Years 10 and 11 (Key Stage 4)

Use this section to understand what you should consider during Years 10 and 11 and the options available after Year 11.

Having now made your subject choices, work hard at them, even at the start of Year 10. Many subjects only have examinations during Year 11 whilst some have assessments throughout. None the less, work those assessments to completion and study well for your examinations to maximise your learning opportunity and get some great results in Year 11.

If you relax during Year 10 you will not develop a robust platform of knowledge to build on in Year 11 which gets slightly more pressurised due to you having to cover most of the curriculum by your mock examinations, generally in January of Year 11. Keep on top of any coursework through the two years - do not leave it all to the last minute.

Learn from your mocks, utilise all the learning aids you can (eg. and equivalents, extra school classes), finish off any remaining coursework as soon as you can, plan and pace your revision and plan to peak your performance during your examinations May/June in Year 11.

Then relax in July, safe in the knowledge you did the absolute best you could and await the results mid August which will reflect the effort you've put in. 

Sounds easy and straightforward - we don't mean it to come across like that as will be tough and requires considerable character to continue through the more difficult subject areas; and those associated with engineering are often those. Seek help from your teachers and online resources. Never just pass something over without resolution. In engineering roles we cannot do that, so get used to resolving things that are hard - see them as a challenge not a negative. When resolved, the end result is even more satisfying.

In Year 10 (maybe early part of Year 11 in some schools) students will undertake work experience (either two one-week placements, or one one-week placement dependent on the school). Work experience is invaluable for both the student and also the company you are placed with.

The aim of work experience is three fold:

  • to allow the student to see and experience first hand a working environment,
  • to allow the student to decide if this working environment is the type of work/career they would like to undertake, and
  • to allow companies to see students, help with any career related questions and maybe forge a relationship that could lead to employment of the student.

Engineering companies offer many placements to students each year and with the breadth of what engineering involves (use link here) placements often give students the means to see a variety of engineering tasks and environments within a company.

Students interested in engineering, or maybe those who are not sure about engineering should use their work experience to see the world of engineering and so help to refine their thoughts about their career.

During Years 10 and 11, it is recommended that students start to consider the type of role they wish to undertake in engineering. This has a bearing on which qualifications to work towards and how to go about gaining them via the academic or more practical routes (use link here for more information on academic and practical routes).

So what options are available after Year 11 towards a career in engineering?

There are three options available. Before deciding which option to go for, students should work backwards from the employment roles that support the lifestyle they wish to achieve in say 15 years time.  

With regards to the roles, research which engineering companies have those roles, and then establish the types of qualifications that such roles require. Next ascertain the education establishments that offer those qualifications and what the course entry requirements are in terms of A' Level, IB or BTEC subjects and grades.

In establishing the above, students have three options:

(1) For those who prefer a pure academic way of learning A Levels or Inter Baccalaureate (IB) would be the logical step, followed then by a degree or other qualifications at higher education providers (the University College Isle of Man or at a university say in the UK). Generally taking this option means your likely types of employment roles will be in the support area of engineering (use link here for more information on support roles).

Maths will be a prerequisite for most engineering courses, followed then by a physical science (physics for the bulk of courses, or chemistry, biology) so these are the ones you should consider in depth and choose to suit the course you're aiming for. Most universities for engineering courses require a third subject which does not necessarily have to be a physical science (eg. design and technology, geography, ICT).

Now look at the grades required for acceptance onto the course. Some establishments will quote subject grades and UCAS tariff points for acceptance on a course. Tariff points are based on a subject and achievement grade. An A Level gains you 100% of the points quoted, AS Levels 40%. IB points are based on grades A through E. BTEC points are based on Distinction, Merit or Pass and then Goups A, B or C. Use link here for more information.

If you plan to attend any of the top 20 universities in the UK then maths at grade A (IB Grade 6 Higher Level, BTEC Distinction) will more often than not be a requirement, and then A's or B's in the other subjects and equivalents in IB and BTEC. Other universities will accept B's and C's in these same subjects and whilst some may therefore conclude that these universities will be not as good, that often is not the case. Often the same syllabus (eg. H300 for mechanical engineering) is delivered at many establishments and maybe it's just the facilities and/or staff numbers that differ. Some establishments may quote just UCAS tariff points for course acceptance, others only define the subjects and grades and others do both! So check your planned course entry requirements carefully. 

To help with all of the above UCAS have developed a search tool (use the link here). 

After establishing the facts, students can make informed decisions about what subjects to choose for Sixth Form.

 (2) For those who prefer a more practical way of learning, with some academic content, City & Guilds, Cambridge Technicals, BTEC or equivalent courses on offer at the University College Isle of Man would be a sensible choice. 

For those that are aiming towards a machine operator type role (making things) then the recommended course is the Foundation Apprenticeship in Engineering (FAIE) course which forms the first two years of the sectors four year Apprenticeship Scheme. Use the link here for more information on the Apprenticeship Scheme.

The Foundation Apprenticeship in Engineering (FAIE) course is the primary course the engineering and manufacturing sector uses as a source of Apprentices. 

Other courses on offer at the University College Isle of Man can lead to employment on completion, though not often in the sector, or allow you to consider further higher education as detailed in (1) above.

(3) Seek and secure a job in the sector. Employment post Key Stage 4 without further training is rare in the sector and probably is more inclined towards the support areas in companies (use link here for more information on Support roles). If you had a good work experience placement in Year 10 within the sector this could put you in a good position though for employment after Year 11 should positions be available.

Regarding the three options above:

  • Try not to pick A Levels just because you feel that's the easiest solution and involves the least change. The change between Key Stage 4 and 5 is huge and requires you to 'raise your game'. Pick A Levels if you're aiming for a degree and then a related role and feel prepared for the academic bias this option requires.
  • If you learn better in a more practical way, with some academic work, choose a course at the University College Isle of Man instead. You will have to raise your effort for the courses but you can still arrive at the same roles in engineering that the A Level and degree route offers; just by a different way of learning which may involve a little more time to complete. 
  • Do not make your decision based on what your friends are doing, or what your relatives and teachers say you should do. By all means listen to them, take on board what they say and consider it, but make the decision based on the information you have researched or gained say from work experience.

In summary, (if you've made it down this far in this section you're a Star!) put all you have researched together and go for what feels the right thing to do for you; what hits your role and lifestyle targets, that you will enjoy the most and therefore likely to do best at.

It is after all your career, your life so go for what you think is best for you. :)


"When you get stuck on something, you know then that you are about to learn something new."

Adrian Harrison (Isle of Man Engineering and Manufacturing Sector Skills Champion)