The UCAS Points System can be confusing, and it is a useful thing to understand when applying to Universities. This article will help you understand the variety of ways which you can earn UCAS Points. If you would like to add your UCAS Points up online, you can use the UCAS Tariff Points Calculator.
Although some Universities give out their conditional offers to students based on their exam grades, there are still some which the UCAS Points system for offers. Some Universities may also have their own specific systems of UCAS Points, where they only accept a certain number for extra activities, or they don’t count them in their offer totals at all.
Therefore, it depends which Universities that you are applying to as to how essential UCAS Points are, so it is important to do your research! Regardless, the skills which you learn from some of the ways that you can gain UCAS Points will aid your application, as they can help to demonstrate the wide variety of skills that you possess.
1. Take Formal Music Exams
UCAS Points Available: 30
Learning a musical instrument can be a fun pastime, and is a great way to earn some extra UCAS Points. You can earn UCAS Points from Grade 6 – Grade 8, in both instrumental and music theory exams.
Obviously, the amount of UCAS Points you can gain varies based on whether you achieve a Pass, Merit or Distinction in your exam – so it is really worth practicing hard in your preparation. The number of UCAS Points that you can earn are listed on the ABRSM Website.
This means that if you have been learning a musical instrument, and doing the exams as you go along, you may be lucky enough to already have some UCAS Points. You may also want to start taking the exams, if you already have a high level of skill in playing an instrument.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a quick way to earn extra UCAS Points, as you have to have put a significant amount of time into playing in order to reach a Grade 6 level. Though there are still a number of different ways to earn points which may suit you better.
2. Do an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
UCAS Points Available: 28
An Extended Project Qualification (or EPQ) is a great way of adding to your UCAS Points. It is also a qualification which is really valued by Universities as it demonstrates your individual study skills.
An EPQ gives you the opportunity to develop your skills in a subject of your choice. You can do some in depth research about a subject that interests you, to then write a 5,000 word essay, which will answer a question that you have set yourself. Alternatively, you can create a product (such as an app or an artistic object), or a production (such as a charity event or fashion show) and write a 1,000 word essay to accompany it. In addition, you will have to do a short presentation to a small group within your Sixth Form.
Either way, an EPQ is a great way to develop your academic skills in the subject that you want to continue studying at University, and it will give you something extra to add to your personal statement! If you would like to find out more about the Extended Project Qualification, you can find more information here.
3. Get A-Level Qualifications
UCAS Points Available: 56
A-Levels are the most common way of getting UCAS Points. They are offered by Sixth Forms, and allow you to choose which subjects you want to study moving forward. Usually, you pick 3 subjects to study, but there is often an option to do 4 (which will obviously earn you more UCAS Points!).
It is often a good idea to consider which subject you want to take at University when you are choosing which A-Levels you should take. If you aren’t sure which subjects work well when combined, take a look at this useful article which lists some good A-Level combinations. You may also want to have a look at some Universities’ entry requirements, which often list preferred A-Levels.
Taking 4 A-Levels is a challenge, but if you do it successfully, it does increase the number of UCAS Points that you will earn, while also giving you good knowledge of a whole extra subject.
4. Get AS-Level Qualifications
UCAS Points Available: 20
AS-Levels are another great way to earn UCAS Points. They equate to half of an A-Level, as you only complete the first year of the course. This is a good compromise for students who want to earn more UCAS Points, and increase their knowledge of more subjects, but who also perhaps feel that 4 full A-Levels is too much.
AS-Levels can be taken in either your first or second year. Generally, it would be recommended to do them in the first year if possible, to reduce your stress when it comes to your A-Level exam season. However, if you have already chosen your subjects and later realised that a certain subject may look desirable on your University application, completing an AS-Level in your second year could be very beneficial.
It is very important to remember that AS-Levels only contribute to your UCAS Point total score if you have not achieved an A-Level in the subject. In this case, the most recent qualification (and therefore the most relevant) is the one that gains you UCAS Points.
