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What exams are needed to study in the UK?

What exams are needed to study in the UK?

by Caroline Hardaker

If you are an international student and want to study for an undergraduate degree at a UK university, one of the first things you should do is check the qualifications you need to apply.

These qualifications – and your grades – will form a huge part of your application. However, they are not the only entry requirements set by UK universities.

In this blog we have taken at look at the typical entry requirements for undergraduate programmes. We have included lots of links to useful resources and advice on how you can find out if the exams you are taking can get you a place on your dream degree.

Why study in the UK?

UK universities are among the best in the world, with a reputation for academic and teaching excellence, modern facilities and world-class research.

A degree from a Russell Group university, like Newcastle University, is respected around the world and can unlock employment opportunities and boost your job prospects.

Studying in the UK also means you will experience the mix of cultures, foods and interests that make up Britain, you will improve your English language skills, and enjoy a great student experience. The cost of living in the UK is reasonable, too – UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) estimates living costs outside London to be £1,050 per month.

And, although there are exceptions, you will complete your undergraduate degree quicker in the UK – normally in just three years.

A UK degree is an investment in your future, so read on to find out more and take that next step in building your future success.

This blog focuses on entry requirements for undergraduate degrees only. Further information about International Pathway Courses at Newcastle University, is available here.

Entry requirements

Depending on the degree course you are applying to, entry requirements can include a mix of qualifications, admissions tests, portfolio work, interviews and auditions. A small number of degrees also require a Certificate of Good Conduct.

1. Qualifications

Every UK university sets its own entry requirements, which means that the qualifications and grades they ask for will differ from one university to another.

The most common qualifications for applying to university are A Levels which are studied by the majority of UK students, but universities also accept a huge range of EU and International qualifications.

Search for the exams you are taking and find out about the qualifications and grades we look for at Newcastle on our undergraduate course pages, or select your country for more information.

2. Admissions test

There are two types of admissions test:

  • university admissions tests for entry to universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge
  • course-related admissions tests

Perhaps the most well-known course-related admissions test is the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) which you must sit if you want to apply for a medical or dental degree programme. However, there are others, so check the entry requirements of your chosen degree carefully.

If you do have to sit an admissions test, you will need to find out the deadline for registering, what the test will involve so you can prepare, and how you will take the test. This could be online or at a test centre in your country.

3. Portfolios

For some degree programmes, such as fine art and architecture for example, you could be asked to submit a portfolio of work. This should be your original work and show your creativity, enthusiasm and commitment to your subject.

After a university has received your application they will ask if they want to see your work, so you don’t need to worry about submitting a portfolio with your UCAS application.

You will be able to submit your portfolio digitally, and if you are successful at this stage, you could be invited for an interview.

4. Interviews and auditions

Interviews and auditions can be carried out online by video conference and allow course tutors to learn more about your passion for the degree programme and your ability. They are also your chance to talk about your learning, your interests, the work that is important to you and what makes you a good candidate.

Depending on the university, the selection process for medical and dental programmes can involve either a normal interview, or a Multiple Mini Interview when you will complete several, timed, short assessments, one after the other.

5. Certificate of Good Conduct 

For some degree programmes involving contact with vulnerable adults or children – such as medicine and dentistry – as an international student you will need to supply a Certificate of Good Conduct from your home country.

This police check should be in English or submitted with a certified translation. You will need to apply in your country or to the relevant embassy in the UK and further information is available here.

English language requirements

As an International student you may need to prove you have a certain level of English Language proficiency.

There are a number of English language tests you can take, with different universities and degree courses asking for different test scores, so you need to check the entry requirements of your preferred university carefully. You will find this information either on the university’s website or in its prospectus.

The most widely used test is the IELTS Academic test (International English Language Testing System) which measures your English skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test uses a scale of zero to nine to score your ability in each skill, as well as giving you an overall mark.

Typically, at Newcastle, you will need an overall score of IELTS 6.5, with at least IELTS 5.5 in each of the four skills elements. However, this can vary depending on the degree programme you are applying to, so remember to check.

We also accept English Language qualifications equivalent to IELTS, and you can find out what these are, here, and in our undergraduate course descriptions.

Where can I get more help?

It might seem like there is a lot to understand about university entry requirements, but don’t worry, there is also a lot of help available, too.

Our undergraduate course pages contain all the information you need about entry requirements for degree programmes at Newcastle University. And if you have a question, or would like some help, you can also contact our dedicated Student Services team, or fill in our online form.

We hope you have found this blog post useful. For further support with your university application, why not download our guide to writing a personal statement? We've featured advice from university staff who read and assess personal statements every year and guidance on how to include the transferable skills you’ve gained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

download your guide to writing a personal statement