If you have a career goal in mind, often you will require qualifications to achieve it. Certain professions will only accept you if you have a degree, while most need you to have either GCSEs or Functional Skills as a minimum.
Most people are aware of GCSE courses as they are taught during school years, but Functional Skills are not as well known. Essentially, like GCSEs, Functional Skills are Level 2 qualifications, and they are widely considered as alternatives to GCSEs.
However, there are differences that should be considered if you are debating whether to take GCSE Maths courses or Functional Skills Maths, for example. Below, we have explained the qualifications individually and the differences between them. We have also informed you how you can study these qualifications online.
What are Functional Skills?
Every day, there are skills that we use to navigate through our personal and working lives. Functional Skills were introduced to help individuals develop these skills, and they focus on Maths, English, and ICT. These are three categories that we use in everyday life, so it is important that we have a strong grasp of each one.
Functional Skills Maths and Functional Skills English will cover topics that can be applied to real-life situations, and the same can be said for ICT courses. During your studies, you will gain practical and core skills that will enable you to tackle the everyday world with more confidence. To achieve these qualifications, you will need to pass an exam.
As well as equipping learners with the knowledge and techniques they need, studying Functional Skills courses will be beneficial from an academic and career standpoint. This is because most jobs require English and Maths qualifications at Level 2. Many academic institutions and employers accept Functional Skills qualifications from applicants.
While many study Functional Skills Maths and Functional Skills English to progress their academic learning or give them a better chance of employment, studying them as standalone courses is beneficial if you want to brush up on your basic knowledge.
What is GCSE Course?
GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education, and GCSE courses are taught in schools across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Generally, school students aged 15 and 16 years old will study GCSEs and take exams at the end of their 11th academic year at school.
With regards to subject matter, there is some flexibility as students can choose some of their subjects, but there are core GCSE courses that must be studied. These include:
- English Language
- English Literature
- Science – Biology, Chemistry, Physics
These qualifications were traditionally graded from A* to G, but the grades have since been replaced with a new system. Now, GCSE courses are graded 9-1, with 9 equating to an A*. In the traditional format, C would be the minimum pass grade, while now it is 4.
Differences Between Functional Skills and GCSEs
Both Functional Skills and GCSE courses get you Level 2 qualifications. In many cases, academic institutions and employers consider Functional Skills Level 2 equivalent to GCSEs. However, if you are considering whether to study a GCSE English course or Functional Skills English, then keep reading to learn the differences between the qualifications.
Maths and English are both covered by Functional Skills and GCSEs, but the way that they are taught differ. When you enrol on a Functional Skills English course, you will be primarily focusing on spelling, grammar, and verbal communication.
The purpose of the course is to get you confident in interacting with others in both written and verbal communications. The solid understanding you gain during your Functional Skills English course can be applied to everyday life. For example, you will feel more confident speaking on the phone, writing emails, or talking to people face to face as part of your job.
Functional Skills Maths will provide you with mathematical skills that you can use in daily life, such as how to split a bill or measure ingredients for cooking,
As for a GCSE English course, you will focus more on the theoretical aspect of study while also enhancing your reading and writing skills. During an English Language GCSE course, you will delve deeper into the structure of language, analysing types of texts and comparing them.
The knowledge taught in a GCSE course is primarily used as a foundation of which to build. The academic understanding you develop enables you to progress on to further study and pursue a specific career.
GCSE Maths courses take a similar approach as you will learn mathematical fundamentals but will explore complex equations to enhance your academic understanding. Individuals looking to pursue a Maths degree or a career that uses calculations and figures would benefit from starting their learning journey with GCSE Maths.
Given that the purpose of Functional Skills and GCSEs differ, it is no surprise that their syllabuses are also structured differently.
During a Functional Skills English course, you will cover a wealth of topics, with the predominant focus being on the following:
- Writing style and structure
- Spelling and punctuation
- Verbal communication
- Listening skills
A Functional Skills Maths course will explore the following:
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Fractions, percentages, and decimals
- Distance, weight, volume, and temperature
- Charts and tables
- Mean, median, and mode
During a GCSE English Language course, a selection of the topics covered include:
- Creative writing and reading
- Descriptive and narrative writing
- Literary non-fiction texts
- Standard English
While studying GCSE Maths courses, learners will cover the following:
- Ratio, proportion, and rates of change
- Geometry and measures
As well as different purposes and syllabuses, the time it takes to achieve a Functional Skills qualification and a GCSE differs too. In a traditional school setting, GCSEs are studied over the course of two years, but it is now possible to complete GCSE courses online. There are no classroom restrictions to contend with when studying GCSEs online.
Both GCSEs and Functional Skills courses can be studied online, giving learners more flexibility in their study schedule. However, the study time between the two methods is different.
On average, it takes around 55 hours of study to complete a Functional Skills Maths or Functional Skills English course. To complete the course in less than one month, you should spend two hours a day studying.
Online GCSE courses will require around 100 hours of study such is the depth of the topics covered. If you spend two hours a day studying, then you will complete your study schedule in around two months.
What’s Better, Functional Skills or GCSE?
There is no set answer to this question as it is all dependent on the learner and what they want to get out of their studies. If you want to enhance your skillset to get ready for a job, then a Functional Skills course is better suited as it helps learners develop the skills they will need in real-life situations.
For those of you who want to embark on an academic path and perhaps go to university, GCSE courses are more suitable. As mentioned, they create an academic foundation that you can build upon.
While similar topics are taught across both mediums, Functional Skills are ideal for individuals who want to enhance their skillset quickly, while GCSEs are better for those who want to focus on in-depth study and embark on an academic path.
Where Can You Study Them?
No longer is it a requirement to study courses in traditional classroom settings. You can now gain regulated qualifications from the comfort of your own home! Stonebridge Associated Colleges is one of the UK’s leading distance learning providers, offering more than 650 courses.
Part of our extensive portfolio are GCSE courses and Functional Skills. Whether you want to study Functional Skills Maths or a GCSE English course, you can do so by enrolling with us online. We offer a range of packages, many of which include the exams required to achieve your chosen qualification.
By learning with us, you will get the benefit of the following:
- Flexible study – The only date that you need to keep note of is the exams, but other than that, you can study in your own time and around your existing schedule
- Study anywhere – Given that there is no requirement to attend classrooms, you can study your Functional Skills or GCSE course anywhere that has a stable internet connection!
- Unlimited access – Throughout your studies, you will be given 24/7 access to all the online materials you need to complete the course
- Online platform – Through our industry-leading digital platform, you will have everything in one place, making your learning journey that much easier
Both Functional Skills and GCSE courses are equally as important, but they do serve slightly different purposes. Either avenue is beneficial, and you can enrol on your chosen course with Stonebridge Associated Colleges. To find out more information about our course offering, speak to one of our Course Executives on 0121 392 8288 or reach out to us online. Alternatively, click below to explore our range of courses!