5. Take Graded Dance Exams
UCAS Points Available: 24
Dance Examinations are a great way to earn extra UCAS Points. In a similar way to Music Formal Exams, you can earn UCAS Points from Grades 6-8. The number of UCAS Points that you can earn depends on whether you achieve a Pass, Merit or Distinction, and the breakdown of these scores can be found on the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA) Website.
Unfortunately, (similarly to Music Exams) this is not a quick way of earning UCAS Points, as a Grade 6 Exam requires a lot of skill and practice. However, it may mean that you already have some UCAS Points, or that you can get UCAS Points by completing the exams (if you are already at a high level).
Although dance can be challenging and requires a lot of work, it can be used as a good way to have a break from your academic studies while also allowing you to do something that has the potential to help your academic career.
6. Get a Horse-Riding Qualifications From The British Horse Society
UCAS Points Available: 32
Horse-Riding is another fun way to earn UCAS Points, which does not have an especially academic basis. There are a number of different Horse-Riding Qualifications which can earn you UCAS Points, and they are listed on the British Horse Society Website, alongside the number of points that they will earn you.
This is another great way to earn UCAS Points from an activity which you enjoy and which takes you away from your academic work – so you won’t end up sat at a desk all day studying! It also demonstrates to Universities that you are good at learning more practical skills – something that is likely to be useful in your future studying and careers.
7. Do a Volunteering Course
UCAS Points Available: 16
Volunteering is not only a good way of adding to your UCAS Points, but it is also a wonderful addition to your CV. In order to earn UCAS Points for volunteering, you could complete either a NOCN Diploma or Award in International Volunteering. Further information about both the Diploma and the Award can be found on the NOCN Website.
One of the problems with this way of earning UCAS Points is that the courses can be quite expensive. However, you should remember that Volunteering is not only beneficial in terms of UCAS Points so it is still worth considering it as an option to broaden your skills. If you are interested in doing a short volunteering course, the details of ASDAN’s programme are found on the ASDAN Website.
In fact, simply as an addition to your CV and University Application, it’s not really necessary for you to do a course and gain the qualification (though if it is something that is available to you – it shouldn’t be turned down!). It is the volunteering itself which is the useful, transferrable skill – especially if you are able to volunteer somewhere which relates to your dream career (for example at a Veterinary Practice if you wanted to be a Vet).
8. Take Formal Speaking/Drama Exams
UCAS Points Available: 24
If you are interested in Speaking and Drama, exams from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (or LAMDA) might be for you. There are a wide range of courses that you can complete and be examined in to earn points, all of which are listed on the LAMDA Website.
These programmes are based around speaking and drama, which may help you increase your confidence in speaking to large groups of people – a skill which can be easily transferred to other scenarios in your life and which is likely to be extremely useful!
LAMDA Exams are another great example of a way to get yourself out of a classroom setting to earn some extra UCAS Points, and they can be taken at any point, so If you have already done some (from Grade 6 – Grade 8) you may already have some UCAS Points.
9. Complete an Essential Skills Course (Wales)
UCAS Points Available: 6
If you are living in Wales, a great way to earn some more UCAS Points is by completing some Essential Skills courses, to develop your employability skills. There are a variety of courses available, such as:
- Essential Communication Skills
- Essential Application of Number Skills
- Essential Digital Literacy Skills
- Essential Employability Skills
These courses are intended for students aged 16 and above, and they are great for making you look like a more desirable employee when you start looking for work. More information about Essential Skills Wales can be found here.
Any course that you have the opportunity to do which provides recognition of the fact that you have employability skills should absolutely be taken advantage of. It is not only incredibly useful in terms of your University Application, but also in your future employment opportunities.
10. Complete a CoPE or AoPE Workshop
UCAS Points Available: 16
A Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) Level 3 will get you 16 UCAS Points. It is aimed at students aged 16 and over to allow them to develop their employability skills. The aim is to develop skills in: teamwork, problem solving, discussion, research, oral presentation and self-management. The whole qualification will take you around 150 hours to complete. More information about this certificate can be found here.
