This is where we explain how points don’t mean prizes – but hopefully, UCAS tariff points do mean a university offer! When you’re looking through a university prospectus and notice a column named ‘entry requirements: 280-320 UCAS points’ and you’re like, what? What about my A-level grades or my pass rates on my BTEC course? Don’t panic! It’s just the system that UCAS use.
The UCAS points system converts your post-16 qualifications into points by means of a tariff. This doesn’t affect your grades or make them more or less valuable – it just helps universities evaluate each student’s grades and makes it easier to make comparisons between the wide variety of courses and qualifications available. There’s a grades/points conversion chart on the UCAS website.
However, not all universities and colleges use this system, which makes it even more important that you remember which university is asking for which grades. Some do ask for your raw grades, for example, ABB with one qualification in Biology if you’re applying to do medicine. Each university, depending on the course you want to do, may ask for more specific entry requirements, but most use either UCAS points or raw grades. Don’t be alarmed if they ask for both as this does happen sometimes.
It is very important that you take note of entry requirements when first looking for a potential university or college, as it will make you aware whether the course is right for you. If, for example, your target grades for A-level are ABB and you look at a course asking for triple A*, it may be a bit out of your depth. The flip side to this is that you also don’t want to look around a university asking for lower than your target grades, as you may mean you won’t be tested hard enough and you may not reach your full potential.
So how do you calculate UCAS tariff points? The official UCAS website contains all the tariff tables for nearly every qualification in the UK and the number of points allocated to each. Use these tariff tables to calculate your expected UCAS points you’ll gain from your own qualifications, including A-levels, BTECs and the International Baccalaureate, amongst others.
Good news if you have a hobby! If you play a musical instrument, have participated in a dance class and have passed exams at grade 6 level or above or if you’ve taken an exam in a vocational subject, these all classify for extra UCAS points too! Ok, so they are not going to get you into higher education on their own (a pass at grade 6 is only worth 20 points) but these can pull up your total points and help get you that place.
There are a number of elements that universities and colleges will consider when determining whether you are a suitable candidate but the major factor for most of them is purely and simply your grades. Having said that, universities also take into account your personal statement, work experience and anything else you do outside of school which is relevant to your course or shows that you have other skills.
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