University Applications

In September 2017, UCAS introduced an updated Tariff system to calculate UCAS points for new university applicants. UCAS points translate your qualifications and grades into a numerical value. Many qualifications (but not all – GCSEs are not included in the UCAS points system!) have a UCAS points value, which depends on the grade you achieved. Universities use your UCAS point total to assess your eligibility for undergraduate courses.

For A Levels, UCAS awards 56 points for an A*, 48 points for an A, 40 points for a B and 32 points for a C grade. You can calculate your UCAS points score here. In addition to A Levels, there are a few ways to boost your UCAS points score:

1. Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

The EPQ gives students the freedom to pursue their intellectual and creative passions beyond the curriculum. It offers an exciting opportunity to study a subject in great depth and develop independent study and research skills. EPQs are widely valued by universities and employers alike. An EPQ is equivalent to half an A Level (graded A* to E) and up to 28 UCAS points

EPQs take many forms, from academic essays, scientific investigations, and musical performances, to art portfolios and engineering commissions. Through researching, developing and evaluating a project, our EPQ students acquire skills that enable them to flourish at university and beyond. They gain insight into degree-level study and become confident, independent learners.

Dedicated EPQ supervisors guide students through each stage of writing a high-quality academic paper. In the last few years, our students have explored the following questions:

  • How has Brexit shaped our national identity?
  • To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted global health policy?
  • How much did the Chernobyl disaster contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union?
  • The impact of socio-economic status on newborn brain development, observed using MRI scans
  • To what extent does physical activity enhance human memory and reduce the risk of developing Dementia?

2. If you’re a Mathematician, enter for the Advanced Extension Award (AEA)

AEA qualifications were originally introduced with the aim of challenging the top 10% of candidates and helping to differentiate between the most able candidates. After the new A* grade was introduced in 2010, there was no longer a need for the Advanced Extension Award, and the qualification was withdrawn for all subjects except Mathematics.

There is no additional teaching content for Edexcel AEA Mathematics, only an additional exam on the A Level Mathematics content you have already learnt. If you’re studying A Level Mathematics, you may want to consider taking the AEA as a way of boosting your UCAS score. A distinction is worth 40 UCAS points, and a merit is worth 20 points.

3. If you have a musical talent, get accredited

Performance or theory, UCAS points are awarded to students who achieve music qualifications at grade 6, 7 and 8. A distinction at Grade 8 is equivalent to 30 UCAS points, equivalent to an extra A Level! University admissions teams will also look favourably on students with advanced music qualifications, as they demonstrate motivation, self-discipline and good organisation skills.

4. Enter for dance, drama or singing exams

If theatrical performance is your passion, take exams to reflect this. Like music qualifications, LAMDA exams in Acting, Public Speaking and Musical Theatre at Grade 6 – 8 can earn you up to 30 UCAS points. Visit the LAMDA website for a detailed breakdown of the points allocated to each award and grade.

5. Learn British Sign Language

Not only is this an incredibly rewarding hobby, but a Level 3 Certificate in British Sign Language is awarded 16 UCAS points. If you are choosing a skill for Duke of Edinburgh, or looking for a new challenge throughout your secondary school career, British Sign Language could be for you!

Contrary to popular belief, the Duke of Edinburgh award does not equate to UCAS points. However, it does develop a range of non-academic skills such as teamwork, leadership and resilience, which will help your university application.

In addition to UCAS points, university applications are assessed on a number of factors:

  • Your personal statement
  • A reference from your school
  • Your performance in university entrance exams and at interview (applicable to Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science)

Read ‘How to Shine at an Oxbridge Interview

We recommend students in Year 10 and 11 to start exploring options for university early and take a ‘little and often’ approach to their applications. This means creating a log of extracurricular and voluntary activities, and taking decisions to maximise their UCAS points. Participated in a half marathon? Volunteered at an animal sanctuary? Encourage your child to make a record of the date, organisation, and their responsibilities. A little forward planning makes personal statement writing much easier in Year 12!