The Qualifications Jungle
The current post-16 curriculum allows universities to express their entry requirements in a wide variety of ways.
- They have to make choices about the number of units that should be taken, how many A2s or Advanced Highers will be required, whether Key Skills will be compulsory, or which vocational qualifications (e.g. BTECs) are appropriate.
- Inevitably, different universities have made different decisions and so you will have to read their websites and prospectuses much more carefully to ensure that you can find your way through the new qualifications jungle.
On some things most universities are in agreement.
- At least two subjects should be taken at A2.
- Applicants with four or five AS levels in Y12 will not be at a significant advantage.
- Neither Key Skills nor the Extended Project (EPQ) will be compulsory.
On others, however, there are differences.
- Some universities will take into account results in three A2 and an additional AS, others only consider performance in best three A2 subjects.
- Some include Key Skills and other skills/competence awards in offers, others do not.
- Some use the UCAS tariff, others do not.
- Some accept General Studies or Critical Thinking AS/A2, others do not.
- Some do give additional consideration to students taking more than 3 AS subjects in Year 12
Generally speaking, universities that come higher up the ranking in our League Table are more likely not to use the UCAS tariff.
- However, there is a lot of variation, so it is important to ensure you read the small print carefully.
In general, the new universities (those given University status after 1992) are more likely to accept the more vocationally-oriented A levels or BTECs for particular courses, and are more likely to use the UCAS tariff and allow points for additional qualifications such as Key Skills.
- However, in all cases you will need to check the university's prospectus and/or the UCAS website carefully.
Universities will generally treat older students, or those with a non-traditional educational background more flexibly.
- While you will still be expected to demonstrate your ability and suitability for the course, you will be able to do this through a wide variety of qualifications or an access diploma or, in some cases, relevant work experience.
- The GCSEs you flunked as an unhappy adolescent before diving into the first job that came up will be ignored for most courses, although those considering teaching or education degrees should check to see if GCSE Mathematics, English and Science are required.
Bear in mind that entry standards are essentially market-related – above all universities are trying to find reasons to make you an offer, not reject you.
- Popular courses at popular universities can afford to be very choosy about whom they admit and so have the highest entry standards.
- That may not mean the courses are any tougher at those universities (though they could be for other reasons) but it does mean that most of the students on the courses will be very able.
- In some cases conventional school examinations may not be enough.
- There are also growing calls for the introduction of a general university entrance test, similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test used in the United States, to enable universities to identify talent among large numbers of applicants.
Please note that these tests and universities vary from year to year. The UCAS website has a definitive list.
LNAT (National Admissions Test for Law): entry to Law at Universities including Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow, King's College London, Nottingham, Oxford and University College London.
BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test): entry to some courses in biomedical sciences, medicine and veterinary science at Cambridge, Imperial College London, Oxford, the Royal Veterinary College and University College London.
MSAT (Medical Schools Admission Test): King's College London, Queen Mary, University of London and Warwick.
GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test): Nottingham, Peninsula, St George's Hospital and Swansea medical courses for graduate entry, and Peninsula also for the five-year medical degree.
STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper): mathematics at Cambridge and Warwick.
MML (Modern and Medieval Languages test): modern languages at Cambridge.
TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment): some interviewees at Cambridge in other subjects may be required to take this test.
HAT (History Aptitude Test): history and joint history at Oxford.
PAT (Physics Aptitude Test): physics and physics and philosophy at Oxford.
MAT (Mathematics Aptitude Test): mathematics courses and computer science courses at Oxford.
EAT (English Aptitude Test): English and joint English (except history and English) at Oxford.
UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test): a medical and dental entry test is used by Universities including Aberdeen, Brighton and Sussex, Cardiff, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull-York, Keele, King's College London, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford (graduate entry), Peninsular, Queen Mary College London, Sheffield, Southampton, St Andrews, St George's Hospital.
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