Level 6 Career Guidance Diploma – Not drowning but waving…

I’m currently completing the Level 6 OCR Careers Guidance Diploma. Like all NVQ’s, it’s a competency based qualification based on a folder of evidence you produce and collect through your working practices to fulfill both compulsory and chosen units.

Some of it so far has been very interesting, other bits have been quite testing (Unit 3 – I’m looking at you) and I can very much see the benefit of it, especially working in a school environment with young people. For those of us who work in secondary schools, there is a conflict to manage between the client centered approach of IAG and the need to encourage young people who are on the path to becoming independent but aren’t there yet.

So I thought I’d post some hints and tips for those either doing the Level 6 or thinking of embarking on it. But, these hints come with small print.

I’ve heard of other groups completing the course in 3 months. I’ve been doing it for about 12 months and I reckon I’m about halfway through. It’s taking me a loooooong time.

Bearing that in mind:

1. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security with the time needed to dedicate to the course. Competency based qualifications can sometimes be sold as, essentially, photocopying the odd bit of your regular daily paperwork and sticking it in a folder. Hey presto! Qualification!

Nope. Not like that. There’s plenty of original work that needs to be produced or harassed out of busy line managers. Make sure you’ve got the time.

(And, I know, here I am writing a blog and moaning about not having enough time. King of procrastination)

2. Prepare your key colleagues and line mangers – you will be calling on them to write witness testimony for you. Let them know requests are coming and be clear about what you want from them for each piece.

3. Unit 3 is the one with the essays. It’s a slog but one which I found more intriguing the more I read and, in the end, really had to reel myself in from writing too much and sticking pigheadedly to the style of essay writing that got me through University. On one point I had to reverse, stop what I was doing and start again because it wasn’t what our course tutor had requested and it wasn’t fulfilling the unit criteria.

4. Before you start, think through your regular month by month work activities and plan which of those will produce observation or evidence opportunities for certain modules. My academic year runs a pattern, September to December is Year 11s and college/Sixth Form/apprenticeship applications, January to March is Year 9 option choices and March through to the summer is Year 10 work experience. Think through which activities you will be running at these points and what evidence that might produce. For example, I run University awareness raising group works and trips for Year 9 in January so that would be a great observation example for Unit 12 “Assist clients to apply for learning, training and work” while Unit 7 “Work with other agencies for the benefit of the client and the organisation” would be better covered with observations of the planning meetings of our Year 11 careers fair in October.

5. Stationary is fun! Invest in a proper folder with colour coded inserts and those clear, plastic pockets – not only will it help your tutor navigate your folder to see any “stories” you want to tell but it will also help you find documents when you need to.

6. Stories – certain Units really work best by using your evidence to tell a story. I’m doing a case study for Unit 5 “Explore and agree the career guidance and development needs of clients so documents such as meeting records and emails relating to the client are very useful to lead the assessor through the procedure you followed. Using lots of different documents to tell a story can be useful for lots of different Units though, if, for example, you wrote a guidance booklet for students or a particular group of clients if would be fantastic to have emails of feedback on the booklet or evaluation sheets from clients suggesting alterations which you then acted on and the updated drafts of the booklet.

7. Don’t be scared of professional discussions. They’re a time effective way of getting across your knowledge, experience and working practices relating to the Unit so, if your course leader offers, jump at the chance and book them in early. My course tutor suggested a recorded discussion as a suitable method for evidencing Unit 1 “Preparing to work in the career information, advice and guidance sector” and it was very useful for setting out how my role fits within the wider school community. Careers workers in schools taking this qualification are each going to have slightly different duties and it’s just as valuable that the course leader has your particular situation set up to mould your folder around what you do.

As ever, if you’re taking the Level 6 qualification or thinking about it then get it touch to share your own tips!


  1. Hi
    I am just starting my level 6 as my role in school has just changed from learning mentor to CIAG Mentor, this is all well and good and I am excited about the prospect of doing my new job but I have not got a clue about the course. I have never had to complete a course which is based on assignments and do not really know where to start??? any pointers on assignments would be really good.
    Thank you

  2. Thanks for writing this blog, the tips make a lot of sense… I have already turned down the offer of a professional discussion in favour of essay/reports and am quickly realising my mistake!

