So you know exactly what your dream career looks like, but you're wondering how to get UCAS points? The next step towards your goal is to gain a place on a university course, power through an undergraduate degree and leap into a bright future.
But in doing that, you're suddenly thrown into the murky waters of UCAS Tariff Points, and you've no idea how to start translating the jargon into something semi-understandable. As always, we're here to help you figure things out and get on with your journey towards a vivid life full of achievement.
Join us as we take a closer look at what UCAS Tariff Points are, how they're used, how many points your qualifications are worth, and what you may need if you've got your sights set on higher education in the near future.
And if you need any extra help or advice, our trusted learning advisers are on hand to help.
Now, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the UCAS Points System:
UCAS is an acronym for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. There are other services that this organisation provides, such as postgraduate and teacher training; however, in this guide, we will be focusing on qualifying for a place on an undergraduate university course.
What are UCAS points?
Many qualifications (but not all) have a UCAS Tariff value that varies depending on qualification size and the grade you achieved. It's the numerical value assigned to each qualification or grade that higher education course providers use to see if you meet the entry requirements for a particular course.
Under the UCAS Tariff Points system, the qualifications and grades you have – whether they’re A-levels, BTECs, International Baccalaureates or Welsh Baccalaureates – are translated to a numerical value.
Can you go to uni without UCAS?
Sometimes. Not all universities utilise the UCAS points system; instead, they simply ask for your grades - no calculations necessary, which is arguably a more simple system.
Ultimately, it doesn't make any difference which system a university operates through; one way isn't easier, harder or more prestigious than the other; it's simply a different calculation.
If you aren't sure what the entry requirements are for your desired undergraduate course or what subjects you'll need to study, you can find out with this handy tool. For more information, visit the UCAS website.
How UCAS points work
If you aren’t familiar with them, UCAS Tariff Points can be a little confusing. But basically, they’re an easy way for universities to work out what your qualifications are worth in a simple, straightforward figure.
What was the old UCAS Tariff system?
Students of a certain vintage may remember the UCAS Tariff being a little different. So if you're thinking, "hang on a sec…" then you'd be right; a new Tariff was implemented in 2017 for students applying for an undergraduate degree.
This change was implemented for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, to include BTECs, something the old system never considered. After an increase in students taking vocational qualifications, the new Tariff system started including them.
And secondly, some general clarification was in order. The old system was just a little bit unclear on how points were allocated in the first place.
The new UCAS Points System doesn’t make it any easier or harder to get into your university of choice. The new system is more a matter of calculating and attributing value to your UCAS points.
Under the old Tariff, things looked a little like this:
An offer of 3As at A-level came to 360 UCAS points (one A at A-level was 120 points).
But under the new Tariff, things look more like this:
The same offer of 3 As equates to 144 points (one A now equals 48 points).
How to get UCAS points?
The most traditional way to gain UCAS points is by studying A-levels. However, other accredited courses such as our NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Workforce also carry a UCAS points value, along with other vocational courses such as BTECs; we talk about both of these a little further down.
If you aren’t sure what points-value a course you’re studying carries, the best thing you can do is check the official UCAS Tariff calculator. It’s worth noting, however, that not all qualifications will appear on the Tariff, so if you can’t find your qualification, it doesn’t mean a college or university won’t accept it – it’s still worth checking with them.
There are plenty of other ways you can earn points and get yourself closer to your goal of studying that dream degree, including:
Scoring points from volunteering: Educational charity, ASDAN, offers a few different community-based courses that can beef up your UCAS points through volunteer work. For example, their Certificate of Personal Effectiveness will bag you a host of personal attributes and 16 UCAS points over 150 hours (compared to 360 hours for an A-level).
Having your musical talents assessed: If you’re already a dab hand at your instrument of choice, then you can always get graded on your music skills. If you’ve yet to be examined and are above a grade 6, you can turn your talents into all-important UCAS points through private music tutors in just a matter of weeks.
