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British Sign Language

British Sign Language

What is British Sign Language?

What is British Sign Language?British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised by the Government as a language in its own right in March 2003. BSL is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 Deaf people in the UK. BSL is a visual-gestural language, with its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English.


We offer qualifications in British Sign Language from Level 1 to Level 6.

Level 1 Award in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

This qualification is designed to teach learners to communicate with Deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL) on a range of topics that involve simple, everyday language use. They will gain basic skills and confidence in production and reception of BSL.

The specification has been designed using the UK Occupational Language Standards 2010 at Level 1.


Qualification structure

The qualification is divided into three units, each of which can be achieved separately. Learners who are new to BSL should cover 101 first, as units 102 and 103 build on this knowledge. Units 102 and 103 can be taken in any order.

To achieve the full Level 1 Award in British Sign Language, candidates must pass all units.

Signature unit code QCF unit number Unit title Unit details
BSL101 F/502/4513 Introduction to BSL See Unit BSL101 Specification
BSL102 J/504/0762 Conversational BSL See Unit BSL102 Specification
BSL103 F/504/0761 Communicate in BSL about Everyday Life See Unit BSL103 Specification

Unit BSL101 is internally assessed by the teacher. Units BSL102 and BSL103 are externally assessed by a Signature assessor.

The recommended guided learning hours are 64 hours as shown below:

Unit Guided learning hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning time Credit value at Level 1
BSL101 20 10 30 3
BSL102 22 8 30 3
BSL103 22 8 30 3
Total 64 26 90 9

GLH includes assessment time

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.


Essential requirements

BSL competence standards include requirements for candidates to have sufficient sight, manual dexterity, facial and body movement to produce and receive BSL. It is the responsibility of the centre to explain these requirements before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

Qualification Objectives

At the end of the qualification, learners will be able to:

  • understand and use a limited range of simple words and sentences in BSL
  • take part in simple, everyday conversations in BSL
  • give and follow simple directions or instructions in BSL
  • give and follow simple familiar statements or descriptions in BSL

Target group

Level 1 Award in British Sign Language can be taken without any previous BSL experience at any level. This qualification allows learners to gain basic skills and confidence in the two areas of production and reception of BSL.

The qualification is supported by over 500 centres throughout the UK ranging from Further and Higher Education establishments to schools and academies.


Level 1 Award in British Sign Language is suitable for those who:

  • want to learn basic language skills to communicate simple conversations with Deaf people
  • want to learn new language skills as part of a programme of study
  • want to progress to more advanced study and/or employment using BSL in the future
  • are studying for personal development
  • are parents, family, friends or colleagues of Deaf people.

Level 1 Award in British Sign Language is suitable for all ages, including pre-16.


Progression routes

On completion of Signature Level 1 Award in British Sign Language, a wide range of further qualifications are available, including:

  • Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language
  • Signature Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language

These qualifications would potentially lead an individual to various employment opportunities.

Learning resources

BSL Homework

BSL Homework

Our online BSL Homework package is perfect for anyone studying towards a Signature Level 1 Award in British Sign Language or Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language qualification. With over 500 short stories in BSL presented by Deaf people across the UK and questions to test you, it helps you practice what you have been taught in the classroom. You will also find filmed assessment examples and tips, and a BSL dictionary.

Packages start from £14.99 and you can register and practice our BSL101 package for free!

Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

This qualification is designed to enable learners to develop their skills to communicate with Deaf people using British Sign Language (BSL) in a range of everyday situations. The qualification will allow learners to participate in longer and more varied conversations than at Level 1. The course will develop communication in BSL about real life, routine, and daily experiences. The learner will be able to deal with most routine communication and have enough understanding of grammar to cope with some non-routine communication. Learners should be taught a number of regional variations in sign language.

The specification has been designed to be consistent with the National Language Standards at Level 2.


Qualification structure

The qualification is divided into three units, each of which can be achieved separately.

