Functional Skills vs GCSEs

Functional Skills vs GCSEs

Functional Skills are aimed both at people looking to brush up on certain skills for everyday life, but also for those looking for GCSE grade equivalents. Here we look at an article published by one of our learning partners, LearnDirect.

Functional Skills are recognised GCSE alternative qualifications, with a Functional Skills Level 2 course being equivalent to a GCSE grade 4 (C), providing a clear answer for those wondering ‘What is Level 2 equivalent to?’

Introduced in 2007, Functional Skills qualifications were developed to upskill the nation’s workforce. Since then, these qualifications have offered thousands of people the key skills they need for life.

Available in the core subjects of English, Maths and Functional Skills ICT, Functional Skills courses can help develop your understanding in a number of areas. They are also the perfect qualification for you if you didn’t achieve the GCSEs you wanted when you were younger, but now wish to develop essential life skills.

However, Functional Skills courses are not identical to GCSEs. So, if you’re looking to achieve English, Maths or IT qualifications later in life, there are some key things you need to know before you choose your programme of study.

Although they both get you the same result – achieving a recognised qualification in English, Maths or ICT – there are key differences between GCSE grades and Functional Skills. The time it takes to achieve your qualification is different, and so are the learning outcomes.

Functional Skills Level 2 courses offer students the opportunity to learn how to use English, Maths and ICT in everyday situations. GCSEs, on the other hand, are academic qualifications and equip learners with a strong theoretical knowledge base and skillset.

This affects the depth of the syllabus taught and the materials you will need to study. For example, a Functional Skills English Level 2 programme will focus on 3 key skill areas:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking, listening and communicating

Each unit will teach you how to apply these skills practically in real life.

Through this Functional Skills English course, you’ll learn how to write a compelling letter using correct spelling and grammar. You will also be taught how to talk with confidence over the phone and face to face.

These are all signs of good literacy and are important in the workplace and in your personal interactions, making Functional Skills English a beneficial course to take.

GCSE English Language is also concerned with your reading and writing comprehension. However, unlike Functional Skills English, the course provides greater academic material around these subjects.

You will explore the science behind the written and spoken word. This includes everything from analysing the syntax, morphology and phonology of the English language. You will also gain an insight into the themes and ideas discussed by writers, which will help you to become a better writer in turn.

Rather than developing skills for life, GCSE English courses will develop your understanding of the English language. You will build a solid foundation for further academic study of the subject. In a nutshell, Functional Skills equip you with life skills whilst GCSEs equip you with knowledge upon which you can build in the future.

GCSEs and Functional Skills qualifications are ideal for anyone who wants to get to grips with the basics of English, Maths and ICT. However, one may be more suitable for you than the other.

It’s not necessarily the qualification itself that is important in these cases, it’s having the skills and the know-how. Functional Skills ICT, Functional Skills English and Functional Skills Level 2 Maths courses enable you to have the ability to demonstrate your understanding in real-world situations.

Alternatively, if you require a qualification as evidence of your academic abilities and skills, GCSE courses are ideal. This is especially the case if you want to further your education at college or university, although some universities now accept Functional Skillin lieu of GCSEs.

GCSEs are benchmark qualifications that pave the way to higher education and are essential for entry into a number of skilled career paths. Functional Skills and GCSEs both have their merits, and neither is less valuable than the other. The value of any qualification is what you do with it.

Whether you build the foundations for your career as a professional or get to grips with calculating your finances without a calculator, Functional Skills and GCSE courses both offer you the same thing: the chance to upskill and succeed, no matter what the future holds.


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