Admissions and the UCAS Tariff explained

UCAS Tariff

While most universities offer places to students that are conditional on the achievement of specific grades (for example, AAB), some universities ask for students to achieve a certain number of tariff points. But what exactly is the UCAS Tariff, and how is it calculated? 

Let’s look at an example – a grade A at A-Level (A2) is worth 48 points; an offer for the BA International Relations, ordinarily conditional on achievement on three As, is therefore worth 144 points. So, instead of asking students to achieve three As, an institution may simply ask for 144 points.

Most UK qualifications have a specific value, which is determined by NQF/QCF level, and is further determined by grade. An A2 grade is worth more points than an AS grade, and a B grade is naturally worth more than a C grade. 

Further to this, a select number of international qualifications are also worth tariff points. 

Among these are:

  • Baccalaureat General (France);
  • Leaving Certificate (Republic of Ireland)
  • Advanced Placement tests (USA);
  • Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (Latvia);
  • Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (Hong Kong);
  • Gaokao (China)

You can check how many UCAS points your qualifications are worth here.

It may seem like a roundabout way of doing things – creating a system where an applicant could receive offers both in grades and tariff point requirements – but there are reasons for this. University league table positioning is influenced heavily by the tariff points of accepted students; so it may be easier for a university to ask for a specific number of points.

But tariff-based admissions also allows for a range of different qualifications to be used to meet an entry requirement, creating routes for applicants that have completed so-called ‘non-standard qualifications’, which are also worth UCAS tariff points. 

A BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma, for example, is considered a non-standard qualification. Completing this qualification with a Distinction grade is also worth 48 UCAS tariff points; in terms of tariff, three Distinctions equal three A grades at A-Level.

So that offer for the BA International Relations would, in theory, be achievable with three BTEC Subsidiary Diplomas, if applicants were asked for 144 points.

By means of tariff-based admissions, that same course could, hypothetically, also be entered with the following:

  • Grade A in AS Biology, AS French, and AS Mathematics at 20 points each (60),
  • an A* in an EPQ Extended Project (24), 
  • a Grade 8 in Speech and Drama (30), 
  • and a Grade 8 in Music (30). 

That’s also 144 points – and yet, none of the subjects are directly related to the BA International Relations.

Can a student with a diverse range of qualifications – with none at A-Level – be suitable for a programme as intense and writing-heavy as the BA International Relations?

With that in mind, and to ensure that applicants are perfectly suited to their chosen courses, SOAS’ admissions policy does not accept tariff points as entry requirements during the main admissions cycle.

Please contact our Admissions team for more detailed information.

Part 2 of this blog will cover vocational and ‘non-standard’ qualifications.

Apply to SOAS through UCAS Clearing here

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