Tag Archives: UCAS website


If you are a year 12 student about to move into year 13 you will probably be making a UCAS application to universities in the Autumn once you get back to your school or college. You will therefore soon be nailing down your final choice of five universities and familiarizing yourself with the UCAS online ‘apply system’ (https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track).


Now we are at the end of July, of next year’s university applicants will have had at least a week and possibly as much as a month or more since the end of the last school term. With a month or so to go before the start of their final academic year before university, it is time to start thinking about how to productively spend the rest of the summer in order to have the best possible chance of making a strong university application.


Time to think: what can I do to help support my application and to add to my personal statement. Think about:


  1. Work Experience – are you intending to apply for a degree that will lead you to a specific career? If so, have you ever had any experience of that career? If you want to be a lawyer, doctor, pharmacist, physiotherapist, architect or accountant – can you get some experience in this field during August and throughout the academic year? I bet you can!
  2. Go and visit – the university or department you want to go to may have an open day in the next month or so (find out at http://www.opendays.com/) but even if they don’t this is a great time to go and visit the university or even just the town or city where you will be living.
  3. Read and research – whatever you want to study at university, you need to be able to convince an admissions tutor that you are able to study that subject at undergraduate level. You will need more than just your A level/IB/Higher (or whatever) knowledge to do this convincingly. Start reading a broadsheet newspaper everyday, subscribe to a popular journal such as The Economist, The New Scientist or The Student BMJ and pick up some back issues from your local library or online. What about a book or two in the field you want to study? Use google to recommend some popular literature and read for an hour or so a day. You’ll learn a huge amount about your subject to write about or discuss at interview and it will give you a real confidence boost before you make your application.


The final deadlines may feel a long way off, but they will be upon us very soon:

15 October 2015 – Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry

15 January 2016 – All other applications



How do you decide which medical school to apply to?

Students in their AS year with good GCSE results, a love of science and a passion for caring for and working with others will be considering making an application to medical school.  I tend to think that the passing of the October 15th UCAS deadline for the A2 students fires the starting gun for those in AS who want to apply the following year.  365 days to make a difference to their applications.  UCAS reported recently that in 2013, for the 7,515 places offered to medical candidates last year, 84,395 applicants applied.  That is roughly a 1:11 ratio.  Competition is fierce.


Is a degree from one place the same as a degree from another?

One important consideration is deciding which medical school to apply to.  But, how important a decision is this actually?  Unlike most other degrees there is a national standard, set by the GMC (General Medical Council) and applied to medical school degrees.  This ensures that as far as possible, all doctors educated in the UK are trained to the same standards (www.gmc-uk.org/education/undergraduate/tomorrows_doctors.asp).  There are obvious reasons why this makes sense, a scenario whereby doctors in the UK are trained differently at different institutions would quickly lead to problems.  However, were you to take almost any other degree you may find that your degree from one university is quite different to that you may have received at another – depending on the specialisms of the professors, location, resources and many other factors.  A good example would be in biology, where many universities close to the coast will emphasise marine biology and ecology for obvious reasons whereas this is less practical in other places.


What type of candidate are the different schools looking for?

So a degree in medicine is the same wherever you go, right?  Well to an extent, yes, but there are still some important factors to consider.  First of all, your priority when applying is to get in somewhere and different universities emphasise different attributes when it comes to the application process.  Some place the highest regard on academic performance; some will only interview candidates with a particular UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test) score; others prefer the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and make it their most important diagnostic; some need you to have secured a minimum number of hours of relevant work experience before you can be considered; for many the interview is key, others don’t even interview every candidate.  It is therefore important to consider your own strengths and attributes, match those to the entrance criteria of the medical schools and apply to those that suit your strengths.  There is no harm in contacting the admissions tutors at the medical schools to have a conversation about what they prefer to see in their applicants.  In fact I recommend that you do this.


Know your competition

Another thing to consider is the competition.  Most would-be doctors have a pragmatic approach to their applications – they don’t mind where they go, they just want to get in and begin training.  However, some universities, rightly or wrongly, attract more applications than others.  Oxford and Cambridge have a certain prestige attached and offer a particular lifestyle that appeals to many.  UCL and Imperial College in London have world-renowned reputations and of course, along with King’s College, Queen Mary’s and St George’s have the attraction of being in London and the lifestyle associated with living in the capital.  This increases the number of applicants and therefore the competition at these places.  It doesn’t make them better medical schools necessarily, but it does mean they can set their bar very high.


