- Mark, an applicant from an International School in Hong Kong, for 2018 entry
Predicted grades are the set of grades which your school believes that you will achieve by the time you graduate. It is normally confirmed by the school counsellor or relevant subject teachers by the beginning of Year 13 (Grade 12), who will subsequently inform the universities via the UCAS application. Predicted grades are important because Universities use this information alongside other indicators of your candidacy to make their offer decisions. As your final exam grades for both IBs and A-levels will not be available until after the UCAS application and offer deadlines, predicted grades are of utmost importance in the admissions process. The offers given out by U.K. universities are mostly conditional on students achieving certain minimum grades in the final exams. However, complications arise from the fact that predicted grades can be significantly different to what students achieve in reality.
Nuances regarding predicted grades
There are a few important things to understand about predicted grades. Firstly, they are more often not an accurate predictor of how students will perform in reality. In fact, recent statistics published by the Independent newspaper in the U.K. (2016) showed that “only a fifth of those predicted to score ABB (at A-levels) actually achieve those grades”, which is 40% less than the figure from six years ago. What we can infer from this is that schools often inflate predicted grades in order to help their students obtain more offers. Secondly, it is also possibly for schools to under-predict, especially for students who are attaining at the B-C levels. Under-predicting will hinder a student’s chances of being accepted into the university of their choice, which means that sometimes in such a case student may need to consider taking a gap year, and re-applying after actual grades are attained.
Implication for universities
The increased over-prediction by schools for its top students has a twofold implication for university admissions: universities now give out more offers per place than ever before, which means that a higher proportion of students than prior years will miss the conditions specified in their offer. In fact, the U.K. government has removed the cap on the number of offers which could be handed out by universities. Furthermore, competitive universities have also started introducing more hurdles and rigorous testing during the admissions process: individualised tests, writing samples, additional personal statements, as universities feel that they can no longer rely on predicted grades as a fair indicator of academic potential.
Implications for students
The important implication for penultimate year students is that predicted grades matter just as much as actual grades in the admissions process. It is the first indication for your academic potential that the university admissions will assess, and if your predicted grades do not match or surpass the minimum grades for the courses you’d like to apply to, then there is a high chance the application will not go beyond the initial screening. Consequently, it would be important to demonstrate your capabilities in mock tests and classroom discussions leading up to the final year. This gives your teachers a fair representation of your true academic potential. Additionally, since AS exams no longer contribute towards A-level results, the predicted grades are more important than ever.
Once universities announce offer decisions, students are expected to submit two choices to UCAS, a firm choice and an insurance choice (in case you miss the conditions for the firm choice). Given the ever increasing tendency for schools to over-predict, it is also important to choose the insurance offer wisely. The insurance choice should ideally contain offer grades which are at least 1 or 2 grades lower than your predicted grades. This means that there is some buffer room if you have a bad exam, and you will value having an insurance option in place should there be unforeseeable circumstances.
Overall, our advice for students is to be aware of the importance of predicted grades in the lead up to the final year, and to get into gear for performing well in mocks and school tests as early as possible. Finally, keep up the academic momentum once the conditional offers come through, as you will need to meet the offered grades. For students who were severely under-predicted, the gap year and re-application route could be worth considering, as it could serve both as meaningful work experience, and give you a second shot for your dream academic institutions.