Teaching learning assessment How the course is assessed

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Learners must pass all 10 units on their programme of learning to be awarded a BTEC Higher. National Certificate and all 16 units to be awarded a BTEC Higher National Diploma.

The assessment of BTEC Higher National qualifications is criterion-referenced and centres are

required to assess learners' evidence against published learning outcomes and assessment

criteria. All units will be individually graded as 'pass', 'merit' or 'distinction'. To achieve a

pass grade for the unit learners must meet the assessment criteria set out in the specifications.

This gives transparency to the assessment process and provides for the establishment of

national standards for each qualification.

The units in BTEC Higher National qualifications all have a standard format which is designed

to provide clear guidance on the requirements of the qualification for learners, assessors and

those responsible for monitoring national standards.

Unit format

Each unit is set out in the following way.

Unit title, learning hours and NQF level

The unit title is accredited by QCA and this form of words will appear on the learner's

Notification of Performance. In BTEC Higher National qualifications each unit consists of

60 guided learning hours.

Each unit is assigned a notional level indicator of H1 or H2, indicating the relative intellectual

demand, complexity and depth of study, and learner autonomy.

At H1 level the emphasis is on the application of knowledge, skills and understanding, use of

conventions in the field of study, use of analytical skills and selection and organisation of


At H2 level the emphasis is on application and evaluation of contrasting ideas, principles,

theories and practices, greater specialisation in the field of study, and an increasing

independence in systematic enquiry and analysis.

Description of unit

A brief description of the overall purpose of the unit is given, together with the key areas of

study associated with the unit.

Summary of learning outcomes

The outcomes of the unit identify what each learner must do in order to pass it. Learners must

achieve all the outcomes in order to pass the unit.


This section picks up highlighted words from the outcomes and amplifies the content coverage

required when addressing the outcomes. The content section will often provide lists of topics.

Please note all aspects of the listed topics should be covered, except those that begin with 'eg',

where items listed are merely indicative.

Outcomes and assessment criteria

Each unit contains statements of the evidence that each learner should produce in order to

receive a pass.


This section is not prescriptive but provides additional guidance and amplification related to the

unit to support teachers/deliverers and assessors. Its subsections are given below. Only those

subsections which apply to the unit will appear.

• Delivery - offers guidance about possible approaches to delivery. The guidance is based

on the more usual delivery modes and is not intended to rule out alternative approaches.

• Assessment - provides advice about the nature and type of evidence that learners are likely

to need to produce. This subsection should be read in conjunction with the assessment

criteria and the generic grade descriptors.

• Links - sets out the links between units. Provides opportunities for integration of learning,

delivery and assessment. Any links to the National Occupational Standards will be

highlighted here.

• Resources - identifies the specialist resources likely to be needed to allow learners to

generate the evidence required by each unit. The centre will be asked to ensure that this

resource requirement is in place when it seeks approval from Edexcel to offer the


• Support materials - identifies, where appropriate, textbooks, videos, magazines, journals,

publications and websites that may support the delivery of the unit.

Learning and assessment

The purpose of assessment is to ensure that effective learning of the content of each unit has

taken place. Evidence of this learning, or the application of the learning etc, is required for each

unit. The assessment of the evidence relates directly to the assessment criteria for each unit,

supported by the generic grade descriptors.

The process of assessment can aid effective learning by seeking and interpreting evidence to

decide the stage that learners have reached in their learning, what further learning needs to take

place and how best to do this. Therefore, the process of assessment should be part of the

effective planning of teaching and learning by providing opportunities for both the learner and

assessor to obtain information about progress towards learning goals. The assessor and learner

must be actively engaged in promoting a common understanding of the assessment criteria and

the grade descriptors (what it is they are trying to achieve and how well they achieve it) for

further learning to take place. Therefore, learners need constructive feedback and guidance

about how to improve, capitalising on strengths, with clear and constructive comments about

weaknesses and how these might be addressed.

Assessment instruments are constructed by centres. Assessment instruments should collectively

ensure coverage of all assessment criteria within each unit and should provide opportunities for

the evidencing of all the grade descriptors. It is advised that assessment criteria and

contextualised grade descriptors are clearly indicated on each assessment instrument to provide

a focus for learners (for transparency and to ensure that feedback is specific to the criteria) and

to assist with internal standardisation processes. Tasks/activities should enable learners to

produce evidence that relates directly to the assessment criteria and grade descriptors.

When centres are designing assessment instruments, they need to ensure that the instruments

are valid, reliable and fit for purpose, building on the application of the assessment criteria.

