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How important are your GCSEs when applying to UCL?

Your GCSEs or equivalent qualifications are an important part of the university application process, but they aren’t quite as important as your more recent study e.g. your A levels or BTECs.

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29 March 2021

All courses at UCL require GCSE or equivalent qualification passes in English Language and Maths at grade 5 or higher, and some courses may ask for higher grades in these subjects. You’ll need to check the website for exact requirements for the course you’re interested in. There isn’t an overall minimum number of GCSE or equivalent qualification passes you need, however the more you have at good grades the better! 

Your GCSE grades or equivalent qualifications will be taken into consideration with the rest of your application, i.e. your predicted/achieved grades for your A levels (or equivalent qualifications), your personal statement, and your reference. The admissions team may also look at what grades you have in which GCSE subjects: for example, if you’re applying for Physics at UCL and your GCSE French grade isn’t up to scratch, this won’t make as much of a difference as your GCSE Physics or Maths grade being a bit low. 

GCSE or equivalent qualification results do also help the admissions team whittle down applications to really competitive courses. If, for example, they need to choose between two applications, where predicted grades, personal statement and references are equally good, then the application with the slightly better GCSEs is more likely to receive an offer. 

We understand that there are so many reasons why students might not have done as well in their GCSEs compared with their more recent education. It could be due to a bad illness during year 10 or 11; they may have recently arrived in the country and were getting used to the education system; a loved one may have passed away during the exams; there may have been problems with housing which meant moving around a lot. Whatever the reason, students should make sure their referee mentions this in the university reference: this will allow the admissions team to get a more rounded view of the student’s educational history and understand their potential on the chosen course if offered a place at UCL.