Understanding UCAS points – what do they mean?

The UCAS system has changed a lot in the last few years, however its job is still the same – giving you points based on the grades you’ve earned in post-16 qualifications e.g. A-Levels and AS Levels.

Depending on the amount you’ve earned, you can use these points to apply for a degree at a university of your choice.

How does it work?
UCAS points may not be worth as much as they used to be, but they still work on a point system where the higher your grades are, the more points you’ll receive.

To describe it simply, different qualifications in the UK are granted a size band value ranging from 1-4 that is based on the number of hours of learning involved. They are also assigned a grade band from 3-14. These two numbers are then taken and timed together to calculate your tariff points.

Take the following:
Grade A Levels AS Levels
A* 56
A   48 20
B   40 16
C   32 12
D   24 10
E   16 6

Things to remember:
Now while not all qualifications will give you UCAS points, this doesn’t mean that universities won’t take them into consideration when you apply for a place. In fact, you will encounter some places who don’t use tariff points to determine places at all. Instead, they choose to review grades and keep tallies of points you’ve earned so that they can report them to the government for data and league table purposes.

That being said, there is one important thing you need to remember:

  • You can’t combine AS and A Level points in the same subject. When applying for a university place, you will be judged purely on your highest qualification level, in most cases your A Level score.

How many UCAS points do you need?

The truth is, different courses have different entry requirements which usually consist of exam grades, subjects taken and qualifications earned, because of this, the number of UCAS points you need will depend on the individual university, the subject itself and the course you wish to attend.

Typical entry requirements include:

  • Post-16 Qualifications – A-levels, AS-levels, Advanced Highers, Certificates, Diplomas and Awards are all converted into UCAS points;
  • Pre-16 Qualifications – Most university courses will also ask that you have certain pre-16 qualifications. These are usually higher grades in GCSE Maths and English;
  • Your subjects – Uni courses often have pre-requisite subjects that you will have had to have taken during your A-levels in order to apply e.g. A Level chemistry for an Engineering degree;
  • An admissions test – while rare, there are some courses which will ask you to sit an entrance test, sometimes a year in advance;
  • Additional checks – Some courses require financial and health checks, or Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks. For instance, you will need a DBS check in order to do a PGCE or Education orientated degree.

What about home distance learning?

Open universities make it possible for you to complete some Masters and degree courses from the comfort of your own home, so if you have undertaken such a qualification, you should definitely include them in your application.  This rule applies to any other online learning course you do. True, not all of them will give you UCAS points; however, their presence could make a different between you getting in ahead of another applicant.

So if you are looking for ways to strengthen your CV or university application, then why not consider adding an online course to your arsenal? With so many to choose from in so many niches, you can give your CV a competitive edge.

To find out more visit our website.

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