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Does DC really need A grades at A'level to study at a good uni?

(79 Posts)
Helpuschoose Tue 28-Oct-14 11:37:56

Totally new to this uni application lark as eldest DC has just started Yr 12 and it's a million years long time since DH and I went to uni. So this is all very confusing.
DC has no idea what to study or where at the moment ("Ffs leave me alone Mum. I've only just finished GCSEs and I've got a party to be at") but is likely to end up doing some kind of humanities degree. I did a quick random trawl through various uni's admission requirements for some standard degrees, English, history, economics, geography etc and was shocked to see that standard offers seem to require at least 1 and sometimes 3 A's at A2. DC is targeted to achieve B's at AS and that's assuming she achieves her highest scores. By the way she thinks these predictions are teachers' kidology but that is a whole different issue!

So here's my question I suppose. Is it no longer possible to go to a "good" uni to do a standard subject with B's at A level. And by "good" I suppose I mean a place that was a uni in the 1980's ie not a former poly and by 'standard subject' I mean History, geography, English etc not law or medicine or something very competitive.

Please don't flame me on my definitions. Of course former polys are good, but I'm just trying to establish a yardstick and manage my DCs expectations.

dapoxen Tue 28-Oct-14 11:58:32

The inflation in the A-level grades required by 'good' universities is partly a consquence of the larger numbers of students getting high grades.

In the early 1990s, according to this ~70, 000 students took A-levels and roughly equal percentages (~18%), got each of the five pass grades, or failed (N or U). Since then the overall number of student has increased by ~10, 000 and the grade distribution has changed significantly: 8% get A*, 18% A, 26% B, 24% C, 15% D, 6% E and only 2% fail.

The drop in the fraction of low grades and fails is probably, at least partly, due to league tables and schools not entering candidates who are likely to do badly. However the bottom line is that there are now at lot more students getting high grades at A-level.

The other issue is that in some subjects (I don't know whether or not this is the case for humanities) offers are set high as a marketing strategy. And students who miss their offer are often still accepted.

So in summary:
i) A B isn't as good a grade as it used to be.
ii) Get some subject specific advice about what grades are actually accepted for the courses she's interested in.

IrianofWay Tue 28-Oct-14 12:02:35

Define 'good'. My DD is likely to be going to a university that I am sure wouldn't be classed as 'good' in the traditional sense because she wants to do a course that very few places offer. She is (fingers crossed) likely to get As at A level.

jeanne16 Tue 28-Oct-14 12:09:41

Unis get extra government funding for students with ABB. So I would suggest this is the minimum grades to get into a reasonable Uni, such as Leeds or Newcastle. They may ask for AAA but will probably take students for a Humanities degree with ABB. Quite frankly, they now 'pile them up' in the lecture theatres. It is a bit different for science and engineering degrees as lab space restricts numbers.

This does then lead onto the question 'are such degrees worth doing?', but that is another matter.

TheAwfulDaughter Tue 28-Oct-14 12:13:23

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ISingSoprano Tue 28-Oct-14 12:14:07

The short answer is 'no' they don't necessarily need a string of A grades. However there are a lot of 'it depends' involved.

titchy Tue 28-Oct-14 12:21:48

No extra funding for ABB students! No limit on the numbers of students universities can recruit from next year. BBB likely to be ok for humanities at less prestigious, but still not ex-poly, institutions, but slip up in one grade and your dc may have difficulty, so think of BBB as an absolute minimum.

This is only to give you a ball park - the requirements may well be higher for some courses at some institutions - English and History are pretty popular and universities are likely to have a lot of good quality applicants to pick from. A slightly less popular course may well be easier to get into.

Hairtodaygonetomorrow Tue 28-Oct-14 12:22:07

ABB is the magic grade that means you don't cost them anything if they over-recruit, so that definitely opens up your options.

You certainly can go to a decent uni with say BBB but it would have to be on a rather unsubscribed course, the better unis are demanding AAA or higher for say Psychology which is often over-subscribed.

I wouldn't get hung up on this though, there are some great courses out there at good places with B's, A's give you more options but given that 50% go on to HE/FE clearly there are a lot of students who are not all top grade but do just fine.

