How University UCAS Points Work
If you are in the process of applying to university, you might have heard of UCAS points, also known as the UCAS tariff. With most students more accustomed to the normal letter and number grades that are awarded for their performance at GCSE and A-level, UCAS points can be confusing to understand. This guide to UCAS points is here to help. Find out what UCAS points are, how they are calculated, and how to work out your own score.
What are UCAS points?
UCAS points are used to measure the value of post-16 qualifications in the UK, including A-Levels, BTECs, the International Baccalaureate, Welsh Baccalaureate, and Scottish Highers, in addition to other qualifications in music, dance, diplomas, City & Guilds qualifications, and more.
The UCAS tariff converts the grades you receive in school to a numerical value, which is used by many UK university course admissions teams to assess if you meet the requirements for entry onto a certain course.
Most university courses have a minimum number of UCAS points required to be accepted into the program, but some universities don’t use UCAS points. Instead, they may be more specific about the qualifications and grades that are required for admission.
Why are UCAS points important?
UCAS points are important because they are a way a university can compare grades from different courses and qualifications, like Scottish Highers, A levels, and the International Baccalaureate.
You may need to achieve a certain number of UCAS points in your qualifications to be accepted into your chosen university course. Therefore, it’s important to have this number in mind so you know what grades to aim for in your exams.
What does a UCAS points-based offer mean?
A university may offer you a place on their course on the basis that you achieve a certain number of UCAS points in your upcoming qualifications. This differs from a grade-based offer like ‘BBB’, as in this case you need to achieve the specific grades listed.
In a UCAS points offer (e.g., 120 points) the points can be made up of any combination of grades such as A*CC. This can be beneficial whenever there is a particular subject you strongly perform in.
How to find out what your qualifications are worth
The UCAS system assigns a certain number of points whenever a particular grade is achieved in a qualification. The number of points awarded varies based on the qualification undertaken, for example, 48 points are awarded for an A at A Level, and 144 points are given for a DDD in a BTEC National Diploma.
To find out how many UCAS points your qualifications are worth you can use a calculator, like the one on the UCAS website, or use the comparison tables which can be found online.
How are UCAS tariff points calculated?
Each qualification (e.g., A-level, international baccalaureate, music exam) is allocated a size band value from 1-4, based on the number of learning hours required for the qualification. Each qualification is also given points based on the grades received by the student which range from 3-14 points.
But a much simpler way to calculate the number of UCAS points you have been awarded is to use an online calculator or comparison table. These can be found on the UCAS website.
How many UCAS points do I need to get into university?
To find the number of UCAS points needed for admission to a university or higher education course, go to the admission requirements in the course’s description on the university’s website.
Remember that not all qualifications are included in the UCAS tariff, but your university may still accept it so it’s important to check with the admissions team if you are unsure.
Are universities flexible with their entry requirements?
Yes, sometimes universities can be flexible with their entry requirements. On results day, universities may have extra spaces left on their course and may accept students with lower grades than previously advertised.
Grades are very important, but they aren’t the only thing universities will look at. Your extra-curricular activities and personal statement also play a large role in acceptance to university.
How come not all universities use Tariff entry requirements?
Not all universities use the UCAS tariff system, and many universities, including most of the Russell group universities, use grades instead. Either way, it doesn’t make it any harder for you to apply to university, as it is simply a different way of expressing the same thing.
It’s also important to remember that universities and colleges do not have to accept a qualification simply because it is listed in the UCAS tariff tables, as each university and college is entitled to choose its own admission criteria.
Similarly, the university can choose to allocate fewer points to a specific qualification if it feels that the content is not very relevant to the course, however in the vast majority of cases the full points are awarded. Check with the university or college admission team if you are unsure about which qualifications they accept.
Are UCAS points given for GCSEs?
No, although GCSE grades can be very important when applying to university, UCAS points are not awarded for GCSEs. UCAS points apply to post-16 qualifications in the UK, which includes courses such as A-Levels, Scottish Highers, the Welsh Baccalaureate, International Baccalaureate, and more.
The bottom line
UCAS points are simply another way universities compare your results at post-16 qualifications with other applicants. If you are unsure about any aspect of the university application process, whether that’s grades, entry requirements, or your personal statement, speak to your teacher or careers adviser and they can advise you further.
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