Centres are encouraged to place emphasis on practical application of the assessment criteria,

providing a realistic scenario for learners to adopt, making maximum use of work-related

practical experience and reflecting typical practice in the sector concerned. The creation of

assessment instruments that are fit for purpose is vital to achievement and their importance

cannot be over-emphasised.

Grading Higher National units

The assessment of BTEC Higher National qualifications will be at unit level and there will be

no overall grade for either the Certificate or the Diploma. This means that learners are able to

access the qualification through a unitised approach.

Each unit will be graded as a pass, merit or distinction. A pass is awarded for the achievement

of all outcomes against the specified assessment criteria. Merit and distinction grades are

awarded for higher-level achievement.

The generic merit and distinction grade descriptors listed on pages 16-17 are for grading the

total evidence produced for each unit and describe the learner's performance over and above

that for a pass grade.

The merit and distinction grade descriptors can be achieved in a flexible way, eg in a sequential

or holistic mode, to reflect the nature of the sector concerned.

Each of the generic merit and distinction grade descriptors can be amplified by use of

indicative characteristics. These give a guide to the expected learner performance, and

support the generic grade descriptors. The indicative characteristics should reflect the nature of

a unit and the context of the sector programme.

The indicative characteristics shown in the table for each of the generic grade descriptors are

not exhaustive. Consequently, centres should select from the list or may construct other

appropriate indicative characteristics for their sector programme which may be drawn from the

appropriate higher-level skills. It is important to note that each assessment activity does not

need to incorporate all the merit and/or distinction grade descriptors.

Contextualising the generic grade descriptors

The generic merit and distinction grade descriptors need to be viewed as a qualitative extension

of the assessment criteria for pass within each individual unit. The relevant generic grade

descriptors must be identified and specified within an assignment and the relevant indicative

characteristics should be used to place the required evidence in context


Grade descriptors

Pass grade

A pass grade is achieved by meeting all the requirements defined in the assessment criteria for

pass for each unit.

Merit grade

Merit descriptors Indicative characteristics

In order to achieve a merit

the learner must:

The learner's evidence shows:

• identify and apply

strategies to find

appropriate solutions

• effective judgements have been made

• complex problems with more than one variable have been


• an effective approach to study and research has been applied

• select/design and apply



• relevant theories and techniques have been applied

• a range of methods and techniques have been applied

• a range of sources of information has been used

• the selection of methods and techniques/sources has been


• the design of methods/techniques has been justified

• complex information/data has been synthesised and


• appropriate learning methods/techniques have been applied

• present and


appropriate findings

• the appropriate structure and approach has been used

• coherent, logical development of principles/concepts for the

intended audience

• a range of methods of presentation have been used and

technical language has been accurately used

• communication has taken place in familiar and unfamiliar


• the communication is appropriate for familiar and

unfamiliar audiences and appropriate media have been used

Distinction grade

Distinction descriptors Indicative characteristics

In order to achieve a

distinction the learner must:

The learner's evidence shows:

• use critical reflection to

evaluate own work and

justify valid conclusions

• conclusions have been arrived at through synthesis of ideas

and have been justified

• the validity of results has been evaluated using defined


• self-criticism of approach has taken place

• realistic improvements have been proposed against defined

characteristics for success

• take responsibility for

managing and organising


• autonomy/independence has been demonstrated

• substantial activities, projects or investigations have been

planned, managed and organised

• activities have been managed

• the unforeseen has been accommodated

• the importance of interdependence has been recognised and


• demonstrate


creative thinking

• ideas have been generated and decisions taken

• self-evaluation has taken place

• convergent and lateral thinking have been applied

• problems have been solved

• innovation and creative thought have been applied

• receptiveness to new ideas is evident

• effective thinking has taken place in unfamiliar contexts

Programme design and delivery

The qualifications consist of core units (which are mandatory) and specialist units. These

specialist units will be mostly optional and are designed to provide a specific focus to the

qualification. Required combinations of specialist units are clearly set out in relation to each

qualification in the defined qualification structures provided in this document.

In BTEC Higher National qualifications each unit consists of 60 guided learning hours. The

definition of guided learning hours is 'a notional measure of the substance of a qualification'. It

includes an estimate of time that might be allocated to direct teaching, instruction and

assessment, together with other structured learning time such as directed assignments or

supported individual study. It excludes learner-initiated private study. Centres are advised to

consider this definition when planning the programme of study associated with this


Mode of delivery

Edexcel does not define the mode of study for BTEC Higher National qualifications. Centres

are free to offer the qualifications using any mode of delivery that meets the needs of their

learners. This may be through traditional classroom teaching, open learning, distance learning

or a combination of these. Whatever mode of delivery is used, centres must ensure that learners

have appropriate access to the resources identified in the specifications and to the subject

specialists delivering the units. This is particularly important for learners studying for the

qualification through open or distance learning.

