NVQ Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get an NVQ?

Depending on the type of NVQ qualification, such as construction related routes, it is sometimes necessary for this to be achieved in the workplace, so there can be a requirement to be employed, or working part time whilst studying at college. NVQs can also be completed in education and of course, as part of an apprenticeship where the learner has training and personal development as a large part of their qualification, rather than to prove competency in a role they are already trained in.

They are available in a range of levels from level 1 (basic) to level 7 (senior management). You are generally free to work at your own pace, but the majority of people find they can complete an NVQ level 1, 2 or 3 easily within a year. ESS provide NVQ courses in a wide range of sectors; for e.g. construction, logistics, retail, health and social care, administration, team leading and leadership and management.

How do NVQs work?

NVQ is a common abbreviation for National Vocational Qualification. They are general built up as units suitable against the learner’s job role, which make up the full NVQ title they would like to achieve. NVQs work by testing the learners abilities and competency in the workplace, so that they can show and prove to their assessor that they can do certain work-related tasks depending on the qualification they are looking to achieve relating to their role.

NVQ assessments are broken down into two distinct sections: knowledge and performance. Knowledge is normally assessed through the learner being asked to answer questions relating to the specifics of their job role. Performance is measured by the learner demonstrating their competence in the workplace through on-going observation.

They are assessed in various ways via a portfolio of evidence; building content with evidence of what you have achieved at work, and also by observation of your assessor. An observation will involve the Assessor watching you while you work to check the competency of the tasks you are completing.

The learner will need to produce evidence that they are competent to meet the NVQ standards, and once satisfied the assessor will sign off each unit that makes up the full NVQ qualification title. The assessor will also test the learner’s knowledge to ensure they fully demonstrate competence in the workplace.

Assessors will evaluate the learners performance against the standards as they learn, looking at what they have achieved and how they should go about completing all units until the NVQ is ready to be assessed as competent against a whole NVQ. This system is right for learners who already have skills and are competent and want to increase them, but also for those starting from the beginning to improve their career prospects.

Do you need an NVQ for a CSCS card?

For the CSCS Green Labourers card you don’t need an NVQ to apply for a card. You will however need to pass the relevant health and safety course, and pass the Operatives Health, Safety and Environment (HS&E Test).

Other types of skilled CSCS Cards do require NVQ qualifications to apply for a CSCS card; for example, you will need an NVQ Level 2 Diploma to apply for a CSCS Blue Skilled Worker Card. If you don’t have the qualification, you may be able to apply for a temporary red CSCS Experienced Worker card once you are registered onto your qualification, which will also show the trade you are working towards on your NVQ.

There are various temporary red cards such as provisional if you are working through your probationary period, or the red CSCS Apprenticeship card if you have commenced onto a recognised apprenticeship framework.

There is the option to apply for the CSCS Academically Qualified card for those who have completed certain construction related degrees, HNDs, HNCs, CIOB Certificates or NEBOSH Diplomas.

For those that are members of approved professional bodies, there is the option to apply for the CSCS Professionally Qualified Person card.

You can find more info here.

What is NVQ equivalent to?

These are rough guidelines set out by the government of how NVQs would relate to GCSE, A Level or higher education qualifications:

  • NVQ Level 1 – GCSEs at D-G grades
  • NVQ Level 2 – GCSEs at A*-C grades
  • NVQ Level 3 – AS and A Levels
  • NVQ Level 4 – Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • NVQ Level 5 – Higher National Diploma (HND)

Can you go to uni with an NVQ?

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) has included an NVQ in its tariff, which measures the value of the qualifications offered by candidates for higher education. They are tariff points generally allocated to studies between the ages of 16-18. They only apply to Level 3/SCQF Level 6 qualifications, not level 2 which are GCSE level.

It’s worth noting that not all universities and colleges use the Tariff, and use qualifications and grades instead. You can read more here and use the UCAS Tariff calculator as a guide.

Can I do an NVQ for free? 

Depending on your circumstances, it is possible for you to access funding in order complete NVQs free of charge. There are several funding schemes available across the UK in order to encourage individuals in work or unemployed to upskill and further their training.

Current NVQ funding options available include:

  • European Social Funding (ESF) – Funding provided by the EU for SMEs over under 250 employees. NVQs available include qualifications for CSCS, CPCS and NPORS cards.
  • Adult Education Funding (AEB) – Level 1 and 2 NVQs for those aged 19+
  • ELCAS – funding available for ex-forces personnel to access Level 3 to Level 7 construction NVQs

For a full list, see our funding page to find out what NVQs you access free of charge.

