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UCAS points explained

Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about UCAS tariff points, but do you actually know what they mean?

UCAS, or the University and College Admissions Service, handles applications from students in Year 12 or older who want to go to university.

Why have UCAS points?

Universities want to attract the best calibre candidates they can get.

UCAS points are a way for universities to find out what students are capable of academically.

By setting a minimum number of UCAS points for each course offered, universities ensure that the students who study there have the abilities to do well in the course and complete it.

How does it work?

Each qualification and grade is equal to a certain number of UCAS points.

When you get your predicted grades in Year 12, you can work out how many UCAS points you have and which universities are likely to accept you.

supermarket cartoonConfused?

It helps to think about choosing the right university as like a visit to the supermarket where UCAS points are the currency.

As you walk down the aisles, you are tempted by all these different products or universities, each commanding different prices.

Which university you put in your trolley however, depends on how many UCAS points you’ve got in your wallet.

By Year 12 you should have a rough idea of the number of UCAS points you will get, based on your predicted grades. Therefore, the university course you choose to study in will be the one you like most and have the right UCAS points for.

By the time you’ve reached the supermarket check-out, you will have done all the revision, coursework and exams.

Hopefully, you will have worked hard enough to earn the number of UCAS points you were predicted. If so, you can bag up your uni place. If not, you may need to go back to the aisles and pick a different uni.

Are UCAS points the only thing that universities look at?

No. You could have 1000 points but a university will expect you to have studied subjects relevant to the course you apply for.

They may also ask for a certain number of UCAS points but expect you to get an A in a specific subject.

Universities offering very competitive courses may also ask for things like entry examinations like the BMATwork experience or a written essay.

Changes to UCAS points from 2017

If you'll be applying to start university in 2017 or later, then you'll use a different UCAS points system. The idea is the same, but the system used to calculate how many points each qualification is worth has changed. This means you can't compare points between the two systems directly - for example, an A* at A-level will change from being worth 140 points to being worth 56 points, but won't be any less valuable when applying to university because university entry requirements will change too.

However, AS levels will be worth less under the new system: you'll get 40% as many UCAS points as you would for an A-level, as opposed to 50% under hte current system.

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I now understand how you get into univercity! That part about the shopping trolley really helped me understand the system of points. One thing I think that should be on the page is how many points do you get for the grade you get at GCSE and A-Level. E.g- A*=20points etc.

Charlotte 19-4-11