With the recent introduction of our new graded Level 2 qualifications, you may well be wondering which of our qualifications are right for your learners: graded or ungraded.

So what’s the difference between them?

Key differences: at-a-glance


Grading: Pass/Fail
Title: Skills for…[Sector], e.g. Level 2 Certificate in Skills for Public Services
Size: Awards, Certificates (and in some sectors Extended Certificates) and Diplomas
Level: Option to include some Level 1 optional units
Employability skills content: Optional units include wide range of generic employability skills


Grading: Pass/Fail; Merit; Distinction
Title: [Sector] e.g. Level 2 Certificate in Public Services
Size: Certificates and Diplomas
Level: All units are Level 2
Employability skills content: Optional units include limited range of employability skills units; assessment evidence for these should relate to the specific sector in the qualification title

We are offering the two types of vocational qualification at Level 2 because centres have told us that different learners need different approaches. We are also thinking ahead to the introduction of T level programmes, the Level 2 Transition offer designed to support progression to T levels, and the broader Level 2 programmes that will also be needed.

Our ungraded ‘Skills for…’ qualifications are ideal for learners who are not intending to progress onto a Level 3 course. Perhaps they are heading straight for employment of do not have a clear progression plan in mind. These qualifications will suit learners with a ‘spiky profile’, who would benefit from being able to include a small amount of Level 1 learning in their programme, as well as those who need more time building up generic employability skills alongside their sector-specific learning. A Pass/Fail outcome may also be more motivating for learners who would be unlikely to achieve a Merit or Distinction.

Our graded vocational qualifications will suit learners for whom Level 2 is primarily a stepping stone towards a Level 3 qualification or apprenticeship. The breadth of the Level 2 vocational learning undertaken will give them a firm grounding in the sector and they will benefit from the stretch and challenge of working towards a Merit or Distinction grade. Each qualification also includes a project unit which can be used to support the development of the study skills (e.g. research, planning, presenting) that they will need to succeed on a Level 3 programme.

Centres also told us that even with rigorous initial assessment and high-quality information, advice and guidance, it isn’t always possible to be absolutely sure at the start of the course which approach will best suit an individual learner. In designing the new graded qualifications, we have ensured that both types of qualification share exactly the same set of mandatory units and the most popular optional units for the graded version also appear in the non-graded version. Pass criteria for both graded and ungraded units of the same title are identical.

So, if a learner on the graded Level 2 programme turns out to have some Level 1 learning needs, you could register them on the ungraded version which allows them to include one or more Level 1 units in the qualification. Alternatively, a learner on the ungraded version who shows greater ability than anticipated, could be registered on the graded version carrying forward evidence already produced – or even revisiting it so that it meets the necessary Merit or Distinction criteria.

If you’re still not sure which option to go for, please contact us to discuss your particular circumstances. We would be happy to advise you.

Gateway Qualifications Vocational Qualifications