what are key skills all about?
There are six key skills. Communication, Application
of Number and Information Technology are the first three key skills and make up
the Key Skills Qualification. The other three are often called the wider key skills.
They are all available from Levels 1 to 4, with a single integrated unit
the Personal Skills Development unit at Level 5.
- Application of number
- Working with others
own learning and performance
- Problem solving
can order copies of the units from QCA or from one of the awarding bodies, or
view and download them from the websites, addresses given below.
is the Key Skills Qualification?
This is a new qualification,
to be awarded for the first time in 2001 to candidates who achieve a pass in all
the first three key skills at Levels 1-4. The award will be profiled. For example,
one candidate might achieve Level 2 in Communication, Level 3 in Application of
Number and Level 4 in IT, where another candidate might achieve only Level 1 in
Both would be awarded the Qualification, with their
certificates showing their exact achievement. If a candidate does not achieve
all three units, they will receive certificates for each unit they do achieve.
What is in the key skill units?
core of the key skills units, which is identical from every awarding body, is
made up of Part A and Part B.
- Part A is headed "What
you need to know" and sets out the knowledge and underpinning techniques
that the student needs to know and be able to use in order to do what is required
in Part B.
- Part B is headed "What you must do"
and is in two parts. The first column (the "evidence components") lists
what a candidate must do, in numbered sections. The second column (the "assessment
criteria") specifies the standard at which the candidate must do the things
in the first column.
QCA has published Guidance on the Key Skills
Units which goes into great detail about the specifications
for the first three key skills at Level 1-3. It
can be obtained from QCA or from the awarding
bodies, and it is on the
QCA website. Guidance on the wider key skills
and on the higher levels will be available very
How will candidates' work be assessed?
The first three key skills will be assessed through a combination
of a portfolio of evidence and an external test. The candidate must pass both.
There are no grades, merits or distinctions. The wider key skills will be assessed
only through portfolio evidence. They will not contribute to the Key Skills Qualification
but will be given unit certificates.
portfolio is a file or folder for collecting and organising evidence for assessment.
The evidence listed in Part B of the unit must be produced in full, with 100 per
cent coverage. Students can gather portfolio evidence from any area of their life,
whether it be study, work or leisure. The portfolio will be internally assessed
and the assessment will be internally verified.
A sample of
portfolios will be externally moderated through the Standards Moderation system
operated by the awarding body. Exemplar portfolio materials will be available
from the Key Skills Support Programme and from the awarding bodies. Check their
websites for details.
tests will be set by QCA and administered and marked by the awarding body. They
must be taken under timed and supervised conditions. At levels 1 and 2, the test
will consist of forty multiple-choice questions, based mainly on Part A. It will
last for an hour with an optional extra 15 minutes for Application of Number.
At Level 3 and above, the test will last for 90 minutes. Questions
will be more open-ended, with a heavy emphasis on candidates' ability to apply
the skills in a range of situations. The test will be available up to five times
a year. For details, contact your awarding body. Sample question papers and past
papers are on the QCA website.
Do all candidates have to
take the external tests?
No, there are some 'proxy qualifications'
that provide exemptions from taking some external tests, and some which provide
exemption from the entire IT key skill. They are listed on the QCA website.
key skills count for UCAS points?
From 2002, UCAS points
will be awarded to candidates who achieve any or all of the first three key skills
units. The tariff for each unit is as follows:
2 - 10 points
- Level 3 - 20 points
4 - 30 points.
So, the points for achieving the
first three key skills at level 3 (60) are the same as for an AS at Grade A or
an A level at Grade D.
How does the Key Skills Qualification
relate to other qualifications?
The Key Skills Qualification
is a separate qualification in its own right, though, in schools and colleges,
it will usually be taken alongside qualifications such as AS and A levels, GNVQs
and NVQs. From 2000, all national qualifications will include "signposts"
to opportunities to develop and produce evidence for the first three key skills,
but these are neither mandatory nor comprehensive.
about key skills in Key Stage 4?
From September 2000, the
first three key skills are included in the Section 400 list, which means that
schools will be funded for delivering key skills in KS4 programmes. Key skills
are signposted in the new GCSE specifications which will be launched in September
Where can I get more information and advice about
All the following websites have useful pages
about key skills:
City & Guilds
Patrick McNeill is a freelance educational consultant. He has been an examiner
for four different exam boards, and writes and lectures on all aspects of post-16
education and training.