How is the course delivered?

Although medical schools are required to meet the GMC standards, they vary in the way they deliver their courses.  You will hear phrases like “problem-based learning,” “clinical training,” “pre-clinical training” and you should make sure you fully understand what they all mean.  At some medical schools you will meet patients “on day one”; at others you may spend a long time studying physiology and anatomy before encountering your first patient or making your first diagnosis.  There are pros and cons to each approach.  Students with strong clinical skills may feel they lack some of the scientific rigour and understanding of their colleagues with stronger scientific backgrounds, who in turn lack some of the communication skills, ability to empathise and other crucial skills essential to become a good doctor.


Where do you want to live?

If you don’t want to live in London don’t apply to UCL!  If you live in Newcastle and don’t want to be far from home, don’t apply to Plymouth University Peninsula! This sounds so obvious, but it is probably the most commonly ignored piece of advice I give to university applicants each year.  People presume that they can sacrifice quality of life for (perceived) quality of degree.  “I hate the idea of living in a big city like London, but UCL/King’s/Imperial has such a good reputation.”  This makes no sense to me.  It takes a long time to qualify as a doctor, that means you will be living in the town or city you choose now for five, six, maybe more, years.  I’m all for taking risks – life is about experiences, any chose you make has an element of risk, but take a calculated risk. Go and visit, explore and picture yourself there.  Decide on the criteria that are important to you and carefully select four universities that match those criteria.  Of course criterion number one is likely to be “can I get in?” but what are numbers two, three and four?



According to the Times Higher Education, A level students are not prepared for results day.
Get ahead of the game and be ready!


If you are an A level student awaiting your results next week you may be starting to feel a little bit nervous. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a very nice, long, well-deserved holiday. Perhaps you’ve been volunteering, perhaps you’ve been working to save for that late-summer holiday or just to put some money in the bank ahead of university. Whatever, you will be all too aware that results day is next Thursday and the thought of this leaves a slight sinking feeling in your stomach.
Whatever your personal circumstances it is important for you to be in control on results day. You can’t control the numbers and letters that are printed on the page next week, but you can control your response to them.  Make sure you are ready and prepared for results day http://wp.me/p4RGIw-k
What to do if:
You get the grades you need to go to the university of your choice
Jump in the air, hug your teacher, phone your mum and generally feel pleased with yourself! Remember to be respectful to others who may not have done as well as you but otherwise, your work is done and you can start thinking about arranging accommodation, student finance, reading lists and other things students need to do.
You got your grades, but you actually have decided you don’t want to go to the university you have chosen
This is a tricky one. You have technically entered into a contract with your firm or insurance choice university and to tell them now that you don’t want to go is not really fair. In theory you should withdraw from the system and reapply next year.  In practice you can always try and negotiate out of your ‘contract’ and get the university to release you into clearing.  But remember this is a big gamble! Because even if you have your eye on another place at another university, for a period you will have nothing at all, so be sure you are sure before going down this route.
I did better than expected
Congratulations! You are in a privileged position. You have got a place at university in the bag, but you also have the option to aim even higher through the UCAS adjustment system http://wp.me/p4RGIw-i
Before you do this, make sure you are doing so for the right reasons. Is the ‘better’ university actually better for you or would you be better sticking with what you’ve got. Take your time, take advice, don’t rush in and don’t be taken in by the ‘more prestigious’ name of the university.
If your offer was CDD and you ended up with ABB – congratulations! You’ve vastly exceed expectations and adjustment is quite possibly for you. If your offer was AAB and you got AAA – again congratulations! Adjustment may still be for you, but think carefully and make an informed decision.
I just missed out on my offer
Hard lines, but don’t panic. The first thing to do is to contact your firm and insurance universities to see if there is anyway they can take you, even for a slightly different course. Be confident, be pragmatic and present yourself on the telephone as if you are in control of the situation. Tell them that you are happy to write a new personal statement or even to come in and visit (if you are). You might get lucky.  Even with lower grades, it is well worth a try.
I missed out by a long way/I’ve tried the step above and I’m in clearing
No problem!  Clearing presents a fantastic opportunity as long as you are efficient, focused and positive. Many students end up with an even better offer than the one they had before results day through the clearing system. http://wp.me/s4RGIw-clearing
I really don’t want to go through clearing/there’s nothing on clearing that appeals to me/I’ve tried clearing but I just don’t want to go somewhere I’m not sure about
Good decision, you now have the opportunity to build your life in a different direction.
Why not take a year out for example? In the grand scheme of things, taking an extra year before university is no great hardship. Starting university just one year older than your peers will hardly be noticeable and it gives you the opportunity to do something you never thought you’d do and that you might never do again. On your year out, sometimes known as a gap-year, you could do one, some or all of these:
  • Retake your A levels
  • Get some work experience
  • Apply to uni again next year
  • Try something other than university – maybe it wasn’t right for you after all
  • Travel (STA can help http://www.statravel.co.uk/gap-year-travel.htm as can many other organisations)
  • Do paid work
  • Volunteer (these people can help http://www.frontier.ac.uk/)
  • Build your CV
  • Read – don’t underestimate the power and enjoyment of being well-read!
  • Get another qualification
  • Explore a hobby or talent more fully, you never know where it might take you



