Courses for School Leavers

Where to start?

You can study at Entry Level, Level 1, 2 or 3 after school. The level you start at depends on your current abilities and school results. You can move your way up through the levels until you have completed Level 3, then you can progress on to higher education at College or University or find employment.

The table below gives you an overview of general entry requirements and is a guide to what you may need for the level you are looking at. Specific entry requirements for each course can be found on the course factsheets, click here to use the course search.

Some students may be asked to continue with their studies in English and Maths to get them to the level that Employers, universities and the government require. For more information see below.

If you need any help making your choice contact our College Advice Team on or call 01392 400600.

What level should I study at?

LevelStudy Route
Level 3A Levels and BTEC Certificates
GCSE grades: A Levels and BTEC Certificates GCSE grades: Eight GCSEs at grade 4 or above including English Language and Maths. Some courses require subject specific entry criteria. Please see individual course listings for further information.
Types of course: A Levels, BTEC Certificates.
What next? You can study a higher education course or Apprenticeship at College or University or find a job.
Level 3Vocational and technical full time programmes
GCSE grades: Five grade 4s at GCSE including a grade 4 or above in English Language or a good pass with a full Level 2 qualification. For T Levels you will need six GCSEs at grade 4 or above (including English Language and Maths). Learners progressing from a Level 2 course will need a BTEC Level 2 Diploma with a good Merit profile, along with English Language and Maths GCSE at grade 4 or above (or equivalent).
Types of course: Vocational and BTEC Diploma Level 3 courses, T Levels or an Advanced Apprenticeship, UAL Diploma, NVQ, VRQ.
What next? You can study a higher education course or Apprenticeship at College or university or find a job.
Level 3International Baccalaureate (IB)
GCSE grades:
Eight GCSEs to include at least six at grade 6 or above as well as a grade 6 in English Language and Maths. Some courses require subject specific entry criteria.
What next? You can progress to university or even consider studying abroad once you complete the International Baccalaureate. You can also move to a higher education course or Apprenticeship here at the College.
Level 2GCSE grades: Three grade 3s at GCSE as well as English Language and Maths at grade 3 or above or a Level 1 qualification at merit grade.
Types of course: BTEC Level 2, Apprenticeship, GCSE, T Level Foundation Year programme, UAL Diploma, NVQ, VRQ, GCSE Fast Track.
What next? You can move on to a vocational or BTEC Level 3 course or an Advanced Apprenticeship.
Level 1GCSE grades: Four grade 2s at GCSE, normally including English Language and Maths at grade 2 or above.
Types of course: BTEC Level 1 Diploma, Prince’s Trust, NVQ.
What next? You can move on to a vocational or BTEC Level 2 course or an Apprenticeship.
Entry LevelGCSE grades: No formal qualifications.
Types of course: Independence Gateway and Progression Gateway.
What next? You can move on to a Level 1 course or NVQ.
A Levels plus AS Levels, BTEC Certificates and Extended Certificates.

A Levels are ideal if you enjoyed your GCSEs and are ready to move up to the next level. Most students identify three subjects and an Extend option that they are interested in studying and we will offer advice and guidance at interview to ensure that you have chosen the best programme of study for you. Any A Level subject can be combined into the right programme of study. After a year at Exeter College, in the majority of A Level subjects you will receive a standalone AS Level qualification. See the full course information for details of which subjects offer an AS Level in the first year.

BTEC Certificates, Extended Certificate and Subsidiary Diplomas.
These BTEC courses are treated just like A Levels by universities (they also have points) and it can be a great option to combine one with two A Levels.

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an internationally recognised qualification made up of six subjects, including English, Maths, Science, a modern foreign language and an Elective which may be a Humanities subject, an ab initio language or Chemistry. You also get involved in community projects and write a research-based essay. The course is equivalent to a full A Level programme and involves exams and coursework.

Vocational and technical full time programmes.

These can be studied at Level 1, 2 or 3. They are mainly assessed through coursework and give a balance of practical work and theory. They generally don’t involve exams, however there will be some element of external assessment at Level 2 and 3.

Level 1 and Level 2 courses take one year and you can usually progress from these on to the next level. Level 3 qualifications usually run for two years and they are equivalent to three A Levels. We offer BTEC, T Level and UAL qualifications and other vocational courses may be called NVQ or VRQ and are practical courses preparing you for the workplace. You can progress from a Level 2 NVQ on to a Level 3 NVQ.

A BTEC Level 3 Foundation Diploma is studied in the first year and is equivalent to one and a half A Levels. In the second year you progress on to the Extended Diploma. The full qualification (two years) is equivalent to three A Levels. We do not usually encourage students to take an AS Level course alongside a BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma.

T Levels

What are they?
T Levels are a brand new qualification designed to give you a head start towards the future you want. They follow GCSEs and are equivalent to three A Levels. The two year T Level qualification brings classroom and industry placement together on a course designed with employers and businesses. You’ll spend 80% of your time in the classroom and 20% on a 315 hours minimum placement to give you the skills, behaviours and knowledge employers are looking for. Your T Level will help you to step straight into your chosen career, an Apprenticeship, higher technical qualification or a degree. Wherever your future is heading, take it to the nexT-Level.


Want to earn while you learn? Apprenticeships are an exciting alternative to full time study, where you gain workplace skills and experience, as well as a qualification – all while getting paid.

As an Apprentice you will work and be treated as an employee, spending your week at your place of work with one day at the College to further develop your learning and skills. Our courses are available to anyone, aged 16 and above, looking to kick-start their career. There are now more programmes than ever, in a variety of roles and industries; from Digital Marketing and Laboratory Technician, through to Commis Chef and Engineering. On completion, you can advance onto a higher level of Apprenticeship, with qualifications ranging from Level 2 (GCSE Standard) up to degree level. There has never been a better time to take an Apprenticeship and make your dream job a reality.

English and Maths - essential for all...

Employers, universities and the government require all young people to have a good command and understanding of English and Maths.

We are committed to supporting you to continually improve these skills, whatever level and course you are studying. We have lots of additional support on offer to help you to develop your literacy and numeracy skills during your time at Exeter College, both inside and outside the classroom. If you have not already achieved a grade 4 in GCSE English Language and Maths you will need to continue to work towards achieving them alongside your other courses. During your first few weeks at College, we will assess your level of English and/or Maths to decide how we can help you progress and succeed.

We offer a range of functional skills and GCSE qualifications in both English and Maths and will work with you to find the best route to achieving these core qualifications whilst you are with us. If you are excited by the challenge of developing your skills in English and Maths alongside an A Level programme, you may like to stretch yourself further by choosing an Extend in Creative Writing or taking a Level 3 Certificate in Maths. Whatever your subject, level of confidence or point of entry, we will do our very best to make sure you reach your potential in English and Maths.