    When I started this qualification (last month) I assumed there would be a few forums or obvious reference books but so far I’ve not really found either so far so if there’s anything like that that anyone else has found useful, do share!

      1. Hi Christine, thanks for your message. There’s a fair bit of advice in the other comments on this post and some links above that you might find useful but without knowing which units or particular bits you’re struggling with it’s hard to suggest some possible solutions. I found it the qualification much clearer when I moved to a second training provider and was given much more concise projects and evidence requests for each unit.

  3. Hi I’m on unit 2 of the diploma.i handed in my assignment, but didn’t put any evidence in as I was unsure what to include. Help

    1. Hi, Unit 2 is the “Reflect on and improve professional” practice unit. So I think most folders would have a lot of CPD records and evaluation evidence documents here. For example: A record of the CPD courses you’ve undertaken during the last year with evaluations of each. Evidence of membership of professional bodies like the CDI (being on the professional register includes a commitment to CPD – print those guidelines to include). A CPD action plan for the next year, assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, which areas of practice you would like to brush up on, perhaps backed up with responses to client feedback surveys or in anticipated response to priorities your own role will face over the forthcoming period from line manager requests or the action plan of your whole organisation. You could also do a short evaluation on the types of training you feel work best for you webinars vs whole day conferences vs area network meetings, which have you felt you got the most out of and why?

      Hope those suggestions help! But remember I’m not an assessor so do check with one.

  4. Hi,

    Jus started level 6 and currently working on unit 2 and 3. Just wondered if you would be able to answer a few questions. Not too sure if you are still active on this website?


    1. Hi, if it’s easier you can get hold of me on russellgeorge (at) hotmail.co.uk

      Also, check out the LinkedIn link a couple of comments above this one. There will be a lot of folk on that group are very experience with the qualification and could offer some advice as well.

      Good luck with it!

  5. It’s comforting to hear that other people are finding this course pretty intense. Seem to be struggling with time, especially for unit 3. Wonder if anyone else is wondering why some of the questions don’t make much sense?

  6. Hi Sarah, bear in mind that I wrote this blog back in 2013 so it’s been a while since I did Unit 3. In my experience though the questions you’re set are designed by your training provider. Whatever questions or essays they set you are designed for your answers to show that you’re meeting the standards of the unit here: http://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/81058-level-6-unit-03-career-guidance-theory.pdf

    So, if you’re unsure of any of your tasks your training provider should be able to help you.

  7. Hi- I am hoping to embark on this course in September but the training provider I originally hoped to do it with (CSW) no longer run it. Do any of you have any guidance on good providers? I’m based in Cornwall.

    1. Hi Nancy, Thanks for your question – I put a call out on twitter for you and the ex President of the CDI said they might be able to help

      Give that email a try and they might know of accredited providers in your area. Another way would be to call OCR directly


      as they will have lists of providers

      1. Thanks for you reply. They have a list of accredited businesses, and I have just emailed some of the closest ones- I was really wondering if anyone could particularly recommend any providers, such as the OU, or any of the smaller providers. I’ll see what they come back to me with! Thanks for your help.


  8. Hi Vanessa, I didn’t actually do Unit 11 (engaging with support networks) but I can imagine that things that would be good:
    1) a list of the outside agencies and colleagues that you involve clients with to meet their career needs (employers, sixth forms, specialised career speakers etc) and the sort of provision they can offer
    2) some case studies of when you have involved outside agencies with clients and a) respected the clients confidentiality b) negotiated the goal and method of provision of the outside agency with the clients wishes in mind and c) set some clear targets and check up points of the interaction

    Good luck!

  9. Hi All,
    Hope you are all making your way through the qualification …..
    I am just about to start to start Unit 6 – any hints or tips?
    Does anyone know of any course books to help ?
    Thank you in advance

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