The units can be done in any order at any time but it is recommended that the content of Unit BSL201 is covered before Unit BSL202 or BSL203.

To achieve the full Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve all units.

Signature unit code QCF unit number Unit title Assessment Unit details
BSL201 J/600/0210 BSL Receptive Skills External: multiple-choice questions See Unit BSL201 Specification
BSL202 D/600/0214 BSL Productive Skills External: presentation in BSL See Unit BSL202 Specification
BSL203 A/600/0219 BSL Conversational Skills External: conversation in BSL See Unit BSL203 Specification

Guided learning hours includes assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.


Essential requirements

BSL competence standards include requirements for candidates to have sufficient sight, manual dexterity, facial and body movement to produce and receive BSL. It is the responsibility of the centre to explain these requirements before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

The qualification has four themes:

Theme 1 Everyday Conversation 30 hours Mandatory (this theme must be done)
Theme 2 Eating and Drinking 35 hours Optional themes: Pick two of these themes. The themes chosen for unit BSL202 and BSL203 must be different.
Theme 3 Spending and Shopping 35 hours
Theme 4 Travel and Holidays 35 hours

Theme 1 is mandatory so all learners must do this. Learners will also study two other themes out of the three optional themes above. The two optional themes will be chosen by the teacher in consultation with the learner.

In Unit BSL201 learners will be assessed on the content of Theme 1 only. The hours within the unit include time for practice and assessment.

In Units BSL202 and BSL203 learners will use and build upon the vocabulary and grammatical features of Theme 1.

Themes 2, 3 and 4 include the vocabulary from Theme 1. Learners are expected to increase their understanding and use of BSL grammar and vocabulary in these units. Some of the learning hours will be used to practice their skills and carry out the assessment for Units BSL202 and BSL203.

For Unit BSL202 learners will be assessed on the content of Theme 1 and the first choice of the optional themes.

For Unit BSL203 learners will be assessed on the content of Theme 1 and the second choice of the optional themes.


Target group

Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language is suitable for those who:

  • wish to achieve language skills at an intermediate level to improve communication with Deaf people
  • are Deaf and wish to gain a qualification in their native language
  • are family, friends and colleagues of Deaf people
  • want to progress from Level 1 study in BSL, and who may want to progress to more advanced levels of study in BSL at a later date
  • are studying for personal development.

The qualification is supported by over 300 centres throughout the UK ranging from Further and Higher Education establishments to schools and academies.


Progression routes

On completion of Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language, a wide range of further qualifications is available, including:

  • Signature Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language
  • Signature Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language
  • Signature Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language and Introduction to Interpreting

Signature Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language.

These qualifications would potentially lead an individual to various employment opportunities.


Learning resources

BSL Homework

BSL Homework

Our online BSL Homework package is perfect for anyone studying towards a Signature Level 1 Award in British Sign Language or Signature Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language qualification. With over 500 short stories in BSL presented by Deaf people across the UK and questions to test you, it helps you practice what you have been taught in the classroom. You will also find filmed assessment examples and tips, and a BSL dictionary.

Packages start from £14.99 and you can register and practice our BSL101 package for free!

Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language (BSL) caters for the learning needs of those who already have competence in BSL at Level 2. Successful learners must be able to demonstrate competence at Level 3 of the UK Occupational Language Standards (CILT, 2010). This means that the learner will be able to understand and use varied BSL in a range of work and social situations.


Unit structure

The qualification is divided into three units each of which will be assessed separately. Although assessments can be taken straight after each unit has been taught, Signature suggests that all assessments are best taken at the end of the course when all teaching is complete.

Unit code Unit title Assessment method
320 Sign Linguistics Knowledge Paper Assessment
321 Understand varied British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations DVD and paper
322 Use varied British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations Presentation

Suggested Duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Signature unit code Guided learning hours (GLH) Additional study/practice time Total learning time Credits
BSL320 20 20 40 4
BSL321 65 55 120 12
BSL322 65 55 120 12

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

In order to be entered for a course and assessment leading to this qualification, learners must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 2. It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a learner for this qualification. Learners should be assessed at their induction to demonstrate their skills.

