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What is a Unit Standard?

Unit standards are individual components of a qualification. What are they worth?

A unit standard is like a brick in a wall. It is a component of something bigger.
A unit standard is like a brick in a wall. It is a small part of something much bigger.

Unit Standards are Bricks Building Your Education Wall

If bricks are used to build a wall, unit standards are used to build a qualification.

Some people have an education wall made up of full qualifications, others prefer to pursue a range of short courses based on unit standards instead.

Unit standards are credit bearing, meaning that you earn credits towards a qualification.

Each unit standard is a recipe for individual bricks.

It shows how a particular skill, knowledge area, attitude and / or value can be covered and assessed. The key ‘ingredients’ in a unit standard are:

  1. specific outcomes and
  2. related assessment criteria

If you are trying to select a unit standard, don’t just look at the title of the unit standard. Look at the specific outcomes, they direct you to what must be specifically covered in that unit.

Unit Standard Architecture

A unit standard contains specific statements of learning intentions. 

Specific Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

A unit standard can have any amount of specific outcomes. These are specific skills and competencies you must master.

Each specific outcome usually has between 3 – 10 assessment criteria. The assessment criteria tell you how to test that each specific outcome has been reached.

Unit standard based training can ensure that relevant, targeted, creative training  can be achieved.

Types of Unit Standards

There are three types of unit standards:

  1. Fundamentals
    • language and mathematical literacy
    • a second language is required at NQF Level 4
    • candidates with Matric can be credited for the fundamentals if they enrol for a qualification at NQFL 4
    • private providers and employers usually prefer candidates who already have Matric for NQF Level qualifications so that they save time and money when training
  2. Core
    • essential unit standards to meet the qualification area of specialisation
    • critical for competency
  3. Elective
    • providers can select from a variety of electives linked to the qualification
    • strategic selection of electives can help organisations be more market competitive and responsive to market needs
    • most providers do not offer candidates a choice of electives although technically they could
    • you select electives based on the number of credits remaining after the fundamentals and core. For example:
      • If a qualification is 120 credits
      • and the fundamentals total 30 and the core totals 70 making 100 credits
      • then the outstanding credits are 20
      • you can select electives that make up 20 or you can exceed 20
      • there is no limit to the amount of electives you can offer on a qualification
      • but you may not select electives that total less than 20 credits

CAT. How SAQA allows Learners to be credited for Maths and Languages

How to identify Target Markets for NQF Unit Standards and Qualifications

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