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Encouraging candidates to add A levels

A levels are not part of the teacher training entry requirements so candidates do not have to enter them. A levels help providers build a more detailed picture of the person applying, allowing candidates to demonstrate qualifications in a wider range of subjects. This is significant if they do not have a degree or work experience in a subject that they’re applying for.

If a person has not entered their A levels, providers are likely to ask for them later, potentially slowing down the application process. We also know, from analysis, that candidates who add 2 or more A levels have lower levels of rejection.


If we move A levels out of the ‘Qualifications’ section to the ‘Personal statement’ section and rename these sections ‘Entry requirements’ and ‘Personal statement and subject knowledge’.

Candidates will be more likely to add their A levels.

Because they will identify ‘Other qualifications’ as being an opportunity to demonstrate a broader and deeper subject knowledge, particularly if they’re applying for a course they do not have any obvious experience of.

We’ll know this has worked because we’ll see an increase in candidates entering their A levels. From the analysis done when we started this work 55% of candidates had not entered any A levels in the current cycle.

Initial approach

We made most of the changes on the application index page. We moved ‘Academic and other relevant qualifications’ out of the ‘Qualifications’ section and into the ‘Personal statement’ section. This meant that we could rename ‘Qualifications’ to ‘Entry requirements’ as this section now contained only those qualifications that are required for teacher training.

We renamed ‘Personal statement’ to ‘Personal statement and subject knowledge’ as it now contained ‘Other qualifications’. Candidates could add their A levels here, our aim being that they would associate this section with showcasing their depth and breadth of knowledge and experience.

We also added some hint text to ‘Other qualifications’ to help people identify where they should add their A levels. On the page to add other qualifications, we reworded the guidance to suggest adding qualifications if the subject the person is applying for is different from their degree.

‘Your application’ with updated section structure.

Research findings

We found that our initial approach did not work during testing. Participants all expected to see A levels in sequence with GCSEs or equivalents, A levels then degree. We were going against this mental model and they told us that it felt odd in the ‘Personal statement’ section.

Some participants told us that they do not see the point of adding A levels because they’re not required, and having a degree supersedes them. Many of them assumed that they did add A levels to their real applications when they actually had not.

Second iteration

We reverted the design back to how it was, reinstating the previous naming conventions and decided on a slightly less subtle and clearer approach.

We re-ordered the ‘Qualifications’ section, taking account of the mental model identified during the research: GCSEs, A levels, degree. We renamed ‘Other qualifications’ to ‘A levels and other qualifications’, enabling us to remove the hint text.

‘Your application’ with revised section structure.

On the page to add A levels and other qualifications we completely removed the guidance from the top. We did this as people tend not to read this guidance. We introduced another radio option to the question “What type of qualification do you want to add?”

The new ‘or’ radio we added was ‘I do not want to add A levels or other qualifications’ so people have to purposefully choose not to add them. We included hint text with this option to explain why it’s a good idea to add A levels and other qualifications.

If this radio option is selected, the next page is the section review. We’ve written new guidance here explaining why it’s beneficial for applicants to add A levels, and they have to mark this section as complete.

Your application#

Screenshot of Your application

A levels and other qualifications#

Screenshot of A levels and other qualifications

Qualification names are listed alphabetically

Reviewing A levels or other qualifications section with no qualifications added#

Screenshot of Reviewing A levels or other qualifications section with no qualifications added

Adding another A level or other qualifications#

Screenshot of Adding another A level or other qualifications

If a qualification has been added, the option to not add any qualifications is removed.

Your application (for international candidates)#

Screenshot of Your application (for international candidates)

For international candidates the section is labelled ‘Other qualifications’.

Add a qualifications (for international candidates)#

Screenshot of Add a qualifications (for international candidates)

For international candidates the section is labelled ‘Other qualifications’.