Applications for UK universities are run by an organisation called the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is more commonly known as UCAS. Applications submitted for university are made directly to UCAS who then send the applications to the selected universities. They also coordinate all of the correspondence between university and applicant.

Your UCAS application will involve a number of different elements. Your personal statement will outline your motivation for your the undergraduate course that you have chosen, and the universities that you have selected will be best on open days and reading of the university's prospectus.

Another big factor in choosing the universities that you decide to apply for is their individual entry requirements. Naturally this is important because you need to apply to universities where you stand a chance of meeting their requirements to gain entry.

University admissions set their own entry requirements for each individual course. They can state these in specific qualifications, such as A-Levels, Advanced Highers, and the Welsh Baccalaureate amongst others. Or they can state their entry requirement in UCAS tariff points. But how do UCAS points work, and what are they?

How Do UCAS Points Work?

Unlike GCSEs, post-16 education in the UK can offer a number of different qualifications and diplomas. Students can opt to study a number of different things, including:

  • A-Levels
  • BTEC
  • Scottish Highers
  • Welsh Baccalaureate
  • International Baccalaureate

With tens of thousands of students applying for university every year, it can get a bit complicated for universities to set their entry requirements for their courses with so many different qualifications around.

This is why it's important to understand the UCAS tariff system. It gives the grades you get for your specific qualification or diploma a numerical value on the same scale meaning that different qualifications can be equated to one another.

An abacus. Good maths skills are important when thinking about science topics for kids.
With the UCAS points calculator, you don't need to worry about any complicated sums! (Image Source: CC0 1.0, Pexels, Pixabay)

Universities can use this generic scale to set their entry requirements without having to worry about how to deal with the different and competing qualifications that applicants might have.

The UCAS tariff calculator contains 14 different qualifications, but don't worry if yours isn't there. Contact the university that you want to apply to directly to see if they accept other qualifications. By speaking to them directly you can find out exactly what qualifications they will and won't accept for their undergraduate courses.

UCAS estimates that around a third of all the courses listed on their website have their entry requirements set using UCAS tariff points. If your course is one of them, and there are points awarded for the exams you will be sitting, then make sure you know the number of points that you will need to get into the university for your chosen course.

When it comes to calculating your UCAS points, it is important that you are accurate. This is because any slight error could mean that you think you will get more, or less, UCAS points than you actually will which can mean you will apply for universities with entry requirements which don't match the UCAS points that you stand to have on results day.

How Can You Get More UCAS Points?

As you set out on your journey towards higher education, you will become more and more focused on your university application and course entry. And if the higher education courses that you are looking at deal in UCAS points, you will start to wonder how you can get more and ensure your place on the course of your dreams

Here we will run down some good ways to boost your tally of UCAS points to ensure that you are accepted by the university of your dreams.

Take an Extra A-Level

You might think that this is the last thing you want to do given your already hectic schedule. But if you can find some room to take an A-Level, or even an AS Level, in your spare time, then you will gain some valuable extra UCAS points.

Multiple choice questions are the ultimate short answer exams
A-Levels aren't usually multiple choice but they can be an easy way to boost your UCAS points tally! (Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay)

You don't even need to do a full A-Level to benefit your UCAS application. Even doing an AS Level will gain you valuable UCAS tariff points.

The UCAS points available for an AS Level are as follows:

  • A: 20 points
  • B: 16 points
  • C: 12 points
  • D: 10 points
  • E: 6 points


Not only is volunteering an enriching personal experience, but by giving something back to your local community you could further your chances of meeting the academic entry requirements for your chosen university course.

ASDAN, an education charity and awarding organisation, offers courses which involve volunteering as part of their specification. Some of these courses also come with UCAS points. They are as follows:

  • Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE): 16 points
  • Award of Personal Effectiveness (AoPE): 8 points
  • Wider Key Skills Level 3 (Northern Ireland only): 6 points per skill (3 skills available)
  • Extended Project Qualification Level 3 (England only): up to 28 points (depending on grade)

However, please note that you can't enroll on an ASDAN course as an individual candidate. You will need to do it through a registered provider, such as a school or college. Contact your school or college to see what they can do to help you if this is the route you want to take.

Play a Musical Instrument

From Grade 6 upwards, the exams you do on the musical instrument that you play can earn you UCAS points. A Pass at Grade 6 will get you 5 points, and a Distinction at Grade 8 will earn you a massive 75 points!

Don't underestimate the task at hand here. You are unlikely to pick up a new musical instrument and get all the way to Grade 6 within the time that you are applying for university. This would be almost impossible.

However, if you pick up an instrument during your GCSE years, you could get to the required level to start earning UCAS points if you work hard and dedicate enough time to the instrument.

Pages of sheet music
A musical instrument could be the missing piece of the jigsaw for your UCAS points total.

Through Speech and Drama Exams

In the same way that Grade 6 and above come with UCAS points for a musical instrument, so do Speech and Drama exams. This means that even if acting if just a hobby or something that you love doing, it could still help you on your journey to university.

Just like with musical instruments, you will get more points for getting a higher mark at a higher grade. Distinction at Grade 8 will give you 80 UCAS points, and for a LAMDA Level 3 Certificate in Speech & Drama: Performance Studies you could get a whopping 90 UCAS points.#

Obviously this would be some undertaking, but the UCAS points available could change your prospects quite drastically.

Superprof is Here to Help

How many points you need to get onto your university course can become all-consuming, to the point that you can take your eye off your school exams. Don't forget that these are your bread and butter when it comes to UCAS points as you can dedicate more time to them through your studies as well as the fact that they often come with a higher total of UCAS points if you get a good grade.

However, if you find that you are spending so much time on your university application that you start struggling with maths, history, or even a modern language such as French, German, or Spanish, then hit the Superpof website.

We can help you find the perfect tutor for you who can come to your rescue and get you back on track to get the grades that you need for university entry. All of our tutors are rated and reviewed by their students, and their personal biographies will tell you everything that you need to know about their experience and areas of expertise.

And if this wasn't enough, many tutors offer their first class for free which allows you to see if they are the right fit for you. Your post-16 qualifications can be stressful and time consuming. And if you factor in applying for university then you can find that you aren't left with too much time.

A personal tutor to help you with the really tricky stuff could be the difference between getting the grades that you need to get onto your chosen university course, and not. So if you feel like you are dropping behind even slightly, then look at the Superporf website to find the tutor who can get you on the right path again.

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