Getting graded on your speech and drama skills: If you have trodden the boards in the past, then it could be worth honing your dramatic prowess. Earning a distinction at Grade 8 will get you up to 30 points, while the LAMDA Level 3 Certificate in Speech & Drama: Performance Studies will get you 24 points, as well as a host of acting skills that could open up all sorts of new opportunities.
Master your mother tongue: For those with an impressive command of the English language, the Certificate of Proficiency in English can earn you 32 UCAS points. You’ll be assessed on reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities, and it’s a great way of developing skills that will come in useful at uni, whether it’s writing essays or delivering spoken presentations. The Certificate in Advanced English, meanwhile, can net you 42 points at an A-grade too – well worth taking if your knowledge of the Queen’s English is of an exceptional standard.
How to get UCAS points from home
There are all sorts of courses you can study from home to give your UCAS points tally a boost. In fact, you’re probably on the Oxbridge site right now for that very reason.
We offer plenty of qualifications that are fully accredited. The only difference between our courses and traditional education is that you'll be studying and completing your course in your own time, at your own pace, through an award-winning learning platform with expert one-to-one support from a qualified tutor.
How to work out UCAS points
Each qualification (e.g., A-level or Scottish Higher) is allocated a size band value from one to four based on the number of learning hours required to complete the course. They’ll also be assigned a grade band point from three to 14.
So, to work out the number of UCAS Tariff Points your qualifications are worth, you just need to multiply the two together: Size x grade = Tariff points.
Or to make things easier, you can use one of our handy reference tables below:
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma itself does not attract UCAS points, but the components which make it up do. To achieve the IB Diploma, you have to pass each component and achieve a total IB points score of 24 or more:
UCAS points FAQs
We've compiled answers to some common questions asked by our students who are in the process of gaining more UCAS points to help them access their university of choice. If you have a question that we haven't answered here, please get in touch, and we will do our best to answer them.
Do GCSEs count for UCAS points?
Unfortunately, UCAS clarifies that their Tariff points do not apply to Level 2 qualifications, including GCSEs.
However, that doesn’t mean that those grades don’t count. Firstly, some A-level courses either require specific GCSE grades to enrol or greatly recommend them.
Additionally, some universities state GCSEs as an entry requirement in addition to A-level qualifications.
Do AS levels count towards UCAS points?
That’s a great question, to which the answer is both yes and no.
If you study an AS-level course but don't progress to the full A-level, the score will be converted to UCAS points, as you can see from the table above.
However, once you’ve secured your A-level, your AS grades won’t count as points. So, as an example, let’s say you had an AS-level qualification at grade A, you’d be entitled to 20 UCAS points. However, once you’ve achieved an A-Level for the same subject at grade A, you’d gain 48 UCAS points rather than 68 points (which is an AS and A-level at grade at A combined).
A-Level points tariff
Points for A-level qualifications range from 16-56, depending on your grade. Here’s a breakdown:
Number of Points
How many UCAS points is a BTEC?
There are multiple BTEC qualifications, including:
BTEC National (NQF)
BTEC National (RQF)
And more. So we recommend finding the exact course you want to study and referring to the UCAS points calculator for further guidance.
Are NCFE qualifications recognised by UCAS?
Some NCFE level 3 qualifications are recognised by UCAS and will count towards your total points. The exact points you gain depend once again on your grade, but also on the course itself. You can find more information on the UCAS website.
What else do you need to know about UCAS points?
It’s important to understand the entry requirements for the course or university you want to attend, so keep the following things in mind before applying for a place on a course:
Even if a qualification doesn't net you any UCAS Tariff Points, it doesn't mean a university won't take note. They'll still look upon any qualifications favourably and consider it an essential part of your application.
Although the university or course you have your heart set on may use grades to determine its offers, they do keep a tally of numbers and report them for government data and league table purposes.
If the entry requirements for your course and university are still confusing, then you should get in touch with the registrar’s offices as soon as possible.
We hope this guide helps clear up any confusion you have about the UCAS Tariff Points System. Whatever your goals and aspirations, our distance learning courses could help get you there. For more information or to browse our complete range of courses, visit the homepage or speak to one of our experienced learning advisers.