I would also say be careful which subjects you choose, if they are weaker/non-facilitating subjects, then A's aren't well regarded anyway.

Takver Tue 28-Oct-14 12:28:28

Not helpful at all, but a friend's DS is looking at unis, and I was shocked at the fact that being predicted 3 x As was 'bad' in his terms and would cut out a lot of his preferred options (not oxbridge / Imperial, either). He's currently trying to up his game to get at least one a* predicted shock .

It's a hell of a change from my day!

TheAwfulDaughter Tue 28-Oct-14 12:29:49

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WhereTheWildlingsAre Tue 28-Oct-14 12:33:28

If you want some sort of idea of how things have changed, try looking to the university you went to and the course you did and see what the entrance requirements are now.

lljkk Tue 28-Oct-14 18:45:12

History degree at a "good" Uni (OP's def) where avg offer = 340 UCAS points, well under 2xB + 1xC @ A-levels.

Didn't take long 2 find that.

titchy Tue 28-Oct-14 18:52:26

Lljkk you might want to double check your maths - 340 points is AAB!

LynetteScavo Tue 28-Oct-14 18:57:22

So what would a kid with CCC do?

MillyMollyMama Tue 28-Oct-14 19:09:50

What good (top 30) university offers on UCAS points? Not one I ever looked at!

Many Arts courses at the most sought afgter universities, (History, Economics, Geography, English etc), are over subscribed, hence the universities can ask for AAA and they will get students with these grades. If they do not ask for AAA, the course will be languages, Sociology, Arch and Anth or something like that. A few universitiees will blur the edges occasionally if they happen to have a dip in successful candidates in a particular year, but do not bank on it. Language courses can be pretty flexible on the non-language grades for example. BBB is likely to get you into an old Polytechnic and there are somegood degrees out there.

Is CCC really university material? Would another route be better, eg HND?

lljkk Tue 28-Oct-14 19:13:51

oh fair enough, Titchy, I probably need remedial lessons in reading UCAS tariff. I got it in my head that BB = 150 pts from this table (AS+A). I thought BBC as final grades would be 150+150+120 = 420. So what is a single B on that table, or a single C?

titchy Tue 28-Oct-14 19:24:56

A level grade B is 100 points, grade A 120 points etc. AS grades that don't make up half the A level are worth half the above. You can't use AS points if they are contributing to the A level.

titchy Tue 28-Oct-14 19:31:45

Mmm - lljkk linked to one - Lancaster. 11th. Unusual to state an offer in terms of points admittedly, but it does state from best three A levels so clear it only considers academic quals.

lljkk Tue 28-Oct-14 19:32:52

When does one ever refer to the column that says "A-level with additional AS (9 units)"?

And in that case, if OP's DS gets BBB + B at AS level, they would have 100+100+100+50 points? = 350, which is over the 340 I put in my first post on this thread?

lljkk Tue 28-Oct-14 19:34:15

Sorry, I didn't ask that clearly, I meant
3x B as final A-levels, plus a B at AS-level in some other subject. Would that be 350 points?

titchy Tue 28-Oct-14 19:35:58

Lljkk your link states the points to come from best three, not best three plus an AS!

9 unit A levels do exist, but they're not that common.

Anthracite Tue 28-Oct-14 19:38:52

Have a look at They seem to be very realistic about offer grades.

As for degrees at "good" universities, it's not unusual to see AAA - ABB. A few even ask for A*AA. I think if you go below these grades, you are more likely to see universities asking for points.

boys3 Tue 28-Oct-14 19:41:33

lljkk it would, but if Uni want to 340 from the 3 best A levels then BBB would fall short of the requirement, as its only 300 pts. A*A*D would meet the requirement (140+140+60), although would be interesting to know if that would be accepted if the D was in the subject to be studied at Uni.

TheAwfulDaughter Tue 28-Oct-14 20:05:33

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Mumzy Tue 28-Oct-14 21:42:14

Interestingly i looked up the requirements to study my science degree subject at my old RG university. It is now AAB-AAA. In my day (1987) the typical requirement was BBC -BBB.

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