UCAS Presentation Sept 2013

UCAS International Advisers
Conference 2013
Updates and Important Reminders for
Guidance Counsellors
Presented by: Kate Whalley, Friday 13th September 2013
Admissions Tests
Admissions Tests –
Important General Information for Students
• All types of test are based on a range of material – older
information (from 1st or 2nd year) is often touched upon in
a different way so that they must recall it and critically
apply it in a logical way
• Unlike other tests it is possible to lose marks by writing
too much (and not enough) – if the instructions say “15
lines” they mean 15 lines – no more, no less. Writing too
little or too much will result in marks being deducted.
Medical Tests – BMAT & UKCAT
• BMAT: Looks for scientific knowledge as these uni’s have
more theoretical academic-based courses where
students have 3 years of foundational study before
hospital placement.
Oxford – top 20% of those called for interview are based
solely on their BMAT results.
• UKCAT: Focuses on problem-solving and situational
judgement, so courses tend to be based on more
experiential practically-based learning
Learning style of student should be taken into account
Law Test – LNAT
Questions are based on long piece of text – the main
issues affecting students are:
Time management – practice under timed conditions to
avoid running out of time
Going on a rant - topics for essays tend to be
provocative; students should avoid ones they feel
strongly about so that they can concentrate on
presenting both sides of the argument and come to a
logical conclusion towards the end of their essay
Marking scheme is misunderstood – students need to
look at the marking scheme online when they are
researching the past papers
Foreign Language Tests
Oxford and Cambridge:
Language knowledge and aptitude is tested;
For grammar – if they already study the language
they are applying for, this is the language that is
tested; if they are applying to study a new
language, the grammar test is based on a madeup language that they must try to figure out so
they can answer questions on it
Maths / History / English
• Maths – STEP: even if they do not have to sit this for
their chosen college, they should make themselves
familiar with this test to prepare for interviews
• History – HAT: As well as an essay question there is a
source comparison test between primary and secondary
sources that they will not have studied in the course of
their school work
• English – ELAT: Comparative literature based on a
theme – the literature is given to them and they must not
introduce any material even if it is directly relevant to
what they are discussing
Applying to Medicine
Applying to Medicine
Too many applicants, too little places – esp for international
and EU students
Students must demonstrate their knowledge and
• Relevant work experience / volunteering (2/3 months)
• Critical reading and discussion of subject
• Further research into the role of the doctor
• Keep up with current affairs / NHS
• Different approaches to teaching of medicine in the
universities they have applied for
Applying to Oxbridge
Oxford and Cambridge Applications
Applying to Oxbridge
• Overseas students make up 25% of undergraduate and
75% of postgraduate students; no quotas are set apart
from medicine – Oxford = 14 places / Cambridge = 11
• Workload – many students are not prepared for the
amount of work needed: approx 45+ hours per week
expected (outside of class time)
• Individual colleges within the university should be
selected based on location and facilities – choosing one
(or not choosing any) does not affect the application.
They may be asked about their choice in an interview.
Students should research each college using unofficial
prospectus produced by the students of each college
Oxbridge Selection Criteria
1. Academic Ability – predicted
results/test results/references/personal
2. Academic Interest in the Course –
references/personal statement/interview
3. Personal Qualities (related to their
potential to succeed) –
references/personal statement/interview
Academic Ability & Interest
Predicted Results: Oxbridge often wait for results to make
offers (if everything else looks promising) but if predicted
results are low in the subjects they are expected to excel
in the student will probably be well down their list in
terms of offers
Test Results: Students need to be very familiar with past
papers marking schemes in advance; practice timings,
etc. Sit tests as early as possible to allow time for results
to be gathered
References: Give context for student in terms of their class
– are they the best? They need to know how the student
is performing in the subjects they are expected to excel
in; no need to discuss personal matters unless it relates
directly to the students application
Personal Statements for Oxbridge
Different criteria for Oxbridge – they expect 80% of statement to be
focused on academic ability and interest; 20% on extra curricular
and personal info that is directly related to their application
What they need to include:
• Why they want to study at Oxford/Cambridge (know the specifics of
the course content and teaching methodologies)
• What they have done in school that makes them want to do this
• Demonstration of their commitment – what have they done to further
interest, especially job experience/work shadowing/volunteering
• Research into chosen course – they should cite 2-3 texts they have
used to further their knowledge and be able to show that they have
critically engaged with the texts (expect this to come up in the
Interviews at Oxbridge
• By the time that students are called for interview they have a 1 in 3
chance of getting a place
• Students should expect 2 to 3 interviews of up to 3 hours duration
• Interviews are now often conducted by Skype or telephone if
• For most courses the interview is used to identify a genuine desire
to do the chosen course, rather than an interest in a particular
• Students need to research a great deal before interviews – as well
as course content they should also look at essential and preferred
subjects for their chosen course; expect to be questioned thoroughly
if you had the choice to do a preferred subject and didn’t!
