UCAS points: how they work and how to calculate them

Ben Maples  · Apr 19th 2024  · 3 min

Looking to calculate your UCAS points? You're in the right place! Let's walk through what they are and how to calculate your scores.


Applying to uni is a hugely exciting time, but navigating the UCAS points system can be tricky. So, let's break down the UCAS tariff points structure so you can feel confident and in control our your uni application.

What are UCAS points?

UCAS tariff points are simply a way of scoring and ranking different qualifications. For all further education qualifications, UCAS has attached a number to the different grades you can achieve. This allows each qualification to be easily measured and compared through the points – clever, right?

Students will apply to university courses with A-Levels, BTECs, Scottish Highers and more. While all these can be accepted qualifications, their grading systems differ, so the points allow universities to easily compare one set of student's results to another. This also takes into account the grade level.

For example, the UCAS tariffs allow you to see that a C grade at A-Level, is worth the same as an H5 in an International Baccalaureate, as they both carry 32 points. This data is inputted into your UCAS application to show universities how you fair against their entry requirements.

UCAS points are an important thing to be aware of as it allows you to see what grades you need to achieve to get into your chosen university.

How do UCAS points work?

For any level 3 qualification or above, UCAS assigns the points system. This includes A-Levels, some NVQs, BTEC Firsts, Nationals and Apprenticeships, Welsh Baccalaureate, Scottish Highers, and many more.

When looking at a university course, you'll see a breakdown of their entry requirements for that course. They usually include what they're looking for you to achieve in the different types of level 3 qualifications, as well as a single points number – this is the UCAS points!

The UCAS points listed under entry requirements will be the total points needed across your qualification. For example, if you're sitting 3 A-Levels, and they ask for a total of 129 points, they likely want you to have AAA in your A-levels (1 A is 48 points).

Different universities offer in different ways. Some will give you a set of grades you need to achieve (such as ABB). Others will give you the total UCAS points you need, and are more flexible in how you reach the total number of points (whether that's A*AB or AAA), so it's important to be aware of both.

UCAS points tables

Below is a series of tables with UCAS tariff points associated with the most common qualifications and grades.

A-Level UCAS points

A Level Grade UCAS Tariff Points
A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16

AS-Level UCAS points

AS Grade UCAS Tariff Points
A 20
B 16
C 12
D 10
E 6

EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) UCAS points

Extended Project Grade UCAS Tariff Points
A* 28
A 24
B 20
C 16
D 12
E 8

BTEC UCAS points

BTEC Grade UCAS Tariff Points
D* 56
Distinction 48
Merit 32
Pass 16

Access to HE Diploma UCAS points

Access to HE Diploma UCAS Tariff Points
45 Distinctions 144
45 Merits 96
45 Passess 48

What's good about receiving a UCAS points? offer

Receiving a conditional offer from a uni with a fixed set of grades to achieve can feel restrictive – they want you to get a very specific set of grades or above. But, if the offer is made as a UCAS points score, there is more flexibility in how you achieve the results.

There are a lot of different combinations of grades you can achieve to reach the needed UCAS points, giving you some wiggle room with your results! A points-based offer can be great if you're excelling in one subject but struggling with another. The UCAS points system allows your great work to balance out the difficulties in another subject, and still getting you to hit those all important entry requirements! It's worth noting that many top universities won't offer points-based entry.

How many UCAS points do I have?

UCAS points = grades x course size

Every grade has a number assigned to it between 3 and 14. The highest scores (usually A*) get the highest number, while lower grades get a lower number.

The length of the course is also factored into the points value, so the ‘course size' is based on the hours of study needed to complete the programme. Each eligible further education qualification also has a number from 1 to 4 based on the size: longer courses have higher numbers, and shorter courses have lower numbers.

The size and grade scores are then multiplied together to produce the equivalent UCAS points. So an A* at A-Level is worth 56 points (56=grade 14 x size 4).

UCAS uses this to ensure they assign points fairly across all courses. If you're unsure how to do this calculation yourself, download our app to give the UCAS points calculator a go!

How can I get more UCAS points?

If you've calculated the points you need and feel your dream uni is a little out of reach, there's still time and ways to get you there! While one way is studying an extra subject, this isn't always worth the extra stress of sitting another exam. Here are some ways you can gain more points:

  • Volunteering experience is a great way to expand your skills and gain an extra qualification. By completing an Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) volunteer programme, you can earn either 8 points for the award, or 16 UCAS points for the certificate.
  • Earning EPQ UCAS points with an independent extended project is available to students outside of Scotland. This can give you 8 to 28 UCAS points (28 if you achieve an A*).
  • You can gain UCAS points through musical grades. Grades 6 to 8 carry points: 6 points for a pass at grade 6; 14 points for a merit at grade 7; 30 points for a distinction at grade 8. This feels like a sign to keep up those piano lessons alongside your studies!
  • London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) drama qualifications and recognised dance school-accredited examinations are also weighted with UCAS points.
  • For international students, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL qualification is a good one! Showcase your English skills and gain anything between 12 and 42 UCAS points, depending on level of study.

These are all great ways to boost your points! Always check the specific degree requirements, as some programmes may cap the points or only accept you based on specific grades, not points.

Do I get UCAS points for GCSEs?

As GCSEs are level 2 qualifications, they don't count towards your UCAS points. They're still an important part of your application, as universities will need you to have passed your English and Maths GCSEs.

What if my qualification doesn't have UCAS points?

There are some qualifications that don't have assigned UCAS points. If this is the case, not to worry! Contact the university to see what they suggest – it may be they can accept you regardless of the UCAS points.

If my qualification has UCAS points, do all universities accept this?

Not all universities accept all qualifications that UCAS lists. For example, some universities don't accept General Studies A-Levels and won't count the UCAS points attached to this.

Similarly, some universities and courses won't accept a range of qualifications such as BTEC, NVQs, T-Levels and SQAs. Check the individual course and uni requirements to find out what to do next.

Other entry requirements

Some courses have admission tests, interviews, or auditions as part of their entry requirements. Check the course guide to see the entry requirements of your individual course.

Some courses only accept specific qualifications, subjects or grades. If you feel that you may not reach their requirements, contact the course provider or university to see if your application will be considered on a comparable level.

2017 UCAS points changes

Before September 2017, the old UCAS points system was in place, and here they looked a little different. It wouldn't have been unusual to see a university in 2016 asking for 300 UCAS points. It wasn't expected for students to have 7 A-Levels or anything wild like that, the points system was just larger. So UCAS tidied things up and updated their points!

As part of the change, UCAS also brought more qualifications into the system. As the number of vocational study options had increased for students, the UCAS points system needed to reflect this.

There was also a big shift in the weighting of your AS-Levels, reducing its contribution to your A-Level score to 40%. UCAS therefore updated the points system to take note of this.

8 years on, this isn't something you'll need to worry about today. If anything, it just gives you context and backing when your older sibling grumbles that they needed way more points and saying things "used to be so much harder." You can now simply nod, hand them their reading glasses and slippers, and whizz away on your hover-board. So long, grandpa!

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.