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What Are The Basic Key Skills?

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 3 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Key Skills Qualifications Basic

Key Skills are valuable in every area of life, from work to leisure time. You will need a range of Key Skills – and the official Qualifications are a great way to study for and achieve them.

Key Skills Qualifications are often provided as part of the school curriculum. Depending on your subject choices, you might take as many as six separate Key Skills Qualifications. These cover a range of Key Skills in a range of different subjects, and taken together can help you build the skills you need to work effectively – not just at school but also in your career.

So what are the Key Skills subjects, and how do you achieve the qualifications?

Main Key Skills

The so-called Main Key Skills are split into three separate subjects: Communication, Application of Number, and ICT.

The Communication element focuses on reading and writing ability, as well as listening and speaking skills. This helps to ensure that you are comfortable explaining yourself, and that you have the ability to properly comprehend written material.

Application of Number helps you to complete basic sums, but it is not all about calculations. It also helps you to understand numerical information, and interpret what it means in the real world. It also provides you with the ability to present certain data in understandable numerical form.

Finally, ICT (information and communication technology) helps you to create, display and understand information using a range of computer-based techniques. This might include text, spreadsheets, and pictures.

Wider Key Skills

The second set of Key Skills is called ‘Wider’, or sometimes ‘soft’, skills. The set is again split into three: Working with Others, Improving own Learning and Performance, and Problem Solving.

Working with Others is about cooperation. It helps you to develop the skills you need to work in a group, explain your own objectives to other people, and share workloads. The aim is to help you work with other people to reach a single goal.

Improving own Learning and Performance is about building the skills you need to develop as a learner. This subject helps you to set personal goals and targets, accept and understand feedback, explain your targets to other people, and make effective plans.

Problem Solving is about building your ability to approach a task or problem in a clear, effective, plan-based manner. It helps to build your analytical skills, and encourages you to take a more systematic outlook to problem solving.

What are the qualifications?

The Key Skills Qualification is split into four consecutively numbered levels. Rather than being bundled together, each Key Skill subject has its own assessment – so you might have a Key Skills Qualification in, for example, Communication, but not in Working with Others.

The Main Key Skills are assessed in a different way to the Wider Key Skills. For all the qualifications you provide a portfolio of work, in cooperation with your teacher. The nature of this work will depend on the Key Skill subject you are studying. The Main Key Skills Qualifications, however, also require you to complete a formal exam.

The exam element is different depending on the level. At levels 1 and 2, the test will last for either an hour or an hour and a quarter, and will require you to answer 40 multiple choice questions. At level 3, the test is an hour and a half long, and will require you to write your own answers to a range of questions. At level 4, the test is two and a half hours long, and may involve a mixture of questioning techniques. The tests are all marked by whichever exam board or body is awarding the qualification – not by your teacher.

Key Skills Qualifications are offered at schools and colleges, but they are not reserved for those of school age. If you have already left education but want to take a Key Skills Qualification, you still can. You should speak to your local Connexions office for more information.

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