Historical entry grades: Adviser guide

Our course pages now display both the advertised and actual grades of accepted students to help students understand more about the grades universities and colleges have accepted previously. The entry grades data uses up to five years of historical data (2019– 2023 application cycles).

Understanding historical entry grades data

Applying to university can sometimes seem feel hard to attain, especially for students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds who may feel daunted by entry requirements.

Previously, historical entry grades data was only accessible through the adviser portal, providing insights into student grades upon entry to higher education.

Based on student feedback and 18 months of testing, it's clear that access to this data empowers students to make informed decisions about their future by understanding the actual grades of previous students accepted onto courses. This transparency helps students recognise the flexibility between advertised entry grades and actual results, enabling them to make better choices.

49% of students
are accepted on to university courses with grades lower than the entry requirements. Based on previous research from 2019

How does it work?

Entry grades data is now showcased on course details pages in our search tool. This data shows the historic grade profiles of applicants accepted onto courses, alongside offer rates. Additionally, students can add their own predicted (or actual) grades to personalise the historic information.

Initially, the beta product includes A level and BTEC grades of 18-year-olds in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from the 2019-2023 cycles, as these qualifications are most commonly taken by students. We plan to broaden the range of qualifications included in the future.

88% of students
said the historic entry grades tool will be useful in supporting their decision-making process when selecting a course

Student survey feedback

I was thinking of taking a gap year but this gave me hope.

Student survey feedback

It helps with stress about meeting exact entry requirements.

Student survey feedback

A great system - shows what students achieved rather than just the basic entry requirements.

Student survey feedback

[This tool] would have definitely helped me to consider other courses, which I presumed were closed for me thinking those grades were unattainable.

What data is available?

The entry grades data uses up to five years of historical data (2019– 2023 application cycles) to show information about the grades students held when accepted on to a course – whether they applied during Clearing or at any point in the application cycle. This is historical data so doesn’t show what a university or college will accept this year – but it’s there to give an indication of the grade profiles they previously accepted. 

It currently shows the data for 18-year-old students (or younger) who were holding three UK A levels or three BTEC Extended Diplomas in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We will continue to add more qualifications and consider how we can represent mix grade profiles – so students studying different qualifications can use it too. 

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Executive, UCAS

These measures are designed to empower students who might initially rule out university as an option, due to lack of confidence in their application's success.

The pieces that make up the data

There are four key pieces of information on the feature.

  1. Data explainer

    The first box provides an overview of the data that makes up the entry grades feature – it indicates whether students are looking at UK A level or BTEC Extended Diploma data, whether the data is specific to the course they are interested in, or if it is an aggregation of several courses. If it's an aggregation, it shows how many courses and which types of courses have been aggregated. Finally, students can also see how many cycles the data spans. 
  2. Grade range

    This shows the range of grades held by students who were accepted on to the course for the defined data range. Students can see the highest, lowest, and most common grades to give a feel for the profile of grades students held when they were accepted previously.

    To check the grades needed and admissions criteria for the current application cycle, students can check the entry requirements which sit directly above the tool.

  3. The offer rate

    This shows data relating to the number of applicants who have been offered a place versus the total number of students who applied. It is displayed as '1 in 20' or similar. 
  4. Historical acceptance percentage

    This shows the percentage of applicants accepted onto the course(s) who achieved the grades a user enters. Once grades have been entered, this percentage is visible in the course search grid view. Since the data is based on previous years, it shouldn't be used as an indication of how likely a student is to secure a place on a course now. If we can't display a result, it's because there isn't enough data or the inputted grades are outside the range of historical data. However, in either case, students can still apply for this course. 

Adding grades

  1. Select the qualification 

    To begin with, the entry grades data defaults to A level data. Students need to click the 'Add your grades’ link and select either UK A levels or BTEC Extended Diplomas from the list. We will be looking to add more qualifications in the future. 

  2. Add three grades 
    Students might have more grades, or be studying more qualifications, but our tool is currently based on the most common number of UK A levels or BTEC Extended Diploma qualifications taken. If students are studying more than three A levels or BTEC Extended Diplomas, they should pick their top three grades.

What the historical entry grades data doesn't mean

  • Students will get a place on a course if they have a high percentage in the 'how do you compare' section of the tool
  • Students will get an offer if their grades are the same as the most common grades
  • Students can't apply if their grades are at the lower end of the data

Important things to note

  • We only display individual course data when at least 50 students have been placed on a course. Where this isn't possible, for example, because a course accepts fewer than 50 students, we group the data with that of similar courses to provide an indication of students accepted based on similar courses. If this occurs, we confirm it in the opening sentence on the tool. To make sure we group courses effectively we use the Common Aggregation Hierarchy.
  • We remove the top/bottom 5% of students from our course data before making our calculations on course data. This is to exclude any extraordinary circumstances that we cannot represent within the data. As such the data is based on 90% of the 18 year old student (or younger) population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the relevant qualifications.
  • Providers can make contextual offers to students who have faced any circumstances or challenges that may have impacted education or qualifications. These types of offers are not flagged into the tool but there is a contextual admissions section directly above the tool where a provider may share more on their contextual offer making policies. More on contextual offers
  • The data should not be used for prediction purposes because there are lots of other things considered by admissions teams e.g. interviews, subject requirements, and changing population sizes making courses more competitive. Students should always review the entry requirements before applying, especially if they are a mature student or applying from outside of the UK. 
  • Where universities and colleges accept applications from students outside of UCAS and do not share the data with us, it is not included in our dataset.
  • Students should always check the entry requirements for courses they are applying to.