An Introduction to UCAS Points
When you begin to research about UK universities and the types of courses you potentially might want to study, it is highly likely you will come across the term ‘UCAS points.’ However you might not be familiar with the term unless you know someone who has had recently applied or gone to university.
As you begin thinking about choosing your A-Levels, or even try putting together your application and personal statement for university, you will need to familiarise yourself with UCAS points: what they actually are, why they are important, and what impact they could have on your future studying options.
Take a look at our introduction to UCAS points, which answers the most commonly searched for questions – so you have everything you need to know before you need to start making plans for the future.
What are UCAS points?
In response to the growing numbers and types of post-sixteen qualifications (also known as Level 3 qualifications) offered to students all around the world, the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) created the UCAS Tariff Points system.
This established a universal grading system for universities to base applicants on, where students of all educational backgrounds and qualifications are compared more fairly during the application process. According to the official UCAS webpage.
‘UCAS Tariff points translate your qualifications and grades into a numerical value. Many qualifications (but not all) have a UCAS Tariff value, which will vary depending on the qualification size, and the grade you have achieved. This numerical value is used by HE course providers to assess whether you meet their entry requirements for a particular course.’
Instead of trying to compare students with lots of different grades, the UCAS Points system converts all the different types of qualifications and grades into a single point score.
As a result, universities can give out offers more fairly, and, as an added benefit, students can also use a wider combination of grades and qualifications to reach the required number of points to be considered for a course, rather than having to achieve a set of grades in one particular type of qualification.
How do UCAS Points work?
Many universities, colleges and conservatoires will display a set number of UCAS points in their entry requirements which you will need to achieve or be expected to achieve in order for your application to be eligible to be considered to study there.
How you achieve these UCAS Points can usually be determined by yourself, although are usually earned through a combination of academic qualifications achieved at school and sometimes, extracurricular activities such as grading in music, dance, and horse riding (more on that later).
However, it is important to note that you should always check individual university course requirements ahead of time. Not all universities are universal in the way they display their entry requirements. Some may also ask for additional qualifications, or even list specific grades they want you to achieve in a particular subject.
According to UCAS, almost two-thirds of universities do not use UCAS points to advertise course requirements, instead opting for more traditional grade-offers, (e.g. ABB). It is imperative to always read entry requirements carefully to make sure you know what qualifications are needed to secure a place on a particular degree programme.
Why are UCAS points important?
As we mentioned above, because there are so many types of qualifications now available to study in the UK, UCAS points were created as a way of giving all qualifications a universal way of grading. This allows students of a more varied academic background to access higher education in ways they may not necessarily have been able to in the past.
Instead of asking for specific grades, universities will ask for a collective number of points, which can be made up of a sum of different qualifications and grades.
For example, if one university offers a grade-based offer of ABB, a student must achieve a certain combination of grades. In contrast, universities who offer a course based on UCAS points (e.g. 120 points) allows a student to use a combination of grades and qualifications to meet the threshold – making the course more accessible for students of different educational backgrounds.
How do you get UCAS points?
Students can earn UCAS points by doing AS- Level, A-Level exams and IB diplomas, as well as through a few smaller independent qualifications. Typically, this begins when you turn 16 and start studying for higher-level qualifications.
For every grade you then achieve, the UCAS Tariff then assigns a numerical score to that grade. The higher the grade you achieve, the higher the number of points you will earn.
If you have any doubt about whether you can earn UCAS points with a particular qualification you are studying, you should always check with your course provider or teacher.
Can you get UCAS points from GCSE?
No, UCAS points cannot be earned from GCSEs, and the majority of students don’t begin to earn UCAS points until they start their post-sixteen study.
If you cannot earn UCAS points from GCSEs, why are they important?
Your GCSE grades will set the benchmark for where to begin searching for university courses. They will help to predict what grades you’re likely to achieve during your A-Levels, and so can be helpful in knowing what universities you could consider applying to in the near future, and for which courses.
In addition, your GCSEs will also be important in determining which post-sixteen courses you will be studying and where. Some sixth-form colleges have certain GCSE grade requirements and most A-Level and IB subjects require a minimum GCSE grade in order for you to pursue it in sixth form.
How to find out how many UCAS points you have
We have seen lots of people online asking questions like ‘what grades are 300 UCAS points?’ or ‘how many UCAS points is an A*?’
Therefore, we thought we would share the official A-Level UCAS tariff points table below for you to calculate what grades you have or may need to achieve in order to meet the necessary entry requirements for your chosen university course.
How many UCAS points in an A-Level?
These are the current UCAS points awarded for A-level qualifications. Use them to calculate how many UCAS points you could achieve.
A* = 56 UCAS points
A = 48 UCAS points
B = 40 UCAS points
C = 32 UCAS points
D = 24 UCAS points
E = 16 UCAS points
It is important to note that although A-Levels are some of the most common qualifications to earn in post-sixteen study, there are a whole range of ways to earn UCAS points from other qualifications, including BTECs and IB.
