7 September 2023

All Your Level 2 and Level 3 Apprenticeship Questions: Answered

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Apprenticeships or A-Levels, it can be a tricky decision. Whilst A-Levels, T-Levels or BTECs often feel like the norm, they’re not for everyone. 

Apprenticeships offer an alternative to staying in a traditional classroom setting and allow you to take that first step towards your future career! Plus, you’ll earn a sweet salary too.

Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships are ideal if you’re 16+ and leaving school. But, you might have some questions about what’s available to you and how you can land one…

We’ve pulled together all the top questions we were asked by students in our recent virtual event series – such as what qualifications you need and how the schemes work. Scroll down to find all the helpful answers. 

“When do these apprenticeships start? After GCSEs or A-Levels?”

To do an apprenticeship, you’ll need to be:

  • 16 years old
  • Living in England
  • Not in full-time education

Generally, you can start your career with an intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2) without having any formal qualifications. Intermediate apprenticeships are great if you’re leaving school at 16 and want to start your career.  

How long do they take?

Intermediate apprenticeships take 12 – 18 months to complete.

What are they equivalent to?

These apprenticeships are equivalent to getting five GCSEs graded at 9 – 4 (A* – C).

What happens after your apprenticeship?

Once you’ve finished your intermediate apprenticeship, you can continue with your existing employer, work for a new employer. Or move onto an advanced apprenticeship (Level 3). These apprenticeships are approximately 2 – 4 years long and equivalent to getting two A-Levels. 

“Are there opportunities for growth and advancement within the company after completing your apprenticeship?”

After completing your apprenticeship, you’re likely to have a permanent position within the business. This allows you to further your skills and gain more qualifications, either through work experience or a higher apprenticeship. You can work your way up to more senior roles too.

“Does an apprenticeship include formal exams?”

During your apprenticeship, you’ll be assessed on your skills and knowledge to make sure you’re meeting the right learning standards for your course. This is a work-based assessment, where you’re graded on your understanding and effectiveness of daily tasks.

Once you’ve finished your programme, you’ll have an End Point Assessment (EPA). These assessments vary from apprenticeship to apprenticeship, but usually include:

  • A practical assessment
  • A project
  • An interview, presentation and/or sales pitch
  • Written or multiple choice tests.

How are apprenticeships graded?

Apprenticeships are graded differently from GCSEs and A-Levels. Instead of having a number or letter grade, you’ll receive a pass, merit or distinction according to your mark – a pass being the lowest grade and a distinction being the highest. 

“Do the qualifications you gain during an apprenticeship allow you to be flexible in your future career choices?”


Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships are equivalent to five GCSE and two A-Level passes. 

So if you decide to go to university down the road or apply for another role, you’ll still have the same certified qualifications as your friends who stayed on at school – meaning you can pursue any career path you wish. 

“Do you have a day a week for the educational aspect of the apprenticeship? If so, does it take longer to get the qualification (than going to university)?”

When you start your apprenticeship, you’ll spend 80% of your time at work and 20% at a college or training provider where you’ll complete the educational aspect of the programme. 

Your schedule depends on your employer. Usually, you’ll dedicate one day a week to studying. But you could spend three or four consecutive weeks at work and a whole week at college.

“When do you think is the best time to apply?”

Most roles go live between December and March. But of course, there are always some that go live throughout the year. So make sure to keep an eye out.

If there’s a particular company you’d like to work for, keep checking their available roles. You want to make sure you have enough time to complete all stages of your application.

“What grade do you need in GCSEs/A-Levels to go into an apprenticeship?”

For the most part, you won’t need qualifications to get onto a Level 2 apprenticeship. 

However, if you’re looking to start a Level 3 apprenticeship, you’ll need five GCSE passes graded at 9 – 4 (A* – C). Level 3 apprenticeships are a step above Level 2 apprenticeships. So if you’ve already completed your Level 2 programme, you’ll automatically qualify for a Level 3.

“Can you still do an apprenticeship if you don’t pass English and Maths at GCSE? Are there options to retake them alongside the apprenticeship?”

If you haven’t passed your English and Maths GCSEs, don’t worry. Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships don’t always require you to have GCSEs.

These are entry level roles. So by doing one, you can just take a functional skills course in Maths and English alongside your apprenticeship.