Can I do NVQ online?

NVQ qualifications require substantial evidence of the learner being able to work efficiently in the specific work environment, with them being assessed on this throughout the course. This practical aspect of the qualification means they cannot be conducted entirely online.

Depending on the specifics of the NVQ the learner is taking on, they may be able to enrol and complete certain sections of the qualification online, however the vast majority will require substantial practical demonstrations from within the workplace.

Can you fail NVQ?

You cannot fail an NVQ in the same you would for qualifications such as GCSEs or A-Levels. NVQs are measured primarily on the learner’s competency to perform their job, rather than strictly through written exams. Although written tests may form part of the overall assessment.

There is no fixed deadline, meaning if learners are not at a stage where they can complete their qualification it can be delayed. This often results in the learner being given an action plan of aspects they need to improve upon.

Does an NVQ expire?

Once an NVQ qualification has been achieved, they do not expire. Much like a GCSE or a degree, once you have completed your NVQ, you do not need resit or renew your qualification. However, certain cards such as the CSCS card, which require NVQs to obtain, do. These cards may require the worker to complete further additional training in order to renew their card and remain able to work on sites.

FAQs About Level 2s

What is an NVQ Level 2 equivalent to?

In simple terms, having a Level 2 NVQ is the equivalent of having five A* - C grade GCSEs. By their nature, NVQ qualifications are very different GCSEs as they display your ability to in specific work environments and job roles, whereas GCSEs display a more general academic achievement.

How do I get an NVQ Level 2 bricklaying?

To achieve a Level 2 NVQ in bricklaying, learners will need to be working in an environment where bricklaying takes place in order to perform the necessary training. Once enrolled on their qualification, they will gain practical and theoretical training needed to work full-time as a bricklayer.

Over the course of the NVQ, learners will be tasked with displaying their competency of performing bricklaying work through practical and written assessments, as well as displaying a portfolio of evidence of their work. Completing this NVQ will allow workers to apply for a CSCS skilled labourer card, allowing them to perform their duties on a construction site.

How long does it take to do NVQ Level 2 Health and Social Care?

Most learners will be able to fully complete their Level 2 Health and Social Care NVQ in six months. Some learners may take less time depending on their previous experience and the amount of time they can dedicate to their learning.

FAQs About Level 3s

Can you do NVQ 3 without NVQ 2?

Although there are no special entry requirements for those starting an NVQ, some Level 3s will require learners to have completed a Level 2 before they can enrol on the qualification. This will depend on the specifics of the NVQ, the sector and the learner’s level of experience in the field. If in doubt, contact the training provider to establish whether a Level 2 NVQ is a requirement for enrolling on a Level 3.

How do I get NVQ Level 3 in construction?

The Level 3 NVQ in construction is known as the Diploma in Occupational Work Supervision. In order to enrol upon this course, you need to already be working in a site supervisor or assistant site manager role on a construction trade site.

The NVQ asks learners to complete a minimum of six modules, with several different module options available to suit the needs of their workplace. Over the course of the NVQ, learner will be asked to build up a portfolio of evidence based around their learning, which they will be assessed on. There will also be an on-site assessment at the end of the NVQ to determine the participants success.

How long does an NVQ Level 3 take?

There is no minimum or maximum amount of time that you have to complete a Level 3 NVQ by. The amount of time it will take to complete will depend how much time the learner can dedicate to their qualification.

Depending on the course and the specifics of qualifications and the learner’s situation, Level 3s can take anywhere between nine months and two years. For example, the Level 3 Diploma in Occupational Work Supervision is designed to take nine months to complete.

Do universities accept NVQ Level 3?

Yes! The entry criteria will vary depending on the university and course, but Level 3 NVQs are a valid way of demonstrating your knowledge of your discipline. Level 3 NVQs show that you have real life experience of working on job sites, which is especially useful when applying for more practical courses.

Many universities use the UCAS tariff points system, which calculates a number which corresponds to the different levels and types of qualifications people have. You can use the UCAS tariff calculator yourself to work out if your qualifications will be enough to get you on the university course you want.

Is a Level 3 qualification equivalent to a degree?

A Level 3 qualification is the equivalent of an A-Level, not a degree. This qualification proves learners have the necessary knowledge and skills to study the specific discipline at a higher education level. Those looking for degree equivalent qualifications need to enrol on a Level 4 or Level 5 award.

What can I do with NVQ Level 3?

Having a Level 3 NVQ will allow workers to continue their career progression to opening the door to new supervisor roles. For example, a Level 3 NVQ in a construction discipline will allow learner to apply for CSCS Gold Card. You cannot hold a supervisor position on a construction site without being in possession of this card.

