10 Brilliant Ways to Get More UCAS Points
You may have noticed, when perusing university prospectuses and websites, that entry requirements for university courses are sometimes stated in terms of ‘UCAS tariff points’.
You might have guessed that you are awarded a certain number of these points for each of your A-levels, with a higher number of points for higher grades; but what you might not have known is that there are many more ways of boosting your number of UCAS points beyond simply completing your A-levels. Even better, they don’t all involve devoting even more of your time to studying from textbooks. In this article, we look at the different ways in which you can raise your number of UCAS points to help the ‘results’ part of your university application stand out from the crowd.
1. Take an extra A-level or AS-level
Most obviously, you can boost your number of UCAS points by taking on an extra A-level or AS-level. While it’s standard to take three A-levels, many of the brightest students will be taking four or even five A-levels, or four A-levels with perhaps an extra AS-level on top of that. That’s not to say that your application will suffer if you only have three A-levels – offers are almost always given based on three A-levels anyway (top universities might give an offer that includes four A-levels, but only if the candidate in question happens to be studying four). But an extra A-level should certainly boost your application – particularly if it’s in one of the facilitating subjects – and you’ll get up to 140 extra UCAS points. If you’re thinking of doing this, talk to the teachers at your school to find out what subjects would fit into your timetable.
2. Study for a Level 3 Diploma, Certificate or Award in your spare time
Distance learning courses and evening classes at your local college are two avenues for you to explore for completing an award, certificate or diploma in your spare time, alongside your A-level studies. Doing a full diploma may be a bit of a tall order alongside A-levels, but the lower qualifications should be more manageable and will still give you points to the rough equivalent of half an A-level. These are a good way of gaining more vocational qualifications that could benefit your future career plans, or simply to develop skills in something you find interesting whilst gaining UCAS points at the same time. For example, the NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Photography is worth 60 points, or 120 if you do the full diploma. In terms of skills for the workplace, there are numerous useful courses to choose from, such as the AAT Certificate in Accounting or the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness, the latter of which gives you 70 UCAS points and aims to develop skills to improve your employability, such as problem solving and working with others. Arty types might like Trinity College London’s Gold Arts Award, which gives you 35 extra points in recognition of your involvement with a range of arts projects and leadership (recorded in a portfolio in a medium of your choosing, such as a diary, video or blog).
3. Improve your Mathematics with a Free-standing Mathematics Qualification
If you’re not taking Mathematics as an A-level subject, but want a qualification in it just to prove that you’re proficient, you could take a Free-standing Mathematics Qualification. The difficulty level of this qualification falls somewhere between GCSE and AS-level Maths, and at the Advanced Level you’ll come out with the rough equivalent of an A-level module. It’s ideal if you’re not keen on doing the whole A-level or AS-level in Maths, but want something more on your university application and CV to demonstrate your mathematical abilities. For example, you might be leaning towards doing all humanities subjects at A-level, because that’s what’s going to give you the best chances of securing a place on a particular degree course; but you still want to be able to show potential employers that your knowledge of maths is higher than GCSE, as this will help you stand out a bit more. A slightly higher knowledge of maths might also come in useful for certain degree subjects for which A-level maths is not required, such as Geography. Subject areas you can choose from for the Free-standing Mathematics Qualification include Additional Maths, Using and Applying Statistics, Working with Algebraic and Graphical Techniques, and Modelling with Calculus. You’ll get 20 UCAS points if you achieve an A grade.
4. Gain a Cambridge Pre-U qualification
Developed by Cambridge International Examinations, the Cambridge Pre-U qualifications can completely replace A-levels with a full programme of studies that gives you a diploma, or you can take a shorter course (over the course of a year) alongside your A-levels. Available subjects are broadly similar to A-level subject choices, with a few that are different to the standard A-level subjects, including Classical Heritage, Comparative Government and Politics, and Economics. These courses are designed to be excellent preparation for university, and are now widely recognised by admissions tutors, including by the Ivy League universities in the USA. For full courses, known as ‘Principal Subjects’, you’ll receive up to 145 UCAS points, while ‘Short Courses’ – available in Modern Foreign Languages, Mathematics and Global Perspectives – attract up to 60 points. The Modern Foreign Languages short courses (for which you can choose from Italian, French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish and German) would be particularly useful in the long-term, as the ability to speak other languages has long been acknowledged as something that makes you more employable.
5. Gain points by playing a musical instrument
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, you’ll be pleased to learn that the exams you do will give you extra UCAS points from Grade 6 upwards. The points you can gain range from 5 UCAS points for a pass at Grade 6 to 75 points for a Distinction at Grade 8. If you’re already an A-level student and don’t play a musical instrument, it’s probably not going to be possible to get up to Grade 6-8 standard (from nothing) before you apply for university, but taking up an instrument while you’re doing your GCSEs might give you enough time to reach the standard required to gain UCAS points, if you put in plenty of practice.
