University Admissions Tests and Qualifications
Confused by university entry requirements and admissions tests? Worry not. The following are summaries of the qualifications most commonly used in the UK for entry to universities and other higher education providers.
Students are admitted to UK universities every year with many other qualifications and those with alternative post-16 qualifications should not be deterred from applying. All students should make sure that they meet or exceed the entry requirements for their course applications. If in any doubt contact the universities directly.
A Levels (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level)
- Usually taken by students completing their secondary or pre-university education, the vast majority are students aged between 16 and 18.
- Offered by educating bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Can be divided into AS and A2 Levels, usually taking one and two years of study respectively.
- AS Levels are worth 40% of the full A Level, and can stand alone as a qualification. If you earn a full A Level, your AS grade is not counted separately.
- Universities typically ask for a minimum of three A Levels.
- Read our advice on choosing A Levels.
Scottish (SQA) Highers
- The main route from secondary into higher education in Scotland.
- They provide a broad education, with students expected to take three to five Highers in their fifth yea of secondary school.
- Scottish universities’ honours degrees typically last four years (opposed to three in the rest of the UK).
- Advanced highers have an increased focus on independent learning, and were introduced in order to present a unified system of national qualifications.
- Scottish students with Advanced Highers are more able to attend higher education institutions across the whole of the UK (though not all universities outside of Scotland require this).
- Students with Advanced Highers will automatically qualify for direct entry to the second year of an Honours course if they attend a Scottish university.
- Read our advice on choosing Highers.
- Work-related qualifications developed to meet the needs of employers, have a greater focus on practical and applied learning.
- Can be taken in lieu of or alongside GCSEs and A Levels.
- Can be used for university; students taking level 3 BTECs are able to apply for entry to the first year of Honours degrees at UK universities.
- Following completion of BTECs at the Higher National Diploma level, students may be able to progress straight into the second or final university year upon completion.
IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
- Aimed at international students.
- Accepted in the same way as GCSE qualifications for the majority of UK universities and courses.
- Content is slightly different to GCSEs but with the same level of rigour.
- For IGCSE English, UK based applicants who also take the IGCSE may have to show evidence of the rationale for not taking the standard GCSE; some versions of the IGCSE are not accepted by the UK Border Agency.
- UK based applicants should always check with universities they are interested in before taking the IGCSE qualification.
- If you have an IGCSE qualification, check with the universities you are applying to, ask your UCAS referee or sixth form tutor to mention this briefly in your reference. Some courses may require an IELTS test to be taken and passed in addition to an IGCSE in English.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
- An international recognised qualification for entry into higher education.
- A two-year educational programme aimed at 16–19 year olds.
- Provides the opportunity for broader study as well as specialisations; students study six subjects.
- Students develop skills considered essential for university including critical thinking, independent learning and knowledge of the research process.
- Those who fail to satisfy the full set of requirements or opt to take less than six subjects, may still be awarded for the examinations completed.
- Students are able to collect UCAS Points from individual certificates.
- Over 1,800 universities around the world accept IB as an entry qualification.
Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
- This allows for self-directed study. Students can pick their own topic (although it must be shown to be academically useful, either related to their current studies or future career), and can take the form of a traditional written dissertation, or more creative mediums such as a musical or dramatical composition backed up by paperwork.
- The qualification aims to demonstrate to universities independent research and project managing.
- The EPQ is worth half an A level, meaning that 28 UCAS Points are awarded for an A*. See the A Level UCAS Points table for a full list detailing how each grade converts into UCAS Points.
Please note that these tests, and the universities that administer them, vary from year to year, and even within the year. The UCAS website has a definitive list.
LNAT (National Admissions Test for Law): entry to Law at universities including Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, SOAS, Glasgow, King's College London, Nottingham, Oxford and University College London.
MAT (Mathematics Aptitude Test): Mathematics courses and Computer Science courses at Oxford.
STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper): Mathematics at Cambridge, Warwick, Bristol, Bath, Oxford and Imperial College London.
BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test): entry to some courses in Biomedical Sciences, Medicine and Veterinary Science at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Cambridge, Imperial College London, Keele, Lancaster, Leeds, Oxford, the Royal Veterinary College and University College London.
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.
HPAT (Health Professions Admission Test): Medicine at Ulster.
UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test): a Medical and Dental entry test is used by universities including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull York Medical School, Keele, King's College London, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary, Queen's Belfast, Sheffielld, Southampton, St Andrews, St George's Hospital, Warwick.
TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment): some interviewees at Cambridge, Oxford and UCL may be required to take this test.
BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test): Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Biomedical Science and Dentistry courses at Cambridge and Oxford.
MML (Modern and Medieval Languages test): Modern Languages at Cambridge.
Cambridge Law Test: Law at Cambridge.
CAT (Classics Admissio s Test): Classics at Oxford
ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test): English at Oxford.
HAT (History Aptitude Test): History and Joint History at Oxford.
MLAT (Modern Languages Admissions Test): Modern Languages at Oxford.
OLAT (Oriental Languages Aptitude Test): Oriental Studies at Oxford.
PAT (Physics Aptitude Test): Engineering, Materials Science and Physics at Oxford.
PHIL (Philosophy Test): Philosophy and Theology at Oxford.
Other course providers have their own admissions test; see the UCAS website for a full list.
Next page: About UCAS Points