Problems with your results

Schools, colleges, examiners and examination boards can make mistakes with exam results.  Schools and colleges process hundreds of entries, examiners mark thousands of scripts and examination boards process hundreds of thousands of papers every year.  The checking systems are good, but there are bound to be mistakes.

Requesting re-marks
If you think you did much better on a paper than the result you have been given you can REQUEST TO SEE THE SCRIPT and/or ASK FOR A RE-MARK.  If you make a priority script request, within a day or two you will receive a copy of the paper you wrote (with no marking or annotation) to look at, perhaps with a teacher, to decide if you want to request a re-mark.  Or, you can simply ask for a re-mark straight away.
Some things to remember here are:
  1. If your grade changes to the one you want, your uni will honour your place, but as time ticks by, clearing options are being taken up by other candidates
  2. Re-marks can go down as well as up, so its probably only worth it if either you think there has been a really travesty of marking (this happens… although it is rare, for example one year a student had their mark for one essay of 28/30 recorded as 8/30…) or if you are right on the borderline of the upper grade so that it is unlikely your grade will go down
  3. Grades usually only change by 3 or 4 marks if at all, so if you are right on the borderline, it might be worth it, if not, you might want to consider other options
  4. You will have to pay for this service
Not cashed-in
If you can see on your result slip all the individual unit marks for your subjects, but you can’t see the overall grade awarded, you may not have been “cashed-in” for the grade.  This is very easily dealt with by your school and if you have achieved the grades you need you will be accept by your university.  If you haven’t met your requirements, and want to enter clearing, this can be more challenging and you will need to contact all universities and UCAS to be RELEASED INTO CLEARING.  You may need to fax them your results and make lots of phone calls to chase up.
Grades missing
You may notice that for one or more subject, you have an X or a Q or a # next to your result.  This can indicate that some component is missing from the award of your grade.  Sometimes this may be a coursework grade or a paper you sat at a different school or any number of different things.  Speak to someone at your school or college immediately if this is the case.
Mathematical mistakes
You wouldn’t believe it, but it is worth checking that the marks you have been given for each paper add up to the final score you have been given and that the grade awarded is in line with the grade boundaries.  I have known a student be awarded a B rather than the A they deserved, just because the exam board didn’t add up the numbers properly!
For clearing go to the UCAS website – http://www.ucas.com/clearing-service