• Expect lots of academically-focused questions based on course they
are applying for – they look for ability as well as suitability
• Good logical flexible thinkers are very important – even if students
don’t get the right answer they need to show that they can work
through problems logically; don’t just revise material from the last
two years in school
Understanding Fee Status
Fee Status
• For most of our students this will be relatively straightforward – they
will be classified as “Home/EU” not “International”
• Note – this relates to Fee Status only – not loans. EU student loans
in the UK apply to tuition fees only; only Home students can apply in
the UK for cost of living loans
• Meeting Scholarship criteria also depends on Fee Status
• Some government funded courses (NHS) are only available to
Home or EU students
• Some accommodation only available to certain Fee Status students
(or priority is given to International students, then EU, then Home)
• There may be increased competition for some courses based on the
students Fee Status (ie. government cap on Medicine courses)
• Some universities practice Student Number Control: From 2013 they
will have fixed numbers for EU students; unlimited numbers for high
achieiving Home students, and limited numbers for Home students
under ABB
• Recommended to check guidelines for each university as all have
different rules and selection criteria
Fee Status –
What Students Need to Remember:
• Decisions as to whether students are EU or International may differ
between universities – take care when accepting conditional offers
as the fees for Int students can be more than doubled or tripled that
of EU students
• If there are any problems students should alert universities
immediately via email or registered letter
• Fee status won’t change after enrolment – students sign to confirm
status on enrolment and individual change of circumstances will not
be taken into account (exception – Croatia joining the EU)
• If they are deemed International after a basic assessment, there are
a variety of non-standard fee status issues they will need to address
(and will need to have relevant documentation to support their
Basic Assessment
1. Is the student an EU resident for the past
3 years?
2. Does the student have unlimited leave to
remain a resident in the EU without
Common Non-Standard Fee Status
Documents Required:
• Dual Nationals
• Swiss Nationals
• Refugee or asylum
• Temporary absence
• Evidence of family home
• Current Visa
• Family member’s
• Marriage certs
• Record of travel to and
from home country
More Information
UK Council for International Student Affairs
Contains all relevant information for non-UK students
from Visa info to Fees and Scholarships, information on
accommodation, immigration, working in the UK,
opening bank accounts, registering with a GP, etc.
All universities are members of UKCISA, and they have a
free advice live for members of the public operating for
three hours daily from 1pm to 4pm (Mon to Fri).
Personal Statements
Main Problems with Personal
Vague / Lack of Focus: Admissions are mainly looking for a candidate’s
suitability for a particular course, so vague statements where students don’t
talk about a particular course tend to be rejected
Opposing Courses: Statements that talk about 2 opposing careers like
Medicine and Dentistry are immediately rejected
Lack of Work Experience: WE is ssential for Medicine! 2-3 months work
experience must be described in order to meet criteria and is vitally
important due to the restriction on places for international students
Similarity Detection: If plagiarism is detected the application is rejected and
the student is removed from the UCAS cycle for that year. In some cases
they cannot reapply for the same colleges. Ever.
Irrelevant Information: General statements that don’t relate in any way to the
rest of the information given are a waste of space and are more likely to be
rejected. Link everything back to course – not able to do this? Leave it out.
Academic V Personal Information: Statements should be predominantly
academic-related information – more than 40% personal info (even if
directly relevant) will not be viewed favourably
Personal Information
Most universities look for 60:40 Academic:Personal
information in the statement, but the personal info must
still be relevant to the course chosen.
Advise students to follow the ABC Rule for providing
examples of personal information:
A = Activity: What activity did you take part in?
B = Benefit: What transferable skills did you learn?
C = Course: How does this relate to the course you have
applied for?
I am a member of the school chess club.
I play the clarinet in a youth orchestra.
I have developed my problem-solving skills through playing chess for
my school. This requires a lot of concentration and analytical
I am used to working as part of a team as a member of a local youth
orchestra (I play clarinet); cooperating with others to achieve a
finished production, as well as managing my time so that this does
not interfere with my school work.
