The Difference between Functional Skills and GCSE: What You Need to Know

Do you know the difference between functional skills and GCSEs? If not, don’t worry – many people don’t. This blog post will discuss the differences between these two types of qualifications and what you need to know to choose the right one for you.

What are Functional Skills?

Functional skills are the essential skills that people need for everyday life. For example, they enable us to read, write, and use numbers. There are three main types of functional skills: English, Maths and ICT. Each of these is divided into various levels, such as Entry Level, Level 1 and Level 2. Each type of functional skill has its own set of specific abilities. For example, literacy skills involve reading and writing; numeracy skills involve the ability to use numbers; ICT skills include using computers, and communication skills involve communicating effectively with others.

What is GCSE?

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education, a qualification taken by students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aged 14-16. The GCSE was introduced in 1988 to replace the previous O-Level and CSE qualifications. GCSEs are generally taken over two years, with exams at the end of each year. Students take a variety of subjects, including English, Maths, Science, Languages and Humanities. In recent years there has been an increase in students taking vocational subjects such as business studies or IT.

The Differences Between GCSE and Functional Skills

Functional Skills are a new type of qualification that has been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the government’s plans to raise standards. GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are the formal academic qualifications young people take at the end of compulsory education. There are some key differences between Functional Skills and GCSEs:
  1. Functional Skills are available at three levels ( Entry Level, Level One and Level Two), whereas GCSEs are only available at Levels One and Two.
  2. Functional Skills can be taken by anyone aged 16 or over, regardless of whether they are still in education. However, GCSEs can only be taken by young people who are still in education.
  3. Functional Skills are assessed through written, oral and practical tests, whereas GCSEs are assessed entirely through written exams.
  4. Functional Skills qualifications are recognised by employers and universities, whereas universities only recognise GCSEs.
These are the difference between Functional Skills and GCSE.

What is Perfect for me? GCSE or Functional Skills?

Choosing whether to study for GCSEs or take Functional Skills can be challenging. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to think about what is perfect for you before choosing. GCSEs are generally seen as the more academic option, and they can open up doors to further education and career opportunities. However, they may not be suitable for everyone. You can do GCSE both offline and online. If you’re struggling with particular subjects or don’t feel like you learn well in a traditional classroom setting, GCSEs might not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, functional Skills focus on practical skills applied in real-world situations. For example, they’re often seen as being more vocational and can be a great choice if you’re looking to get into a specific trade or profession. However, they might not be suitable if you’re hoping to progress onto further education or training. You can receive functional skills qualifications offline and online by enrolling in various direct functional skills courses. So, which is right for you? Only you can decide. Think about your strengths and weaknesses and what you hope to achieve in the future. Then make a decision that’s perfect for you. Choosing whether to study for GCSEs or take Functional Skills can be challenging. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to consider what is perfect for you before choosing.


Functional skills are important, but they should not be the only focus for young people. A good education should provide a well-rounded foundation that helps students thrive in their future careers and lives. We hope this article has helped clarify some confusion about functional skills and GCSEs. If you have any questions or want more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.