked Questions

Are qualifications with the same number of school performance points equally valued?

When applying for a place at university with Level 3 qualifications, there will be conditions of entry, just as a successful job applicant will be judged (at least partially) on the qualifications they hold. Depending on the type of university course you want to study, or the type of job you want to apply for, there will be different requirements.

In some instances, an A level may be valued more highly than a BTEC; in other instances, the BTEC may be more highly valued than the A level. It is up to the subjective judgement of the university or employer, based on the types of skills that they feel are needed to study a particular university course or to do a certain job. 

Similarly, although a Level 2 BTEC and a GCSE may be comparable by virtue of the number of performance points awarded, this does not necessarily mean that a further education institution or an employer will see it this way.

Where can I find the number of school performance points awarded to my BTEC?

To look up the points contribution towards the threshold for any qualification, you need to look at the qualification on Ofqual’s Register.
1.  Go to the Ofqual Register website.
2. Select the 'Search Qualifications' tab in the top row of the page.
3. Enter the qualification number - e.g. 500/8241/3, or part of the qualification title, eg ‘business’. In the ‘organisation’ menu select ‘Edexcel (Pearson Education Ltd)’.
You can find the qualification number on page 1 of the relevant specification or on your certificate.
4. If you have searched using part of the qualification title, choose your qualification from the results of the search.
5. Click the link 'View Performance Measures' at the bottom of the page.
6. Equivalences, in terms of performance table points, can be worked out by firstly looking up the percentage towards the threshold, and the points, and then comparing these to GCSEs/GCEs.
For example, one GCSE A*-C contributes 20% towards the level 2 threshold, and one GCSE D-G contributes 20% towards the level 1 threshold. So a qualification at level 2 which contributes 40% towards the threshold, for example, can be seen as equivalent to two GCSEs at grades A*-C.
And one A level A*-E contributes 50% towards the level 3 threshold. So a qualification at level 3 which contributes 100% towards the threshold, for example, can be seen as equivalent to two A levels at grades A*-E.

How many UCAS points is my BTEC worth?

BTEC Level 3 qualifications have good equivalence with A levels in terms of the number of UCAS tariff points that they receive.
However, some university course requirements do not use the tariff in when making a conditional offer, so you should check university websites to determine individual course entry requirements.
QCF BTEC Level 3 Grade UCAS tariff points
Extended Diploma Diploma 90-credit Diploma Subsidiary Diploma Certificate AS level  A level
(3 A levels) (2 A levels) (1.5 A levels) (1 A level) (0.5 A levels) (0.5 A levels)
D*D*D* 420
D*D*D 400
D*DD 380
DDD 360
DDM 320
DMM D*D* 280
D*D 260
MMM DD 240
D*D* 210
MMP DM D*D 200
DD 180
D* A* 140
MP B 100
PP M C 80
D* 70
PP D A D 60
B 50
P M C E 40
D 30
E 20


The subsidiary diploma is the same size as an A level and the equivalent grades receive the same number of points:
Pass (P) grade in the BTEC = 40 points = E grade at A level 
Distinction* (D*) grade in the BTEC = 140 points = A* grade at A levelb

Can school performance points be compared to UCAS tariff points?

No, they are completely separate scoring systems used by two different types of learning institution. School performance points are used to measure the performance of students in secondary education. UCAS tariff points are used to measure the suitability of a student for a place in higher education (HE), such as a university, or further education (FE), such as a work-based learning or adult learning centre.

What do the government’s reforms for Key Stage 4 performance points mean?

All qualifications will continue to be recognised at their current equivalences for the next two years. For the 2014 performance tables onwards, a number of changes will be introduced.
The Department for Education (DfE), on behalf of the current UK government, is introducing a list of vocational and academic qualifications that will contribute to the school’s headline measures, including ‘five GCSEs at A*-C (or equivalent)’ and ‘five GCSEs at A*-C (or equivalent) including English and maths’. In order for qualifications to be on the list, and therefore recognised in the school’s headline measures, they must demonstrate the following characteristics:
  • Be at least as big as a GCSE, meaning that a student should spend a minimum of 120 Guided Learning Hours (GLH) studying the qualification
  • Be graded (that is, not just pass or fail)
  • External assessment (an exam) must contribute at least 20% to the final grade
  • Include synoptic assessment (where a student must gather a range of knowledge from different modules in order to complete the overall assessment)
  • Provide good progression, both in the same area and for broader study outside the area
  • Have a proven track record as a valuable qualification
  • Have appropriate content which is suitable for 14- to 16-year-olds.

The headline measures will change from assessing volume of achievement to assessing breadth of achievement. As such, these measures will report on five different subjects, meaning all qualifications will count as the equivalent of one GCSE, regardless of their Guided Learning Hour (GLH) size.

No more than two non-GCSE qualifications will be able to count as ‘equivalents’ for one student in the school’s headline measures.