A level results day can be the most nerve-wracking and most significant day of a young person’s life.  Without exception, A level students who have worked hard for two years to get their qualifications are in equal measure nervous, twitchy, terrified, excited and anxious. Rightly so.  A student’s A level results can shape his or her immediate and long-term futures.
There is almost always something riding on the letter, A*-E, printed alongside each A level subject they have studied over the course of their A level programme.  Usually the thing at stake is a place at university and all the opportunities that are associated with gaining entry into the institution of choice.
Results day therefore is a stressful day, unfortunately things can go wrong, mistakes can be made and problems can arise, all of which add to a the stress-levels.  So, if you are an A level student awaiting your results, about to find out where you will be studying and living for the next three or more years, you need to BE PREPARED FOR RESULTS DAY http://wp.me/p4RGIw-o.
Here are some things you can do to help results day go as smoothly as possible:
  1. Collect your results in person from your school or college
  2. If this it is not possible to collect your results in person, be contactable and in contact with your school or college as early as you can be.  If you are overseas, you might need to operate on UK time for a while to ensure you are ahead of the game.  Note that you may not be able to receive results by telephone.
  3. Be prepared and bring with you – your student ID, your passport, your UCAS ID and your UCAS track login details, a charged mobile phone and, if you have one, a device that can connect to the internet
  4. You may want to have your parents, family or friends around, you may not.  Remember that your results are YOUR results, if you choose to share them that is up to you, but if you’d rather be alone, there is nothing wrong with that.  You are (probably) an adult now – decide for yourself how you want to do this then call other for advice if you need it
  5. Arrive early and don’t make any plans for the rest of the day
What happens after I’ve got my results?
If you get what you need – congratulations! You have nothing further to do and you can celebrate!  Your university of choice will already have your results and your acceptance materials will be on their way to you.
If you don’t get what you need you have to remain calm, focus and don’t panic.  Firstly, make sure that there are no PROBLEMS WITH YOUR RESULTS.  If there are no problems with your results and you have only missed out on your offer very narrowly, you could consider contacting the universities you missed out on to see if they will still take you.  They might.  If they liked your application and they still have places on the course, you might get lucky, alternatively, they might offer you a place on another, related course which could be of interest.  For example, maybe you missed your offer for maths and that course is now full, but the university has places available for maths with statistics.
If you have explored this route or you missed out by a long way, you may want to enter clearing so be prepared for CLEARING by reading here http://wp.me/s4RGIw-clearing  The golden rule of clearing is not to be rushed into a decision.  You probably spent weeks and months considering university options when you made your UCAS application, in clearing you may have only a few hours to decide whether or not to take up a place.  it is really important to remain calm, take advice and ensure you make an informed decision.
For clearing go to the UCAS website – http://www.ucas.com/clearing-service



Adjustment is a relatively new UCAS system that allows you to choose a “better” university if you get better results that you expected in your A levels.

Find out about adjustment from the UCAS website http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/undergraduate/results/better-than-expected and read my advice below:

How does it work?

If you exceed your offer (eg you were offered BBB but you actually get AAA) then you are allowed to speak to universities with higher entry requirements to see if they will take you. They might!


  1. Is the university you have tried to get into through adjustment really “better” than the one you originally applied to and have been offered a place by? What is your definition of “better?” Remember you chose the university that has offered you a place for good reasons!
  2. You only get 5 days to use adjustment from when your offer goes from CF to UF. That is 5 periods of 24 hours. Not 5 working days.
  3. Be careful about making quick decisions – take your time to consider your “new” university. Do your research, visit if you can, think about accommodation for example – accommodation tends to be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. As an adjustment candidate you might find yourself at the back of the queue


1.  You can’t lose the place you’ve been offered so there is no risk in exploring options

2.  Universities have recently been allowed to take effectively an unlimited number of students as long as they can accommodate them and those students meet the minimum entry requirements for the courses they wish to take

Just like if you were using clearing (http://wp.me/s4RGIw-clearing), it is worth remembering the following:

1.  Be in the country on results day – if you can’t be in the country, be available on the telephone and remember to operate on UK time

2.  Collect your results as early as you possibly can

3.  Make sure your phone is charged and you have access to a computer or device that can access the internet

4.  Explore your options, then call the universities you want to apply to and BE CALM.  Have to hand your UCAS ID and get some “verbal offers”

5.  Ask for the name of every person you speak to, especially those who offer you a place, and try to get their direct line and email address

6.  Try to confirm everything in writing by email if you can.  This may mean that you have to make the first move and write an email to the person you spoke to confirming the details of your conversation

7.  If you live near the university you want to go to.  Be prepared to go there if necessary

8.  If you will need a visa to go to university, have your passport with you on results day

9.  Be realistic – you’re unlikely to get into Oxford to study medicine

10.  Be efficient and organised because you will have to move swiftly, but don’t panic.  You will still have some time to explore options and you should take some time to ensure you are making the right choice.

11.  Be prepared to have to answer some “interview” type questions over the phone by re-reading your personal statement

12.   Be prepared to have to write another personal statement especially if the courses you apply for through clearing are different to those you applied for originally

Good luck!