Can you go straight to NVQ Level 3?

To start a Level 3 NVQ you will need to already hold a suitable position with the sector you are training for. Although there are no specific entry requirements for learners in terms of previous qualifications, some will require you to already hold a Level 2 NVQ before you can enrol. Contact the training provider if you are unsure whether you’re eligible to apply.

FAQs About Level 4s

What is a Level 4 qualification?

Level 4 awards are classified as ‘higher education’ qualifications. They provide more advanced levels of learning which can be compared to degree in terms of their level of qualification. Level 4s are perfect for workers who have some managerial experience and want to step up to take a permanent management role. Some Level 4 qualifications available include:

  • Level 4 NVQs
  • Higher Apprenticeships
  • Higher National Certificates (HNCs)
  • Certificates of Higher Education
  • Level 4 Awards/ Certificates/ Diplomas

What is a Level 4 NVQ equivalent to? / Is a level 4 qualification equivalent to a degree?

Achieving a Level 4 qualification is the equivalent of completing an undergraduate degree.

Do I need an NVQ if I have a degree?

As Level 4 NVQs and undergraduate degrees are equivalent levels of qualification, it is unlikely that you would need to have both. However, depending on the sector or job you’re applying for, some employers may specify the need for an NVQ or a degree qualification.

For example, some construction sites may require you to have an NVQ as it displays your practical experience and knowledge of working on sites. Ultimately, having both a degree and an NVQ will look great on your CV, as it will display a thorough understanding of the topic on an academic and practical level.

How long does an NVQ Level 4 take?

The length of time to complete this qualification will depend upon the personal circumstance of the learner and how much time they can dedicate to learning. However, most learners take approximately nine months to complete all their modules and assessments.

What does Level 4 mean in education?

Level 4 education awards, such as the Certificate in Education and Training, are the first stage of qualifications which require learners to have practical experience of teaching. These courses designed for people who are currently working or training to be teachers. It provides learners with essential knowledge such as meeting the needs of students, lesson planning and understanding key legislation.

What can I do with my level 4 certificate?

Level 4 qualifications act as bring between Level 3 and Level 5 and can help certain groups people access higher education with a view to performing management or supervisory roles. These levels can be particularly for those who are looking to work in teaching, as a Level 4 award will allow you to obtain full employment as a teacher or training role.

Can I do teaching with Level 4?

The Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training is a first stage teaching qualification designed for those who want to teach/train in their specialist area. This qualification is also perfect for those who are already teaching and want to gain a nationally recognised teaching qualification.

The Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training will enable learners to work in a teaching role and progress onto a broader teaching qualification. 

To study a Level 4 qualification in teaching, you may be required to have completed the Level 3 Award in Education and Training. This five-day course will provide learners with the grounding in a range of skills and knowledge required for teaching in a wide range of environments. These skills will be developed further in the Level 4.

FAQs About Level 5s

What is an NVQ Level 5?

Level 5 NVQs are designed for people who have expert knowledge of their job role and want to take management positions in a company. For example, those in the construction industry may wish to complete a Level 5 NVQ in order to obtain a CSCS Black Card. This card is a legal requirement to act as a manger on construction sites.

Is an NVQ Level 5 equivalent to a degree?

Yes, Level 5 NVQs are equivalent to completing an undergraduate degree.

How long does it take to do NVQ Level 5?

The length of time it takes to complete a Level 5 NVQ can vary on the individual’s circumstance and the job role, but it usually takes at least 12 months to fully complete.

How many credits is an NVQ level 5?

The maximum amount of credits available for a Level 5 NVQ is 60. If you have a partially completed NVQ, you can still use this for a credit transfer, although you will receive substantially less credits for this.

FAQs About Level 6s

What is a Level 6 qualification?

Level 6’s are qualifications at a degree level. They prove the learner has established the knowledge required to progress through higher education. These qualifications indicate the learner has the suitable to skills to take on managerial positions within the discipline.

Example of Level 6 qualifications include:

  • ordinary degree (with or without honours)
  • degree apprenticeship
  • graduate certificate/ diplomas
  • level 6 award/ certificate
  • level 6 NVQ

Is NVQ Level 6 equivalent to a degree?

Yes. A Level 6 qualification is the equivalent of completing a graduate degree.

What is an NVQ Level 7 equivalent to?

Level 7 NVQs are the equivalent of having a master or postgraduate degree. This is one of the highest forms of qualification you can have, and shows an advanced academic and practical knowledge of your field of work. This level of qualification is aimed at senior managers.

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