What the heck even are UCAS points??
Firstly - hey!
The UCAS points system might seem quite confusing, but it’s actually pretty simple.
UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) points are a measure of how your grades stack up against the offers you receive from universities or colleges.
They’re basically a way for UCAS to create one entry requirement language by translating all the different kinds of UK qualifications and grades into one unified system.
It’s how UCAS measures your academic achievement!
OK. So, what are my qualifications worth to UCAS?
In short - a number.
We could get into the nitty gritty of the UCAS points equation, but there’s a really user-friendly calculator available on the UCAS website that we’d recommend using instead. It tells you how many points each qualification and grade is worth, and then adds it all up for you too. Simples!
So, for example, your A level grade B in Biology will earn you 40 UCAS points while your BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Business will bag you 72!
It’s really important to remember that the UCAS points system changed substantially in 2017, so don’t compare your point calculations to your parents or older siblings – it’ll cause unnecessary stress! The new system calculates points at a much lower level - for example, an A level A* used to be worth 140 points but now it’s worth 56!
And, just to make it all a little bit more complicated…
Most types of UK qualification can be converted into UCAS tariff points - but not all!
Again - don’t panic if you can’t find your qualification on the list! Some universities will recognise qualifications that UCAS doesn’t - so make sure you do your homework on the courses you choose and check the individual entry criteria.
Are all my qualifications counted? Like, from day dot?
Yes and no.
Basically, UCAS takes the highest level of attainment per subject. So, if you get an A in Maths AS level, and then a C at A level, UCAS will generally take the full A level result into account (20 and 32 points respectively).
And remember, qualifications come in all shapes and sizes - you may even have UCAS points you’re unaware of! Take performance music grades 6 or above for example (Grade 8 with a distinction is worth 30 points!).
OK fine. What are the points for exactly?
Well, simply put, unis will generally use UCAS points as their main guide when accepting new students. However, as we mentioned already - that’s not to say some unis won’t accept qualifications that UCAS doesn’t recognise!
In addition, some unis don’t consider UCAS points when making offers at all! So whether you need to hit specific points, or hit specific grades, make sure to study your offer carefully, so you know exactly what you need to do to meet those entry requirements!
In addition, it might interest you to know that some employers may also look at UCAS points during their recruitment processes, but this isn’t advised by UCAS as it’s largely unregulated!
So I’ve had my offer - what happens if I don’t get enough points?
First of all, and we can’t stress this enough - don’t panic!
Your first port of call has to be calling your firm uni choice to see whether there’s any flexibility on the table. There’s no guarantee that a uni will honour their offer if you don’t meet it, but you never know, you could be one of the lucky ones!
Universities may also offer you alternative courses or combined courses if the points that you do have can stretch a little further with a few curriculum tweaks.
Don’t forget, you’ll also have the option of considering your insurance offer. Give them a call to discuss your options.
If neither your firm nor your insurance uni offer anything suitable, you could look at clearing courses, or take a gap year to build up more UCAS points for the following year’s intake.
Whatever you decide to do, please please don’t see this step as a failure - the choices students make after not quite hitting their firm uni’s entry requirements often go on to define and enrich their whole career in ways they’d never considered or imagined before!