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
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
© Cerys Evans, July 2014