When it comes to applying for university, there are a number of things to think about. You need to start with the undergraduate degree that you want to obtain at the end of your studies, followed by the university where you want to study.

The latter part of this will involve going on open days and reading through a prospectus or two, but a lot will depend on the entry requirements for the course and the university’s own admissions.

Universities set their own entry criteria which means that they can decide what you need to achieve in your post-16 qualifications in order to be given a place to study on each one of their courses. This can sometimes be a bit difficult because, unlike GCSEs which are sat nationwide, there are a number of different options for post-16 education.

The majority of people opt to study A-Levels, but other options such as BTEC diplomas and certificates, the International Baccalaureate, the Welsh Baccalaureate, and Scottish Highers are all popular.

This muddies the waters a bit for universities who want to state the grades that a student needs for their courses, but given the amount of qualifications around, it is difficult for them to compare one qualification with another.

This is where the UCAS tariff system comes in. Understanding the UCAS tariff system is important as it aims to make all qualifications comparable in order to make course entry easier for universities and students.

What are the new A Level exams like?
Understand how many UCAS points your exams are worth. (Source: F1Digitals)

What is the UCAS Point System?

The exams that you take during sixth form or at college make perfect sense to you. You understand what the grades mean and what is expected from you in exams in order to get the best scores for your university application. But how can you compare A-Levels which give students a grade between A* and E, and the International Baccalaureate which grades students from 1 to 7?

UCAS points are based on a mathematical model which decides the points awarded for each grade of each qualification based on the qualification’s size and what is required of the students. The numerical value given provides a scale for different qualifications to be equated to one another.

Now all universities reserve the right to set their own entry requirements, and only about half set these requirements using the UCAS point system, but if you are applying for a university that uses it then you need to know how many points your grades will be worth so that you can get the grades that you need in your post-16 exams in order to get onto the undergraduate course of your dreams.

How to Calculate your UCAS Tariff Points

By this point you will have looked through the undergraduate courses on offer and have chosen the one for you. Before your personal statement is written or any applications are submitted, you will need to make sure that you are on course to meet the entry requirements that a conditional offer from your university of choice will entail.

If this is going to be given in UCAS points, then you will need to understand the system and the points you will get based on your exam results. Luckily for most of us, you don’t need to understand the complex mathematical formula so your statistics GCSE won’t be stretched too much here!

On the UCAS website, you can find a handy points calculator which you can use to find out how many points can be obtained for each grade of your chosen qualification. Just select the qualification that you are doing (such as A-Levels, BTEC, Scottish highers etc) and the grade that you are predicted, and the points will instantly appear on screen.

Remember to calculate the points for each of your subjects (for example A-Level students usually do three or four academic subjects) and then add them together to get your total and see how it stacks up against the entry requirements.

There's no such thing as a minimum grade on A-Levels
As you get ready for your exams, university enrolment may be the furthest thing from your mind! Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

There are a couple of things to mention at this point. First of all, if you qualifications aren’t listed then don’t worry. The UCAS points calculator only contains 14 different qualifications so contact the university directly to see if they will accept it or not.

Secondly, don’t assume that a given university will accept all subjects for entry. For instance, some universities won’t accept General Studies A-Level as counting towards the UCAS points tally, whereas others will.

Such stipulations can usually be found with the course information on the course page of their website or in the prospectus, or alternatively you can ask on an open day. If you are in any doubts then please contact the university directly to clarify.

How Do UCAS Points Work?: Calculating for Each Qualification

As we have already mentioned, higher education courses can come with different entry requirements depending on the university in question. Your UCAS application will need to take this into account based on the universities that you apply to.

This is because universities can ask for specific grades in a specific qualification (or qualifications) or they can ask for UCAS points. If it is the former, then great. You will already be familiar with the qualification and the grading system.

But if it is the latter, then make sure you know how the UCAS tariff system works before you submit your application to make sure that you know the number of points that you stand to have after your exams so that these match the entry requirements to give your UCAS application the best possible chance of success.

Below you will find the points awarded for some of the more popular qualifications, but remember that the UCAS website has a calculator with all of the qualifications included. Also don't forget that there are other ways to earn UCAS points.

