Apprenticeship standards: how are apprentices graded?

Find out how to grade apprenticeship evidence correctly.

Apprenticeship standards: how are apprentices graded?

Grading has always gone hand in hand with assessment, but it wasn’t brought into the apprenticeship world until the introduction of the new standards.

With the old apprenticeship frameworks, apprentices were either judged as competent and able to do the job, or not. But with the new apprenticeship standards, apprentices can also achieve higher levels of competence – merit and distinction.

In most standards, these higher levels indicate that the apprentice can work independently, has the confidence of the employer and has shown potential for even higher achievement – either through workplace promotion or further qualifications. This isn’t the case for all apprenticeship standards, but it’s a general rule of thumb.

What are the benefits of grading in apprenticeships?

Grading gives apprentices the opportunity to push themselves and motivates them to achieve more. Grading can also help with learner engagement and employer engagement. Employers want to know how their apprentice is getting on and want them to perform well. If an employer can see their apprentice’s grade, they may offer more support, time and resources to help them achieve – especially with higher level programmes.

Are there any cons?

Knowing how and when to implement grading can be a challenge for tutors as it's a brand-new concept in apprenticeships. If grading is introduced too early or is too strict, it can be demotivating to the apprentice. The grading criteria can also be vague for some standards and lead to inconsistencies.

How does grading fit into the apprenticeship training plan?

To make sure you introduce grading properly and at the right time, you need to build grading into your on-programme training plan. Look at the assessment plan to find the end-point assessment methods and include these methods throughout your plan.

Self-assessment is a great way to introduce the concept of grading. Ask the apprentice how they feel about their learning at the beginning of the programme. How do they use the resources available to them? How can they improve this from good to excellent?

Another popular method is professional discussion. It’s a common end-point assessment method and gives learners the opportunity to explain what they’ve learned and how they’ve applied their knowledge.

How should the tutor grade apprentices?

When you have evidence from these on-programme assessments – such as self-reflections or recorded professional discussions – tutors can apply a grade. Look at the learner’s work and read the grading criteria. Does the evidence match the criteria? Which grading band fits the evidence most closely – fail, pass, merit or distinction? How closely does it fit?

When you’ve answered these questions, you can apply a grade to that piece of evidence.

If the apprentice hasn’t met the pass mark, come up with a strategy to help them gather the evidence they need to move up a grade. And if the apprentice has achieved pass or above, do the same! Build stretch-and-challenge goals and a strategy to help them achieve distinction.


When it comes to grading, there’s a lot to think about. It’s still very new to many apprenticeship providers – and getting it right is really important. That's why we’ve created a grading checklist to help you find the right grade and follow up with motivating feedback.

Download checklist


This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.