An Award of Personal Effectiveness (AoPE) from ASDAN will earn you 8 UCAS Points, and will take around 80 hours at Level 3. This course allows you to choose the six modules that you study, and is a great way of making your skills more desirable to employers – which is incredibly useful when getting a job can be so competitive! The details of this course can be found on the ASDAN Website.
11. Do a Free Standing Maths Qualifications
UCAS Points Available: 10
A Level 3 Free Standing Maths Qualification (FSMQ) is usually taken by GCSE students who excel at maths and want to be challenged. It is offered by OCR, and combines aspects of GCSE maths with AS and A-Level Maths. The specification can be found here.
This qualification is aimed to bridge the gap between GCSE and AS-Level, but does not mean that you have to take A-Level maths after you have done it. You can choose to simply have a greater understanding of more advanced maths. This could be useful for a number of University courses, which require you to have a reasonably high level of maths, but do not necessarily need (even though it is generally preferred) for you to have a Maths A-Level.
12. Get a Cambridge ESOL (English) Qualification
UCAS Points Available: 42
Cambridge ESOL Programmes are aimed at students who do not speak English as their first language, so if you are a native English speaker, unfortunately this is not a way that you can earn extra UCAS Points.
There are a number of different qualifications and courses which will help international students develop their English skills, however the main 2 qualifications which allow you to earn UCAS points are:
- Cambridge English Certificate in ESOL International (Advanced)
- Cambridge English Certificate in ESOL International (Proficiency)
Not only does this kind of qualification give you UCAS Points, but it also will benefit you greatly in the worlds of work and higher education if you are not a native English speaker. You can gain confidence in speaking, writing and listening, which will all be incredibly useful skills. Having good English Language abilities will be essential if you intend to study in the UK, and the ESOL Programme is a good way of demonstrating that you have these skills.
13. Complete a Level 3 Diploma/Certificate/Award
UCAS Points Available: 168
Diplomas, certificates and awards give you the opportunity to gain skills in a vocational subject that interests you. You would take these at Sixth Form instead of A-Levels.
A diploma requires you to have over 370 hours of training, a Certificate requires you to train for between 130 – 370 hours, and Awards require you to have up to 130 hours of training. And, as you can imagine, the more hours are put in, the higher the number of UCAS Points earned is.
One of the benefits of these types of qualification is that you can go into a more specific field earlier on, which is great if you have an idea of what career path you want to take when you are 16. For example, you may want to do a diploma in Fashion, or Fitness Instructing and Personal Training.
14. Do a Cambridge Pre-U Qualification
UCAS Points Available: 56
A Cambridge Pre-U Qualification is an alternative to A-Levels which is equivalent in value. The difference is that Pre-U Qualifications give students more of an opportunity to work independently, so that they are more prepared for University study.
Pre-U Qualifications can be taken in 24 different subjects, and you can do a combination of Pre-U Qualifications and A-Levels for your 3 subjects of choice. If you want to find out more about the Cambridge Pre-U Qualification, the Cambridge website contains all the details of the courses and assessments.
If you want to earn extra UCAS Points, you can take an extra Cambridge Pre-U Qualification, so that you are studying 4 courses. It is a very flexible way of achieving qualifications because of the ability that it gives you to combine A-Level and Pre-U courses. Some of the subjects also offer one year courses (which could perhaps be compared to AS-Levels).
However, unfortunately the last year that the Pre-U Qualification exams can be sat is 2023, so your course would need to have started by September 2021.
15. Do an Apprenticeship
UCAS Points Available: 56
Apprenticeships are a great way to get qualified while also earning a wage. They allow you to gain experience in a field of work which interests you, and give you the chance to either progress in that field of work, or go to university to further develop your skills.
You can do an apprenticeship from the age of 16, and an Advanced Level Apprenticeship is generally considered to be equivalent to 2 A Levels. All apprentices earn a specific minimum wage (details of which can be found here).