6. Volunteer in your local community
You can gain up to 50 extra UCAS points and help out a good cause by taking an ASDAN Community Volunteering Qualification. At Award and Certificate level (Level 3), these qualifications give you 30 and 50 points respectively. The qualifications are all about developing your volunteering skills and knowledge, and recognising the unpaid work you do for the benefit of your community. You amass a portfolio of evidence of the voluntary work you’ve done, as well as actively developing skills in a range of useful areas, such as customer service, fundraising and project management. As well as benefiting local charities, these skills will be invaluable for your CV and will make you more attractive to potential employers, whether you want to end up working in the charity sector or not. Note that this qualification will be withdrawn at the end of 2016, but you still have time to gain one before then.
7. Go horse riding
OK, it’s a bit more involved than simply going horse riding, but if you’re a keen rider then you can use your equestrian skills to your advantage by taking qualifications from the British Horse Society. Stage 3 qualifications, in Riding and in Horse Knowledge and Care, give you 35 UCAS points each, as does the Preliminary Teacher’s Certificate (Equine Coach). These qualifications are primarily designed for those who want to pursue an equestrian career, but they’re a good way for those with a passion for horses to get extra UCAS points doing something they love.
8. Develop your skills in Speech and Drama
Just as you can earn UCAS points for graded musical instrument exams, so you can accumulate them by taking exams in speech and drama. Like the musical instrument exams, speech and drama exams earn UCAS points from Grade 6 upwards, with a maximum of 65 points for a distinction at Grade 8, or 90 for a PCertLAM (LAMDA Level 3 Certificate in Speech & Drama: Performance Studies). Suitable for aspiring actors and those who just enjoy performing, these qualifications develop your theatrical skills and enables you to get better at speaking clearly. This makes them useful qualifications for life in an office, not just on the stage: clear communication is essential for interacting with customers and colleagues. What’s more, drama requires good teamwork, so that’s another useful transferrable skill you’ll pick up through this qualification. Performance is a great confidence boost, too, thus extending your comfort zone and improving your ability to take on new challenges.
9. Dance your way to extra points
If music or drama aren’t quite your thing, but you’re still inclined towards the performing arts, you might be interested to know that you can gain extra UCAS points through dancing. Graded dance qualifications, similar to the music exams, are offered by several organisations, including the British Ballet Organization, the British Theatre Dance Association, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Royal Academy of Dance. The maximum UCAS points you can gain this way is 65 points for a Distinction at Grade 8 (as with the music and drama exams, points are awarded from Grade 6 upwards). Along with the practical skills such qualifications instil, they also teach you the ability to work well with others – a useful skill to be able to talk about in job applications and interviews.
10. Master English with the Cambridge ESOL Examinations
For those looking to demonstrate an extremely high level of English language ability, the Certificate of Proficiency in English gains you up to 140 UCAS points and improves your English for employment and academic purposes. The test includes reading, writing, listening and speaking elements. You also have the option of taking the Certificate in Advanced English, which is a less advanced qualification that offers 70 points to those who achieve an A grade. These qualifications are an excellent addition to the university applications of those whose native language isn’t English, as they’re a respected way of proving that you can use English to an exceptional level, including specifically for an academic context. For this reason, it’s not just an excuse to accumulate more UCAS points; it’s extremely useful for developing your ability to tailor your English to the more formal constraints demanded by academic essay-writing, which will be an essential component of your time at university. Beyond that, it’s a way of showing employers that you have a superb command of the English language, which you’ll need in order to be able to communicate effectively with colleagues and customers when working in a business. The Certificate of Proficiency in English will equip you with the English skills necessary to take your studies to PhD level and beyond, write confidently about any subject, be a powerful negotiator in the world of business and talk articulately about complex issues and ideas.
As we’ve seen, accumulating extra UCAS points can involve saddling yourself with even more academic work, but it doesn’t have to: you can have fun with more vocational qualifications and pick up UCAS points in the process. Additional academic qualifications will make your university application look more impressive to admissions tutors, particularly when you choose to take on additional high-powered subjects on the list of ‘facilitating subjects’; but there’s plenty to be said for these more vocational qualifications as well. Many of them develop invaluable transferrable skills for success in your working life, which may prove critical to securing a job, either part-time during your university studies, or full-time once you graduate. They’re also a brilliant way to turn your hobbies into extra UCAS points without eating too much into the time you need to do well in your A-levels.