A-Levels

A-Levels are the most popular choice of qualification for post-16 students in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales with around a quarter of a million people sitting them last year. Courses such as geography and history have seen some of the biggest year on year percentage increases of people sitting them for their A-Levels, whilst maths is often the number one in terms of the overall number of entries.

The UCAS points awarded for each grade are as follows:

  • A*: 56
  • A: 48
  • B: 40
  • C: 32
  • D: 24
  • E: 16
Your study group will help you with anything that isn’t clear.
Studying with friends could prove to be more effective. Photo Source: Unsplash

BTEC

A BTEC diploma specialises in work-related qualifications and therefore they have a practical element which complements the theoretical learning. There are over 2,000 BTEC qualifications that you can choose to take in sectors such as applied science, childcare, media, health and social care, and travel and tourism.

You can do a number of different BTEC qualifications such as a BTEC Certificate, a BTEC Diploma, a BTEC Extended Certificate, and a BTEC Extended Diploma.

Each BTEC Certificate is awarded the following amount of UCAS tariff points:

  • D*: 28
  • D: 24
  • M: 16
  • P: 8

BTEC Diplomas are awarded as follows:

  • D*D*: 112
  • D*D: 104
  • DD: 96
  • DM: 80
  • MM: 64
  • MP: 48
  • PP: 32

For BTEC Extended Certificates, the UCAS tariff points awarded are:

  • D*: 56
  • D: 48
  • M: 32
  • P: 16

BTEC Extended Diplomas come with the corresponding UCAS tariff points:

  • D*D*D*: 168
  • D*D*D: 160
  • D*DD: 152
  • DDD: 144
  • DDM: 128
  • DMM: 112
  • MMM: 96
  • MMP: 80
  • MPP: 64
  • PPP: 48
An abacus. Good maths skills are important when thinking about science topics for kids.
With the UCAS point calculator there are no difficult sums! (Image Source: CC0 1.0, Pexels, Pixabay)

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate is made up of six subject groups from which students choose courses. These subject groups are: language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, the arts.

Alongside these six subject groups, there are five ‘Core’ components; theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service, extended essay. Subjects can be taken at standard level (SL) or at higher level (HL). The UCAS tariff points for higher level are the following:

  • H7: 56
  • H6: 48
  • H5: 32
  • H4: 24
  • H3: 12
  • H2: 0
  • H1: 0

Scottish Highers

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers are the equivalent of A-Levels in Scotland. Scottish Highers are the equivalent to AS Levels and Advanced Highers are the equivalent to A2 levels. Importantly, Scottish universities normally don’t require students to have Advanced Highers and instead normally only expect Scottish Highers.

However, entry into English universities is normally contingent on students having Advanced Highers.

The UCAS tariff points for Advanced Highers can be found below:

  • A: 56
  • B: 48
  • C: 40
  • D: 32

Welsh Baccalaureate

The Welsh Baccalaureate is awarded at three levels, but only level 3 (Advanced) carries UCAS tariff points. It combines a number of different qualifications which have been picked to give the student maximum employability at the end.

At Advanced, the student has to undertake an individual project, a global citizenship challenge, a community challenge, an enterprise and employability challenge, as well as Maths and English or Welsh GCSE, and two different A-Levels. Welsh Baccalaureate grades carry the following UCAS points:

  • A*: 56
  • A: 48
  • B: 40
  • C: 32
  • D: 24
  • E: 16
competitions for university
Getting into university could depend on knowing how many UCAS points your qualifications are worth.

Can Superprof Help You?

By now you probably know that getting to the stage of being accepted by the university of your choice is a long process. You have to pick the course that you want to study and then find the right university, all the while taking into account each university’s own admissions policy.

It is therefore no surprise that with all of this going on, some students can fall behind with their school work. And the last thing you want is for this to be the reason you don’t make the entry requirements set out by university admissions.

If this is a worry to you then go straight to the Superprof website. There you can find your perfect tutor to help you with the subject that you are struggling with. Our tutors are reviewed and rated by their students and their personal biography states their experience and expertise. With all of this information at your fingertips, you are sure to find the perfect tutor to help you with exactly what you need!

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