University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Ellie Campbell

by Ellie Campbell

Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Access Officer (UK) at Keele University

posted on 22 Feb '24

A guide to university entry qualifications

As you help your young person make decisions about their future, it can be difficult ensuring that the qualifications they choose are accepted for entry to university. Here is some guidance on the typical qualifications (but there are others that universities may accept too).

A Levels

A Levels are the most popular qualification to study in the UK. There are currently 85 different subject areas. A Levels follow the format of learning content in a classroom setting for two years and sitting exams at the end of Year 13. Results are expressed in grades with A* as the highest and E as the lowest.


BTECs (British Technology and Education Council) are work-related qualifications which include classroom-based learning and are completed over the course of two years. Currently, there are over 2,000 different BTEC course options that span 16 sectors. There are three levels of a BTEC qualification: a BTEC Extended Diploma, equivalent to three A-Levels; a BTEC Diploma, equivalent to two A Levels; and a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma, equivalent to one A level. BTECs are graded on a scale from Distinction* to Pass.

T Levels

T Levels are new technical qualifications that are equivalent to three A Levels. T Levels were introduced in September 2020 and currently offer 16 different courses, with a target of 24 available to study by September 2024.

As part of a T Level qualification, students study in the classroom approximately 80% of the time and spend the remaining 20% on an industry placement, allowing them to gain insight into a career they may be interested in. Students are assessed using a variety of different methods. T Levels are graded in four tiers: Distinction*, Distinction, Merit and Pass. 134 universities accept T Levels for entry as of 1 February 2023.

International Baccalaureate

Students study six different subjects, three of which must be studied at ‘higher level’ and the other three at ‘standard level’. The IB, as it is also known, is graded on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the highest. Scores are then added together and used for entry to university. It has ‘Core’ requirements which require students to study Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS). This core allows students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, explore an area of their choice in detail and integrate their passions outside the classroom into their diploma. They can achieve up to three additional points for these core areas.

"If a student is unsure about whether a university will accept a qualification, they can receive tailored advice by contacting them through their enquiries or admissions service."

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