I believe the ability to work well with others, particularly under pressure
in circumstances where crucial decisions have to be made, is a vital
skill for a doctor; as they must solve problems quickly and
effectively, alone or in collaboration with others, for the ultimate
wellbeing of the patient.
Layout / Structure
• Recommended to use paragraphs – sacrifice some word count to
make it look nice (A5 block of text when sent to Admissions)
• Use headings if paragraph structure allows for it
• No right or wrong way to structure but most find it easier to stick to a
standard intro – main body – conclusion style
• Make the opening very strong
• Ideas for what to include in the main body are in the UCAS
powerpoint presentation
• Underline your commitment and desire to do the course in the
conclusion – many just taper off and don’t finish well
• Expect to do up to 10 drafts of the personal statement – many
international students fall down in this regard as they are often
applying for the UK as a back-up to preferred course in home
• Advise students to avoid gimmicks like quotes, jokes, arranging text
into strange shapes!
Main Points to Remember re References
• Put the praise in the reference not in the personal
• The course they have applied for must be mentioned in
the reference
• If the student had relevant work experience this must be
referenced – did this improve their school performance
• Target the subjects that are relevant to the course and
discuss student in terms of the rest of the student body
• Focus on: performance in class/ability to work
alone/excellent research skills/leadership
ability/teamwork/ability to challenge effectively/ ability to
argue a point well not polite/well-mannered/charming etc
Other things to mention…
Illness or disabilities
Illness or death of family members
If students are the sole carer of a family member
Family problems (divorce, unemployment)
Students working part time to support family
(Seek permission to disclose any of the above)
• Any difficulties the student had to overcome in school (eg. having
more than one teacher per subject in senior cycle)
* Also, parental pressures towards certain careers may be noted in a
subtle way which gives a clear message to Admissions without
causing problems if the reference is seen by other parties - “XXX
has always been a solid student who has been supported
unwaveringly by his parents in his pursuit of a career in medicine…”
Predicted Grades
Grades must match or exceed what’s required for the course to be
considered for conditional offers
Students who miss conditional offers due to lower grades than required are
unlikely to secure a place in their top choice courses
Schools must be careful to be as accurate as possible when predicting
Accurate predictions build good reputations and recommendations in
references are more likely to be viewed favourably as a result
Conversely, schools that regularly over-predict to secure places for their
students will be highlighted as a problem and will destroy the credibility of
the school in other matters
UCAS recommend writing a “no-negotiation” policy into the guidance plan to
protect staff who feel pressurised into inflating a student’s predicted grades
– this may seem harsh but it shows a consistency of approach and also
shows that staff decisions are supported
The Wise Advisor
Changes in UCAS
Changes in 2014 and beyond…
• In 2014 there will be a min 1000 character count for the personal
• By 2015 (and hopefully this year) there will be a facility through
UCAS to submit another personal statement when applying for
courses through Extra – this year students are advised to ask the
universities directly if they can submit another personal statement
directly to their Admissions
• UCAS manages applications for 41 private universities and many of
these are classifies as FE not HE – this has many implications so
students should be very careful when considering any of these
colleges / courses
• There are now embedded videos in each section helping students
(and guidance counsellors) along the application path – if they have
already seen them they can be hidden so they aren’t distracting
them during future visits
• Students applying as individuals will now have their independent
referees supplying their predicted grades – there is a box to tick if
they feel they cannot supply any for the candidate
• There will be a more intuitive school name search and
qualifications search; students will also be able to search
for qualifications by country
• A message will now appear along with the disability
question to explain why this is in the form
• Additional information has been added to clarify
information for students who need a Tier 4 Visa to study
in the UK
• Size of field to enter names has been increased
• An email address is now mandatory
• New website has been released – new version of Track
is expected to be released by Dec at the latest
• By Dec it is hoped that students will be able to update
their qualifications via Track
Final Notes
Course First, Career Later
Students need to look
at courses that they
will genuinely love
before considering
their suitability for
future careers.
50% of graduate jobs
advertised in the UK
last year did not
specify a degree
Getting Value from 3rd Level
Robert Willis (University of Edinburgh) gives the following
advice to students researching universities in the UK:
As well as location, suitability and course content, students
should be thinking of the value of their course –
1. What is the contact time with staff?
2. What amount of work will I have to hand in?
3. How quickly is this work turned around?
4. Who is teaching the course and what is their
5. What is the group size – lecture/tutorials?
6. How specific is the content and choice to their needs?
The End!
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