Points based systems have always been integral in most aspects of our lives as students, including our university applications. A-Level grades and extracurriculars are arguably the most common terms that come up during the application process. You may be surprised to hear that many universities across the country have been highlighting the importance of UCAS points during the selection of applicants for years now. Wrapping your head around the system of UCAS points tends to be a struggle for most. What are UCAS points and more importantly, how much do these numbers matter in your application?
To put it simply, UCAS points are a method of numerically scoring the different grades achieved across different further education qualifications. Not all courses follow the traditional A* to the U grading system. Therefore, it is important to measure different courses against each other fairly. The UCAS points system is an ideal method. A good rule of thumb is that higher grades are assigned to higher points.
While the above gives you a brief summary of the points system, I would recommend that you keep reading to find out more details about how to calculate your points and how many you will be needing for your university course of choice.
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How many UCAS points are required for university?
Generally, more UCAS points can be said to increase the chance of admission to a course but that is not always the case. One question this brings about for many people is how many UCAS points are needed for university?
The answer to this question is that there is no answer. Most universities seem to accept that 112 UCAS points are the standard for the average UK student. Many different universities assess their candidates on many different factors as part of their criteria and the tariff point requirements give them much flexibility to do so. Check out the UCAS website to learn more about UCAS tariff points.
Don’t feel discouraged if you feel that you don’t have enough UCAS points for your chosen course because there’s a surprisingly high probability you could be accepted anyway. Reports from UCAS reveal that only about a third of UK universities actually use UCAS points as part of their entry requirements. Instead, they are relying heavily on fixed prediction grades and personal statements alone in the initial selection process.
It is highly likely that most universities will not spend the time focusing on UCAS points as a method of assessing your application rather than for required governmental data purposes and tally records. Whilst the majority of universities don’t look at your total UCAS points, some will choose to look at your points to ensure a fair selection of their potential candidates, especially when it comes to academically versatile courses like business- related degrees which do not necessarily require A-Levels.
Despite all this, the universities that do take UCAS points into much consideration may be slightly advantageous, as it allows some flexibility in the grade requirements for certain courses. This means different grade combinations will still make you eligible for your chosen course even if it is lower than the expected for the course. For example, an AAA set of grades do not need to be achieved if the applicant has other ways to secure UCAS points. Therefore, if your predicted or achieved results weren’t what you were hoping for, or don’t meet the expected university requirements, your chances of an offer may still be the same as long as they meet the UCAS tariff criteria for the course.
How are UCAS points commonly awarded?
Getting into university can be a daunting task. Many of you will be tested repeatedly on your knowledge and abilities throughout your courses. This is why it will come to no surprise to you that the bulk of your points will be from your Year 13 A-Level or BTEC grades.
The majority of UCAS points are primarily dependent on the course qualification itself and the grade achieved. Despite the common misconception, both BTEC and A-Level grades are awarded very similar points. The highest grade awarded at A-Level is an A* and at BTEC it is D*. Both are awarded the same 56 UCAS points. The same applies to the lowest grades of BTEC and A-Level which are both awarded 16 points. Despite what you may think, these numbers are not random at all.
To assess all grades fairly, two factors are taken into consideration, the numerical value of each grade and the length of the course it is awarded to. Using the two, the formula: UCAS Points = grade value x course length, can be used.
For each course all the possible grades available are assigned to a value between 3 and 14. The course length is then measured from a scale of 1 to 4. In all cases, the longer the course and the higher the grade, the higher the UCAS points awarded should be. For example, if you are awarded a grade B in A-Level Maths, your points for the grade will be 40 because A-Level is worth a 4 in terms of course length and a grade B is worth a value of 10 on the scale. The grades in between may vary.
To work out your own points, check out this UCAS Tariff Calculator. Your combined grades should give you the total academic points. Remember, the higher the grade is, the more UCAS tariff points are associated with it.
Which courses can be awarded UCAS points?
UCAS points can be gathered in many different ways and whilst the majority of an applicant’s UCAS points will be based on your school grades. You may be surprised to hear that it is almost guaranteed that graded extracurriculars will award you many more points, especially if they are at a Distinction level.
It is quite common for musicians and dancers to achieve high UCAS points if they exceed a certain level of skill. For example, a Certificate in Music Performance can be awarded up to 30 points at the highest level. However, keep in mind that you should not delve too deep into all the activities you have done especially if they are years before you intend to imply because they will most likely not be taken into consideration.
UCAS points can only be applied to Level 3 qualifications and upwards, the Scottish equivalent of this would be qualifications of SCQF Level 6 and above. Therefore, to put it shortly, if you have incredible talent in a particular activity, you should take graded examinations to highlight your talent to universities and collect as many UCAS tariff points as possible.
It is important to remember that your grades are there to provide you with the highest opportunity of points, so you should prioritise your academic grades rather than your extracurricular tests, even if they could be very useful.
In fact, many students find it difficult to arrange time to pursue their extracurricular activities fearing that spending a large period of time outside of education could affect their academic progress.
Does the amount of UCAS points required to get into university depend on the course?
In addition to the 112 UCAS points, some courses may certainly place a lot more emphasis on having more UCAS points, particularly in competitive courses. Unfortunately, this may not be very clear when looking through university course requirements on the course website.
Generally, the higher in popularity your course is, the higher the average UCAS entry tariff points required overall. Most articles will agree that the three courses in most demand are either business related, law related, or medicine. Each have varying average UCAS point requirements which are usually based on grade combinations.
According to reports from UCAS, most business-related courses require BBB at A-Level which brings a total of 120 UCAS points. On the other hand, law related courses will usually ask for ABB at A-Level which amounts to 128 UCAS points. Many medicine-related and allied healthcare courses are commonly asking for an average BBB at A-Level which are worth only 120 points which may come as a shock to most.
It is important to remember that admission to these courses is highly dependent on other external factors like aptitude tests and relevant work experience, rather than UCAS points alone. If you are relying on your tariff points alone for a place at your course, you should definitely check the entry requirements listed by the university. It is safe to say that most universities will be more than happy to provide an answer to your questions regarding entry requirements for you if you get in touch with them.
With all that being said, try not to focus too much on gathering as many UCAS points as possible. Common misconceptions may make you feel like they are the biggest factor to take into consideration, but they are only a small part of your university application. Focusing on getting your desired grades are much more important!