UCAS Points Calculator
If you do not wish to do the mental arithmetic to calculate how many UCAS points you have, then fortunately UCAS have created their own UCAS Points calculator, which can do the calculations for you.
All you have to do is enter all the qualifications you currently hold, or are predicted to hold, along with your grades, and then hit ‘Enter.’ The calculator will then determine how many UCAS points you currently have, or are predicted to achieve by the time you finish your A-Levels. It only takes a couple of minutes to do, and is very easy to use.
When you use the UCAS points calculator, you even have the option to have the results emailed to you, so you can download and save them in a safe place for when you need them.
Using the UCAS points calculator and understanding what grades you have, or are predicted to achieve can be really helpful, so you can see which university choices are available to you. Knowing your UCAS points will also highlight any areas where you may need to try and earn more points to help you achieve the grades you need.
Note: Updated recently, the UCAS points calculator 2021 is up-to-date with all the latest tariff changes. They will do this on an annual basis, so no need to worry about being given incorrect information or scores.
How do I find the UCAS entry requirements?
Want to know what the UCAS entry requirements are for the course you are interested in studying at university?
Visit the university’s official website and navigate to the course you want to study. Then, click on the “entry requirements” tab to see whether or not they are using the UCAS tariff points system. If they are, you will be able to see how many points you will need to get into that course.
Is there any flexibility with entry requirements?
Sometimes universities will list a range of entry requirements needed for their courses (e.g. AAB – ABB). This can give you reassurance that even if you don’t reach the top grades, the university may still grant you a place on the course.
Even if you have found a course you are not sure you would get into and it does not offer a flexible range of entry requirements, you could consider contacting their admissions office. If you explain your current predicted grades and offer some information about yourself, they may let you know whether they consider applications from students who are just below the current entry requirements.
If they do, make sure you secure this in writing. This can be very helpful on results day even if you do not quite achieve the grades needed for the course.
A Note on UCAS Points and Subjects
Although UCAS points and grades make up a huge portion of the entry requirements for a university course, it is also important to note that there are usually other conditions you need to meet. For instance, you may be asked to achieve a certain grade in a certain subject, or study an exact match of subjects.
As an example, let’s take a look at Medicine entry requirements. Although many universities in the top-quarter of rankings will ask that you achieve A’s, they will also ask that you achieve these grades in Chemistry and probably one other science subject. You will also need to undertake some pre-university tests, such as the BMAT. (Note: You can learn more about training to become a doctor in the UK in this article).
Always remember to read the small print of any entry requirements, so you can be sure you have everything you need to make a successful application.
How to get more UCAS points
If you need or want to boost the number of UCAS points you have, then there are a few ways that you can earn yourself more, including a number of extracurricular activities which will award you with points. However, you should always bear in mind your time capacity and what you’ll feasibly be able to do.
Sixth form is a much more in-depth form of studying compared to GCSE and will require lots of studying outside of the classroom in order for you to succeed. You should always speak with your guidance counsellor, teachers or parents before making any decisions on what extra things you should be doing to earn UCAS points.
Take an additional A-Level
The most obvious route to earn yourself a significant number of extra UCAS points is to take an additional A-Level.
Most students will study three A-Levels, however it is common for some high-achieving students to take four or even five to increase their UCAS points and academic strengths.
As we said before, you should always consult your school guidance counsellor or teachers to talk about whether they think you could handle an additional subject. A-Level subjects require a lot of time to excel in, and you want to ensure you will not find yourself struggling to balance your work later down the line. Remember, it is always better to achieve good grades in your three main A-Levels than to do badly across four.
Earn a qualification online
Another way to earn additional UCAS points is to consider studying online in your spare time for an additional qualification.
Earning a qualification online can be beneficial in not only helping you to gain more UCAS Points, but it may also help you narrow down your future subject options.
You may be able to study for a qualification towards a subject that you have not been able to in school, such as something in the Healthcare field, or even Marketing. This can give you advanced insight into the subject before university, helping you decide if it is something you would like to pursue in further education.
Additionally, with online qualifications giving you the possibility to earn at least 30 more Tariff points, they also help you get closer to all the important entry requirements.
Study English as a Foreign Language
For international students looking to study in a UK university, earning a Certificate in English prior to your university degree can be beneficial not only for your future endeavours, but for your UCAS points score as well.
Mastering the English Language has several advantages; with being able to study in a world-leading university proving to be one of the major benefits for international students looking to improve their academic ability.
There are many Certificates in English you can study for, with the Certificate of Advanced English earning you can attain 42 additional UCAS points.
There are a few volunteering qualifications, such as the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) which can be taken alongside your A-Levels or Scottish Highers.
The CoPE in particular can earn you up to 16 UCAS points. Though it is not a huge amount, the qualification will also help you to develop a range of lifelong skills which will benefit you throughout your future. You will study topics such as global awareness, career planning and active citizenship – many of which can be made up by volunteering and making a difference in the community.
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UCAS points are a grading system used by UK universities to compare qualifications. It converts grades into a score, aiding fair offers and flexibility. A-Levels, IB diplomas, and GCSEs contribute to points. Use the UCAS Points calculator to assess your score.