Both A-level and GNVQ fail to promote independent learning, according to a study carried out by Queen's University, Belfast.
The 42 A-level and GNVQ teachers and 121 students who took part in the study kept a four-week journal in which they commented on the nature of teaching, intellectual quality and independent learning.
Professor Alex McEwen, of Queen's Graduate School of Education, said the study's findings seemed to give some credence to the criticism that GNVQ has become a watered-down version of A-level.
Although teachers say there are many differences between A-level and GNVQ, students suggest they are much closer in style.
Teachers contend that more instruction goes on in GNVQ classes than in A-level; more information is given out alongside more explanation. Surprisingly, A-level teachers say there is more group-work in their classes, but also more reading, more worknotes, more memorising as well as more questioning. However, GNVQ students believe that more hand-outs are used and more memorising is required in their classes.
Both sets of students believed they were given little opportunity for independent learning.