This qualification is listed as appropriate for learners pre 16 and older.


Level 3 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed in order to be able to operate independently and at an advanced level in the target language. It is useful for those who work on a regular basis with Deaf people (for example social workers, teachers of the Deaf, communicators, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc)or those who aspire to work in these contexts.


Unit structure

This qualification is divided into two units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 3 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve both units.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL311 Understand varied British Sign Language in a range of work situations Portfolio
BSL312 Use varied British Sign Language in a range of work situations Portfolio

The unit titles refer to 'work situations' but the content and assessment criteria allow for evidence from a wide range of contexts.


Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL311 75 65 140 14
BSL312 75 65 140 14
Total 150 130 280 28

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 2.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed, in order to be able to operate independently and at an advanced level in the target language. It is useful for those who work on a regular basis with Deaf people (e.g. social workers, teachers of the Deaf, communicators, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc.), those who aspire to work in these contexts, and those who wish to expand their knowledge and skills in British Sign Language.

Unit structure

This qualification is divided into three units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve all units.

Unit code Unit Title
BSL420 Extended sign language linguistics
BSL421 Understand extended British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations
BSL422 Use extended British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations

Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL420 40 20 60 6
BSL421 70 50 120 12
BSL422 70 50 120 12
Total 180 120 300 30

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.

Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 3.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

Signature Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language and Introduction to Interpreting

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed in order to be able to operate independently and at an advanced level in the target language. It is useful for those who work on a regular basis with Deaf people (e.g. social workers, teachers of the Deaf, communicators, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc.), those who aspire to work in these contexts, and those who wish to expand their knowledge and skills in British Sign Language.

The completion of unit BSL423 can be used as evidence of the interpreting skills needed in order to apply for registration as a trainee interpreter. It is important to note however that this alone does not allow a successful candidate to achieve Trainee Interpreter status. There are a number of other criteria that must also be achieved before applying for registration as a Trainee Interpreter, please refer to the NRCPD website for information on this: www.nrcpd.org.uk.

Unit structure

This qualification is divided into three units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 4 Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve all units.

Unit code Unit Title
BSL420 Extended sign language linguistics
BSL421 Understand extended British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations
BSL422 Use extended British Sign Language in a range of work and social situations
BSL423 Introduction to Interpreting

Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL420 40 20 60 6
BSL421 70 50 120 12
BSL422 70 50 120 12
BSL423 40 20 60 6
Total 220 140 360 36

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.

Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 3.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.

Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language

Qualification aim

Successful completion of this qualification can be used as evidence of the language skills needed in order to be able to operate at a professionally proficient level in the target language. It is useful for those who work professionally with Deaf people (for example teachers and lecturers in BSL, social workers, teachers of the Deaf, trainee interpreters, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc) or those who aspire to work in these contexts.


Unit structure

This qualification is divided into two units, both of which can be achieved separately.

To achieve the full Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language, candidates are required to achieve both units.

Unit code Unit Title Assessment method
BSL601 Understand complex British Sign Language in a wide range of work situations Portfolio
BSL602 Use complex British Sign Language in a wide range of work situations Portfolio

The unit titles refer to 'work situations' but the content and assessment criteria allow for evidence from a wide range of contexts.


Suggested duration

The following table details the recommended learning hours required to achieve this qualification.

Unit code Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Additional study hours Total learning hours Credit value at Level 1
BSL601 90 90 180 18
BSL602 90 90 180 18
Total 180 180 360 36

Guided learning hours include assessment time.

Additional study hours include private study, homework, practice, etc.

Signature approved centres will deliver this qualification over agreed timescales.


Essential requirements

Candidates must be able to demonstrate competence in BSL at level 3.

It is the responsibility of the centre to ensure that this requirement has been met before accepting a candidate for this qualification.



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