Full guidance on Edexcel's policies on 'distance assessment' and 'electronic assessment' are

provided on our website.

Learners studying for the qualification on a part-time basis bring with them a wealth of

experience that should be utilised to maximum effect by tutors and assessors. Assessment

instruments based on learners' work environments should be encouraged. Those planning the

programme should aim to enhance the vocational nature of the BTEC Higher National

qualification by:

• liaising with employers to ensure that the course is relevant to the specific needs of the


• accessing and using non-confidential data and documents from learners' workplaces

• including sponsoring employers in the delivery of the programme and, where appropriate,

in the assessment

• linking with company-based/workplace training programmes

• making full use of the variety of experiences of work and life that learners bring to the



BTEC Higher National qualifications are designed to prepare learners for employment in

specific sectors. Physical resources need to support the delivery of the programme and the

proper assessment of the outcomes and, therefore, should normally be of industry standard.

Staff delivering programmes and conducting the assessments should be fully familiar with

current practice and standards in the sector concerned. Centres will need to meet any specialist

resource requirements when they seek approval from Edexcel.

Specialist resources should include case study materials, real resources acquired from

commercial operations, videos and documented examples of current practice, eg reports from

the Computing/IT industry. These are detailed in each unit.

Delivery approach

It is important that centres develop an approach to teaching and learning that supports the

specialist vocational nature of the BTEC Higher National qualifications. The specifications

contain a balance of practical skill development and knowledge requirements, some of which

can be theoretical in nature. Tutors and assessors need to ensure that appropriate links are made

between theory and practice and that the knowledge base is applied to the sector. This will

require the development of relevant and up-to-date teaching materials that allow learners to

apply their learning to actual events and activity within the sector. Maximum use should be

made of the learner's experience.

Meeting local needs

Centres should note the qualifications set out in these specifications have been developed in

consultation with centres, employers and professional bodies for the computing sector, together

with support from the Sector Skills Council or NTO for the sector. The units are designed to

meet the skill needs of the sector and the specialist units allow coverage of the full range of

employment. Centres should make maximum use of the choice available to them within the

specialist units in these specifications to meet the needs of their learners, as well as the local

skills and training needs identified by organisations such as Regional Development Agencies

and Local Learning and Skills Councils.

Centres may not always be able to meet local needs using the units in this specification. In this

situation, centres may seek approval from Edexcel to make use of units from other standard

NQF BTEC Higher National specifications. Centres will need to justify the need for importing

units from other specifications and Edexcel will ensure that the vocational focus of the

qualification has not been diluted.

Locally-devised specialist units

There may be exceptional circumstances where even the flexibility of importing units from

other specifications does not meet a particular local need. In this case, centres can seek

permission from Edexcel to develop a unit with us to meet this need. The cases where this will

be allowable will be very limited. Edexcel will ensure that the integrity of the qualification is

not reduced and that there is a minimum of overlap and duplication of content of existing units.

Centres will need strong evidence of the local need and the reasons why the existing standard

units are inappropriate. Edexcel will need to validate these units.

Limitations on variations from standard specifications

The flexibility to import standard units from other BTEC Higher National specifications and/or

to develop unique locally-devised specialist units is limited to a maximum of four units in a

BTEC Higher National Diploma qualification and a maximum of two units only in any

BTEC Higher National Certificate qualification. The use of these units cannot be at the

expense of the core units in any qualification.

Practical work undertaken in the higher national diploma

We did many practical's in the HND. Some subjects are practical subjects. Database concept, data analysis and design, visual programming, java programming, network technology subjects are among those. For the database concept subject I did a database for a book shop using Microsoft access. And for the data analysis and design subject I did a database for a hospital using Microsoft SQL server 2005, and for the java programming subject I did some application using netbeans. I use the same database of the data analysis and design subjects one as the backend for the java programming subject's java application. For the visual programming subject I did a application again. It is using Microsoft c# 2008. for the network technology subject we were had some practicals using windows server 2003, as the final project of the course or the informations systems project subject's project I did a application to a small private hospital using visual studio 2008. these are the practical works that are undertaken during in the HND course…