Every year, we get questions from sixth formers and their parents about the UCAS Tariff and how it works, especially during August when Clearing starts.

This short guide aims to answer some of the common queries about the system, and what it means for entry requirements to a university degree.

What are UCAS Tariff points?

The UCAS Tariff was designed to allocate points to a number of post-16 qualifications used for entry to higher education. Universities and colleges want to attract the best students, so the UCAS Tariff allows them to make comparisons across a wide range of qualifications, and find out the academic abilities of every applicant.

Setting a minimum UCAS points score for each course offered means universities can also make sure that the students applying have the skills and capabilities to do well and be successful in their studies.

The points range from five for a pass at Grade 6 Music Theory, up to 768 points for a perfect score in the International Baccalaureate diploma.

Do all universities and colleges use the UCAS Tariff?

No – some prefer to set their entry requirements and make offers in terms of qualifications and grades, instead of Tariff points.

Currently around one third of courses in the UCAS search tool list a Tariff entry requirement, with some higher education institutions preferring to just use qualification and grade-based entry standards.

Are all qualifications given Tariff points?

No – the universities or colleges you are applying for may accept your entry qualifications even if they are not given UCAS Tariff points.

How are UCAS Tariff points displayed?

Universities and colleges usually either:

  • List their entry requirements and make offers using UCAS points only, e.g. 260 Tariff points, including A levels, Scottish Highers and BTEC National Diplomas
  • Ask for particular qualifications and provide a set number of UCAS points, e.g. 260 Tariff points, including A levels in Chemistry and Mathematics
  • Link the UCAS Tariff points required to specific qualifications and grades, e.g. 260 Tariff points, including at least grades A and B at A level.

How can I find out what my qualifications are worth in UCAS points?

UCAS have a dedicated Tariff tables section where you can find out how many points your qualifications are worth.

Just find and click on the relevant qualification(s) from the list, enter the subject (optional), select your grade, and then click Next when you have entered all your qualifications.

How do I calculate exactly how many points my grades convert to?

Go to the UCAS Tariff Calculator, which shows you in five easy steps how to calculate your points for entry to courses in September.

If you’re in Year 12 and have received your predicted grades, you can find out which universities might accept you on to a degree programme.

Before you start using the Tariff calculator however, please bear in mind that not all qualifications are included in the Tariff, and that universities set their own entry requirements, which means they don't have to accept a qualification just because it's in the Tariff tables.

If you're not sure if your qaulfiication will be accepted by your chosen universities, check the UCAS search tool, or wth the course provider directly.

Are UCAS points the only thing universities care about?

No – even if you have points over and above the minimum required for the course you are applying for, they will expect you to have studied relevant subjects in your further education.

For example, if you are applying to study Medicine, many (if not all) will ask you to hold A levels in at least one science subject (sometimes two) and Mathematics.

They might also ask for a certain number of points, but demand you have an A or A* in a particular subject.

If entry to the course is extremely competitive, there may be additional entry requirements such as the BMAT or LNAT, or an admissions essay.

The UCAS points system changed in 2017 – what does this mean?

Since 2017 a different points system has been in place following a review in 2012. It is essentially the same, but the system used to calculate how much a qualification is worth has changed.

For example, an A* at A level is now worth 56 points instead of 140, but doesn’t mean it will be any less valuable as universities will reset their entry requirements according to the new Tariff system.

AS levels will be worth less under the new system, where you will only receive 40% as many UCAS points as you would for an A level, as opposed to 50% in the previous system.

Is there anything else I should know about UCAS Tariff points?

Most of what you need to be aware of is already covered in the information above. However, it's also worth pointing out the following:

  • Some universities and colleges may decide to exclude qualifications if the content is duplicated in other qualifications. 
  • Universities and colleges will usually not count the Tariff points for an AS level if you have completed an A level in the same subject.
  • The Tariff is based on a finite scale, which means it isn't possible to get more than a certain number of points for a single award qualification. In some instances, you may see top grades of qualifications getting the same number of points.
  • Some universities and colleges limit the qualifications they accept. For example, they may only accept Tariff points from the highest scoring three A levels or Scottish Highers.

Where can I find further information?

Please visit our UCAS Tariff guide for more information.

UCAS.com also has more details, where you can use their Tariff Calculator to work out your number of points.

The following websites might also be helpful:

N.B. This post was originally published in August 2016 but has been updated to reflect changes to the UCAS Tariff since then.

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