The term ‘applied track’ in UK further education has been used to refer to the applied A level, the vocational, coursework-based version of the traditional academic A level. Vocational and coursework-based courses are often criticised for being easier than academic courses, for only attracting students who do not satisfy the requirements to take academic courses and for not developing in students the skills they need to be successful in higher education. This paper considers the extent to which these criticisms may be justified and explores the reasons why students chose to take an applied A level. The study involved 666 students at a large, mixed sex sixth form college in the UK, who were taking both applied and academic A levels. Although statistical analysis showed that students on the applied course performed worse than students on two academic courses once their different GCSE scores had been accounted for, it was also found that the applied students were relatively well qualified, that they were generally well motivated and hard working, and that they were extremely satisfied with the course. Finally, it is suggested that perhaps universities are misguided in assuming that applied courses do not develop in students the skills that they need to be successful in higher education.