A-Level results day can be a pivotal time for many prospective university students across the UK. University courses usually have very specific entry requirements — which mainly consist of specific A-Level qualifications and grades you must achieve — and they help narrow down the universities that are available as options for students. It can be devastating to find out that you have missed the entry requirements of your desired university course just by a very thin line. In that unfortunate case, you may be wondering: are universities that strict with grade requirements? What if I cannot make it on to my desired course?
In short, although most universities are rigid with their entry grade requirements, it is possible to find a way around this. Universities may be accepting applicants with lower grades than the requirements – especially if the applicant’s grades hold an equal value to the required grades – depending on a few factors, such as the number of places available for the course. If an applicant still is not accepted for the course, they can retake their exams or apply for Clearing, a process that involves applying to a different university course – which is similar to the original – instead.
You should have gotten your answer by now, but I would really recommend giving the whole article a read if you would like to get a better understanding of university entry requirements and what to do if you do not meet them.
How Lenient Are Universities When it Comes to Entry Requirements?
The truth is plain and simple: university course entry requirements are quite tough to achieve — especially if the university is a particularly renowned one, such as Oxbridge. It is not always easy to fully meet the requirements of your preferred course and will doubtlessly require hard work and commitment.
Generally, universities are highly particular about grades and demand that you meet the minimum requirements to enrol for a specific course; an example of this can be a requirement of at least AAB at A-Level.
Despite this rigidness, sometimes universities will accept the minimum required grades or something of equal value; for example, if the course requires an AAB at A-Level, an alternative set of grades like A*AC may suffice. This is not always the case, but it is best to check with the university before letting your hopes down.
At other times, universities set a specific amount of UCAS points required for entry, but they end up showing leniency when actual results come out and sometimes generously let students with a lower number of points enter the course. And occasionally, they may let applicants who have received much lower grades enter for the course – this, of course, does not occur with highly competitive university courses such as medical courses.
This leniency is shown often because there are more places on the course and fewer applicants, so they have vacancies left for the particular course and they need to be filled. Of course, this will probably not be the case with more competitive universities!
What Do University Entry Requirements Generally Consist of?
Universities set entry requirements for each of their courses to evaluate whether or not applicants have the right skills and knowledge to successfully complete the course.
The entry requirements generally consist of higher qualifications like A-Levels, BTECs or anything of equal value. They almost always include specific grades, such as having received at least an AAB at A-Level. Additionally, they may specify subjects that should have been taken by students, for example, a medical course may require you to have studied biology and chemistry — and they may even recommend maths as a third subject, as many universities often do.
Sometimes, university courses will also require you to have achieved high grades in certain GCSE subjects — like English or Maths — or their equivalents. This may especially be the case for more competitive universities.
Of course, you may find it helpful to check with your preferred university regarding the entry requirements of your desired course; this will give you an idea of your available options and also allow you to plan your subjects beforehand.
Where Can You Find the Entry Requirements for Your Dream University Course?
Entry requirements for specific courses are widely available on university websites, so finding out what grades you need to go to a certain university has never been easier!
Finding out what the entry requirements are for a course is something that you should be doing before you apply. This gives you a clear idea (based on your predicted grades) of the universities that you will be offered a place at.
When you check entry requirements for courses, universities will often state whether or not they accept a different combination of grades, as I mentioned earlier (like an A*AC, rather than the original requirement of AAB). It is well-worth knowing what these are as early on as possible, so that you can work towards achieving the necessary grades.
Can University Entry Requirements Change?
If students have received lower grades than the entry requirements, they may be wondering if the university might have plans to lower the requirements to make it easier for applicants.
The truth is, a university can change its entry requirements right up to the moment you receive an offer. This means that even if you think you will not make it, do not despair!
It can ultimately depend on how many students applied and the number of positions the course has remaining. If there are a lot of spaces on the course but very few students have applied, the university can lower the entry requirements or accept applicants with lower grades than the required minimum.
You should not lose hope if you have received lower grades than you expected; it is very possible that your preferred university course will still accept you. If not, there are still other options available, which we will discuss in detail now.
What if You Do Not Meet the Entry Requirements of Your Preferred University Course?
If your grades fall short of the entry requirements you need for your preferred university offer, do not panic — all is not lost!
Firstly, if you have missed the required grades by a very narrow margin — for example, you received an ABC in your A-Levels instead of ABB — it is possible that the university will still take you in. In cases like this, it is best to get in contact with the university as soon as possible on results day to see if they will still accept you. Although it may not seem like it, it is very possible that they will!
If you have missed the entry grade requirements by far but you still truly believe you could achieve the required grades, retaking A-Level exams is an option. We will later be discussing more about how this may affect your university application.
An alternative option involves applying to a different university course – which is similar to your original preference – through the official UCAS Clearing process. This process, which we will discuss in more detail, is where a university’s entry requirements may be slightly more flexible.
What is Clearing and How Does it Work?
If you do not get the grades that satisfy the entry requirements of your desired university course, Clearing is a great opportunity to grab a spot on a similar course.
It works by helping you navigate through courses similar to your original preference that you were not able to make it on to. The process also allows universities to fill up any empty places they may have. You can apply for a course using Clearing if you meet these conditions: you are not already holding an offer from a university or college and the course still has vacancies.
Clearing is a popular option amongst students. In 2020, more than 70,000 students across the UK were accepted through Clearing; that means 13.6% of all accepted students in 2020 got their place at university thanks to this process.
If you are interested in this and would like to read more about the Clearing process, I would recommend giving this a read – it explains Clearing and will help clear any questions you may have about the process.
Do Universities Accept Retakes?
Students may decide to retake their A-Levels and wonder if this will jeopardise their chances of being accepted into their preferred university course.
Almost all universities across the UK, even the most renowned ones in the Russel Group, officially accept A-level retakes. This means that your application will not be excluded simply due to the fact you have retaken an exam or two.
However, admission boards will usually take a closer look at retaken A-levels before confirming an applicant’s position. Some competitive universities, such as Oxbridge, may be slightly more finicky and ask students to provide a reason for retaking the exam.
While universities will not officially exclude your application, there is a possibility that they will not accept retakes, especially compared to applicants who have not retaken any exams. As always, it is best to check with your desired university if retakes would have an effect on your application.
If you would like to find out more about retaking A-Levels, have a read of this helpful article. It specifies the cost, processes, and age at which you can retake A-Levels, among many other things.
Are University Courses with Lower Entry Grade Requirements Easier?
Many students assume that grade requirements are used as a statement on how a course should be viewed against other courses, in regard to difficulty or reputation. Despite this common belief, this is not always the case. Some university courses may have fairly simple entry requirements but still have a massive workload and require a lot more study.
To get a better idea, you may want to compare information on entry requirements of your preferred university with the percentage of applicants who actually receive offers. It goes without saying that you may also want to check this with your desired university to help you make decisions early on.
If you are worried about how hard university courses will be in general, you may want to take a look at this useful article. It compares university with A-Levels in a number of different factors, and enables you to have more of an overview of a university course in comparison to something you are likely familiar with (A-Levels).