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The UCAS Tariff Explained

When it’s time for your young person to start searching for a university course, the entry

requirements are a key consideration. Universities will often indicate a typical offer that they

expect from applicants, either in the form of particular grades or a specific number of points.

If the university asks for points, then it’s time to get to grips with the UCAS Tariff. If you

understand how the points-based Tariff works, you can make sure that your son or daughter

is applying for courses with attainable entry requirements.

The UCAS Tariff enables institutions to easily make offers to applicants with a wide range of

academic or vocational qualifications. It isn’t used by all institutions because some prefer the

accuracy of making offers using grades. As a general rule, the Tariff has been accepted

more widely by new universities. According to UCAS, around one-third of all entry

requirements make reference to the UCAS Tariff.

Essentially, the Tariff gives points depending on the qualification and grade achieved, so:

grade A* at A level equates to 140 points

  • grade A to 120 points
  • grade B to 100 points
  • grade C to 80 points
  • grade D to 60 points
  • grade E to 40 points

Students studying a BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma will find that the points achieved from

this qualification match those gained from a single A level, with a distinction* from BTEC

providing 140 points, a merit 80 points and a pass 40 points. An AS level is allocated exactly

half the points of an A level, from 20 points for a grade E up to 60 points for an A grade (note

that there is no A* grade at AS level). Many more qualifications feature in the UCAS Tariff,

including the International Baccalaureate Diploma, Cambridge Pre-U and Welsh

Baccalaureate.

In addition to the number of points required, the institution will also indicate the subjects

required and the type of qualification they will accept. For example, 320 points from A2

levels or BTEC National qualifications, including at least 100 points from a natural science or

social science, but excluding general studies.

A wide variety of qualifications appear on the table but some, including international

qualifications and Access to HE Diplomas for mature students, do not feature. It is

sometimes assumed that qualifications that don’t appear on the Tariff are not accepted by

universities: this isn’t necessarily the case. If your son or daughter’s qualification doesn’t

appear as part of the listed entry requirements, they should contact the university’s

admissions department to check.

It’s also worth remembering that getting a university place does not only depend on the

grades or points achieved from A levels or equivalent qualifications. There may be additional

requirements including specific GCSE grades and subjects, admissions tests or experience

needed. Some students don’t pay sufficient attention to the additional requirements and then

waste one of their five choices.

The system looks set to change soon with UCAS proposing the introduction of a new Tariff

from autumn 2017. This should affect students starting A level, or equivalent qualifications,

from autumn 2015 onwards. The proposals for the new Tariff suggest that a wider range of

qualifications could be included. Another key change is that AS levels will only be considered

as 40% of an A level, rather than the current 50%. Watch this space and the UCAS website

to find out when the new Tariff is given the go-ahead.

Find out more about the current system and view the full Tariff tables on the UCAS website

at http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/explore-your-options/entry-requirements/tariff-tables

© Cerys Evans, July 2014