As you come to apply for university, you will become more and more familiar with UCAS. UCAS, or the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, deals with all things higher education. As some of you may already know, you don't apply for each university or college individually.

Instead you submit an application to UCAS with all of the universities that you want to apply to and the course that you want to study. UCAS then act as the link between you and the university. This means that most communication from the university, including conditional offers, will come through your UCAS portal.

It's therefore obvious that UCAS is an important part of your university application process. You will submit your personal statement through them, and they have a list of all of the courses offered by all higher education institutions.

Another thing you will see crop up is UCAS points. Naturally, the first time you see this you will be confused. But UCAS point might be very important for your university application and so it's worth taking a bit of time to find out what they are.

How Do UCAS Points Work?

The first thing you will probably be asking yourself is what are UCAS points? When it comes to post-sixteen education, there are a number of different options available to students before they go on to study at university.

You can take A-Levels, Scottish Highers, BTEC Diplomas, or the International Baccalaureate but to name a few. The problem is that all of these qualifications are very different. They required different amounts of work and they require you to sit different amounts of exams.

Where do GCSE exams take place?
There are a number of different qualifications available for post-16 education. (Source: PublicDomainPictures)

This can make it difficult for universities to set uniform entry requirements for each of their courses given that students can take different qualifications before entering university. This is where the UCAS tariff system comes in.

UCAS points given a standardised numerical value to each grade of each qualification which allows them to be compared to each other. This is useful for universities especially as they can then set their entry requirements in UCAS points which accounts for different post-sixteen education options.

In other words, UCAS points allow universities to compare A-Levels with BTECs, and Scottish Highers with the Welsh Baccalaureate.

So how do UCAS points work? UCAS points can be calculated for level 3/SCQF level 6 qualifications. Level 2 qualifications don't count so any GCSEs that you have won't be usable here.

UCAS have put together a very handy mathematical model which takes into account the size of a qualification and its grading system which gives an overall numerical value for each qualification.

The advantage of this is that you don't have to worry about doing any complex mathematical sums. The UCAS tariff calculator does all of the hard work for you. All you have to do is put in your qualification type and your grade and the calculator will give you a number in UCAS points.

How to Calculate your UCAS Tariff Points?

Calculating your UCAS points is a lot easier than it sounds. As we have already said, the UCAS tariff calculator does all of the heavy lifting. All you have to do is put in the qualification that you are studying and the grade you expect to get.

Do this for each different subject. For example, if you are taking A-Levels in French, Geography, and Biology, you should do a calculation for each subject in turn. Once you have, add up the UCAS points together to get your overall score.

This combined score is what universities will use for their entry requirements. However, it is worth pointing out a couple of things at this point. First of all, not all qualifications carry UCAS points.

Accountants have not used abaci for centuries!
Calculating UCAS points is easier than you probably think! Source: Pixabay Credit: Succo

The UCAS calculator has 14 different qualifications which makes it very useful, but it isn't exhaustive. If your qualification isn't on the calculator then don't worry. You can ask the universities that you are applying to directly if they will accept your qualification, and if so, what grade they would expect as an entry requirement.

The second thing to note is that you should be very clear about what is attainable and what isn't. You will be well versed in your own qualification and its grading system, but you need to be sure that you understand the conversion to UCAS points and specifically that you are calculating the overall sum of your individual subjects correctly.

If you don't, you run the risk of applying for a course at a university where you will struggle to get the grades to be accepted.

How Many UCAS Points Are My Qualifications Worth?

To give you an idea of how many UCAS points your qualifications could be worth, below is a short list of some of the more popular qualifications and how many UCAS points they are worth.

For full A-Levels, you stand to earn the following UCAS points for the following grades:

  • A*: 56
  • A: 48
  • B: 40
  • C: 32
  • D: 24
  • E: 16

When it comes to BTEC Diplomas, the following UCAS points are available:

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

The International Baccalaureate is scored on the UCAS calculator as follows:

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

The UCAS points for Advanced Highers are:

  • A: 56
  • B: 48
  • C: 40
  • D: 32
Got through your college prospectus carefully to pick the right courses
With the UCAS tariff calculator you can focus on studying for your exams. (Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay)

How to Get More UCAS Points?

As you have seen from this blog, you can pick up UCAS points from a whole range of different post-sixteen qualifications. But did you know that there are also other ways to get more UCAS points?

People usually associate UCAS points with qualifications such as A-Levels, BTECs, Scottish Highers, and the Welsh Baccalaureate to name a few. But what people might not necessarily know is that you can also earn UCAS points from other things as well.

This can be a good way to boost you overall score which in turn could help you get onto the course of your dreams at your first choice university. So what are these extra way to boost your tally of UCAS points?

The first one to mention might seem slightly obvious, but you can take an extra A-Level or AS level. Hearing this might not be what you want to hear given that you schedule is already pretty hectic with the qualifications that you are already doing, but even if you can find time to sit an AS level in your spare time you could earn the following UCAS points for each AS grade:

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

If taking on more academic work isn't your cup of tea, then how about volunteering. Through the education charity ASDAN, you can take courses which have volunteering as part of their specification.

For example, a Certificate of Personal Effectiveness carries 16 UCAS points, an Award of Personal Effectiveness carries 8 points, and an Extended Project Qualification Level 3 could carry up to 28 points depending on the grade.

Another popular way to earn some useful extra UCAS points is through playing a musical instrument. However, be warned that this isn't as simple as just picking up a new musical instrument and immediately gaining extra UCAS points.

You need to take exams at different grades to start earning UCAS points. For example, a pass at Grade 6 will get you 5 points, but a distinction at Grade 8 will get you a whopping 75 points!

Did you know that playing a musical instrument could earn you more UCAS points?

How Can Superprof Be of Service?

Here at Superprof, we know that applying for university can be stressful. From your choice of course and university, to doing the actual application, there are difficult decisions and extra work at every turn. And this is all on top of trying to get the best grades possible in order to be accepted!

So if you find that your school work is dipping slightly due to these extra pressures then don't worry. Superprof has the perfect tutor for you in order to get you back on track for achieving the grades that you need.

It doesn't matter if it's a whole subject, or a particular exam paper that you will need to sit. Superprof has tutors in your local area covering a whole range of subjects and topics. Each tutor has their own biography listing their expertise and experience which makes it easier for you to choose the right one for you.

What's more, tutors are rated by their students so you can see how others have fared with any given tutor. And if this wasn't enough, most tutors offer their first class for free so you can see if their teaching style suits you before you commit to more classes (although be sure to check this with each individual tutor!)

So don't struggle alone and risk your place at your perfect university. Take a look at the Superprof website to find your ideal tutor close to you.

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