The qualifications that are required vary based on the type of apprenticeship that you want to do, and which company you would like to work with. Some apprenticeships will require you to have a certain number of GCSEs at a minimum grade or higher, and some higher-level apprenticeships will require you to have further qualification (such as A Levels) in subjects which relate to the apprenticeship. If you want to find out more about the types of apprenticeship that you can do, take a look at the UCAS Website.
It is also worth taking into account the fact that apprenticeships can be very competitive, because there are so many benefits to them, but this does not mean that you should not try to get them – after all, you’ll never get to do them if you don’t apply!
16. Take a BTEC
UCAS Points Available: 168
BTECs are another common alternative to A-Levels. They generally have a more vocational basis, which allows you to develop useful employability skills in the subject that you have chosen to study. They also mean that you have the option, if it interested you, to go straight into the field of work that you have been studying, as you will have hands on experience alongside your qualification.
The difference really between BTECs and A-Levels is the fact that BTECs are more specific. This means that if you wanted to take a BTEC at Sixth Form, you would need to be more certain of the career path you wanted to take earlier on.
If you would like to find out more about how BTECs compare to other qualifications, take a look at this useful comparison.
17. Do a Scottish Highers
UCAS Points Available: 33
Scottish Highers are essentially the Scottish equivalent to A-Levels. Students can take 4 to 6 Highers in total, so if you want to earn extra UCAS Points, the more subjects the better! The flexibility that the number of subjects you take gives you is one of the real benefits of taking Highers, especially if you aren’t sure what exactly you would like to do in the future.
In a similar way to A-Levels, you will have a broader range of subjects that you can continue with at degree level. This is in comparison to a BTEC route, which is more specialised. The UCAS Website will provide you with more information about the Scottish Highers.
18. Take The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate
UCAS Points Available: 56
The Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC) can be taken as a standalone graded qualification for students in Wales. It can be taken alongside GCSEs or A-Levels. This is another additional qualification which shows how you can develop your employability skills. Unfortunately though, you will not be able to get involved in this unless you are living and studying in Wales.
It consists of a number of parts, which are:
- Individual Project
- Enterprise and Employability Challenge
- Global Citizenship Challenge
- Community Challenge
If you’d like to find out more about the Skills Challenge Certificate, take a look at this page about the Welsh Baccalaureate, which explains how the qualification works.
19. Complete an Access to HE Diploma
UCAS Points Available: 144
An Access to HE Diploma is a great way to earn UCAS Points if you don’t have the typical qualifications that Universities may be looking for (such as A-Levels or BTECs). It usually takes around 1 year to complete, but can be done on a part-time basis over a few years to suit you.
There are a wide variety of people who may choose to do an Access to HE Diploma, but most commonly, they are done by people who have been out of education for a while, and who don’t have the qualifications to get straight into University. Though this does not mean that it is limited to this group.
There are a number of different course types that are offered as an Access to HE Diploma, including programmes in Nursing, Business and the Social Sciences. A well as developing your specific subject knowledge, an Access to HE Diploma is intended to provide you with the study skills and general tools to make your time at University much more manageable and successful.
If you think that an Access to HE Diploma is the ideal path for you, have a look at this helpful website.
20. Do an International Baccalaureate
UCAS Points Available: 108
The International Baccalaureate is available to students aged 16-19 across the world. It enables you to take a more vocational approach to studying the subjects that interest you, and is recognised by many Universities as a valuable qualification.
Students can take 3-4 of their courses at Higher Level (which comprises of around 240 teaching hours) and the remaining subjects at Standard Level (which is made up of around 150 hours of teaching).
Although the International Baccalaureate as a whole will not earn you any UCAS Points, each component of it will. These components are:
- Higher Level which can earn you up to 56 Points.
- Standard Level, which can earn you up to 28 Points.
- An Extended Essay, which can earn you up to 12 Points.
- A Theory of Knowledge, which can earn you up to 12 Points.
If you would like to find out more about the International Baccalaureate and how it works, information about the Diplo