If you fail your apprenticeship, you’ll have the option to retake the End Point Assessment. Your employer and training provider will create an action plan to identify areas that need improvement and support you with further training.

Read our blog to learn how you can get an apprenticeship without GCSEs.

“Can you go from GCSEs to an apprenticeship?”

You most certainly can. Once you’ve finished your GCSEs, you can apply for a Level 2 or 3 apprenticeship directly. From there, you can go onto a Level 4 or 5. Or higher if you wish. Lots of students go right the way through to a degree apprenticeship!

“During your apprenticeship, what support is available? (e.g. mentoring)”

Apprenticeships aren’t just about work. Your wellbeing matters too. For this reason, there’s tons of support available to help you make the most of your time with your employer. 

These include:

  • Inductions and onboarding – to allow you to settle in
  • One-to-one mentoring – to provide guidance on your progress
  • Team socials – to strengthen your bond with colleagues
  • Performance reviews – to ensure you’re on the right track with work
  • Mental health and wellbeing – to make sure you’re happy and healthy. 

Moving from school to work is a big step. And one that might be overwhelming for some. Having a support system in place makes this transition easier and creates a fun working environment where you can make lots of amazing memories.

“Can you start an apprenticeship before you take your GCSEs or do you need to finish them before you can apply?”

If you’re planning on sitting your GCSEs, wait for your results to come through before applying for an apprenticeship. The minimum age requirement for apprenticeships is 16. So it’s unlikely that you’ll be doing one before your GCSEs.

If GCSEs are off the cards or you didn’t get the grades you were hoping for, that’s okay. You can apply for an apprenticeship as soon as you hit your 16th birthday. Think of it as a present to yourself. 

“What should you do if your GCSEs are completely different from what you want to do now?”

That’s absolutely fine. Usually, Maths and English are your go-to subjects. 

It’s only if you want to work in a specific industry, say medicine or engineering, that you’ll need to take specific subjects at GCSE. 

For example, sciences. You’re early into your career, so don’t panic too much about making big decisions right now. Careers evolve and change – that’s the beauty of them!

“Is it important to have top grades to be able to do an apprenticeship at a good company? What kind of skills do you need to show to stand out?”

You don’t need top grades to get onto the majority of intermediate apprenticeships. You’ll gain these qualifications at work. 

The most important thing is that you show off your personality and the skills you have on your CV and interviews. Most employers will want to see you are good at:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork

Want to slay your application? Learn how to craft the perfect CV, cover letter and interview technique with our ultimate apprenticeship toolkit. 

“What’s the most challenging thing you face when applying for an apprenticeship and how do you cope with the pressure of feeling like ‘A-Levels or university is the correct pathway’?”

Applying for an apprenticeship has its challenges. But the application stage is probably the most challenging part. This is your moment to impress employers with a jaw-dropping cover letter and CV. So you’ll want to get it right. 

Before starting your application, we’d recommend you to:

  • Go through the job description and highlight any key words or phrases
  • Write these phrases down and group them into soft and hard skills
  • Transfer these skills to your CV, and demonstrate them using real-life examples.

When it comes to coping with pressure, remember that apprenticeships are just as good as further education. It all depends on the experience you’re looking for.

“Do you believe that apprenticeship employers look at your skill set and experiences in addition to your results more than universities do?”

While skills are important, passion and a willingness to learn will go a long way in helping you get an apprenticeship. Employers know that – for lots of you – this is your first job. So they don’t expect you to have the perfect CV. 

When you’re applying for an apprenticeship, make sure to back up your skills with examples.

Things to mention include:

  • Leading a team presentation at school
  • Being a member of your school sports team or theatre club
  • A Duke of Edinburgh award or volunteering with a charity.

Not only are these major achievements, they show employers that you have a strong work ethic and will carry out your role to the best of your ability.

Want to find out what it’s really like to do a Level 2 and 3 apprenticeship? 

“What do the day-to-day duties of an apprentice look like?”

Your day-to-day duties as an apprentice will vary according to your industry and level. As a management apprentice for the construction sector, you’ll work across multiple departments like hire and sales, opening the trade counter, serving customers and negotiating with suppliers.

Alternatively, you could become a content creator for The Juice Academy, writing blogs, creating media lists for clients and powering the agency’s TikTok and YouTube channels. 

Wondering what a typical day as an apprentice might look like in your sector? Meet four real-life apprentices who’ll fill you in on everything you need to know.