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We recently wrote about the changes to the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering. The RQF version of the qualification will be mandatory next year for all students taking the qualification.

BCA have been talking to a number of colleges to help them prepare for the new specification. Some colleges are opting to teach the new specification starting this September, in anticipation for the full swap-over next year.

Whether you plan to teach the new RQF BTEC this year or next, this is the time to plan for the detailed delivery of the new specification.

In particular the Unit causing concern for many centres in Unit 6: Microcontroller Systems for Engineers.

Below, we set out some practical pointers and considerations for teaching the unit, including what resources you use in the classroom, ordering appropriate hardware and software, as well as identifying any training and CPD needs.

Here are some practical tips and considerations if you are teaching, or planning to teach, Unit 6: Microcontroller Systems for Engineers:

  • Given students do not know the briefs in advance, they must be taught to use a range of inputs/outputs confidently;
  • Initially this list of inputs/outputs do not have to be exhaustive and Pearson have confirmed via their support forums that students are expected to know just one of the list of possible components under each application. We would recommend if you are new to microcontrollers, to pick one device per application to teach your students. As time and confidence grows, you can start to introduce additional components into your teaching*;
  • Students will need practice combining inputs/outputs and programs in a range of scenarios. Released briefs from Pearson have varied from straight-forward user input / text outputs to scenarios which may be unfamiliar to your students (one example asked students to consider the expansion of an injection moulding system). It is important therefore that you expose your students to a wide range of microcontroller applications, whether that’s through case-studies or practical projects.
  • Students will be assessed on how well they test and review their project.  This means students should be taught how to make basic checks in their hardware and software, how to verify programs, and debugging techniques. 
  • Consider which microcontroller platform, kits and boards you plan to use. 
  • Discuss with colleagues any training requirements for your department. We recommend booking training as early as possible to give yourselves plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the new specification and any hardware/software.


* So far the sample assessment briefs have suggested the use of basic input sensors like temperature and buttons, and basic output devices like LEDs, 7-segment displays or LCD displays. However Pearson have suggested that over time they would like to introduce a greater range of devices that may be assessed. In the medium term, we recommend you expose your students to as wide a range of devices on the specification as possible.


Fill in the below to to gain access to BCA’s online VLE where we post termly updates on how the unit 6 teaching and assessment are working in practice. We will send you a trial login to the VLE, where you can also access sample teaching material for Unit 6: Microcontroller Systems for Engineers.