The UCAS reference and predicted grades

This page is part of the Christ's College additional application support for non-UK prospective students.

Your UCAS application must include a reference written by somebody who can comment in detail on your academic ability and potential, and predict grades for any exams that you have not yet taken. We can't consider an application without this.

Who should write the UCAS reference?

The ideal referee is somebody who knows you and your academic profile well. They don't have to be a specialist in the area that you wish to study at university, though they do need some insight into the course you are applying for and our emphasis on academic criteria so that they can comment on relevant skills and achievements. or internationational students, the referee will normally be a teacher or University Counsellor who is able to give a sense of your intellectual ability and capacity, explain where you stand in your current cohort, and comment on the likelihood that you will flourish in a highly academic environment.

In order to comment in detail about your academic ability, achievements and progress, your referee will need to collect information and comments from your various subject teachers. They will also need the information necessary to predict grades in each subject for any exams that you have not yet taken.

Only one reference can be given via UCAS. If you have more than one person who you would like to write a reference, it is best that you ask your UCAS referee to liaise with the second person and include their points in the UCAS reference.

Your reference cannot be written by somebody who is related to you.

Must the reference be in English?

Yes. We are not able to consider references if they are not in English.

If this is particularly difficult, a draft of your reference could be proof-read and/or translated by someone who is a fluent English speaker. The final version in English must be provided in the UCAS application.


What name and contact details should my referee give? 

Your referee should give their own name and contact details. This sounds obvious, but we find that referees are often tempted to give the name and contact details of somebody more senior at the school, such as the headteacher or of a more senior staff member. This this can cause problems and delays if we have a question so we prefer it if the named referee and contact details are those of the person who really wrote your reference.


What information should be included in the reference?

The reference should comment in detail on your academic ability, skills, achievements and commitment relevant to the course you are applying for, and it is helpful if they can back up their comments with specific examples where possible.

Referees should be honest and accurate in their appraisal, but if they believe in you, then they do need to “sell you” to the assessor. This is especially important if you are applying before you have completed school (since the referee’s predictions will be used by universities as a gauge of how well you are likely to do in your exams).

Admissions Tutors do not have access to detailed information about schools outside the UK, so it helps if your referee can provide some educational "context", and details of your work such as

  • the typical overall grade at your school.
  • any academic criteria for entry.
  • Where you rank in your school cohort (e.g. top student out of a class of 20 / in the top four out of 23)
  • Any other relevant rankings (e.g. one of our top 10 university applicants this year)
  • Examples of your willingness to explore and discuss ideas outside of the school syllabus (if you are applying for a course that you already study) or how you have explored the subject (if ou are applying for a subject that you don't already study)

It is also important that referees are aware of your major academic achievements outside school as well as in the classroom. You won’t actually see the UCAS reference, so you won’t have the chance to get big-headed about it...

Further guidance is available on the University website,

We do not assess your character or other interests you may have in unrelated hobbies and activities such as sport, music and drama, so your referee does not need to comment on these.


Predicted grades

Your referee must predict your grades for any exams that you have not yet taken. For international students this includes both

  • An overall grade or average (if one is normall awarded for your qualification)
  • Scores or grades in individual subjects

We realise that many teachers worldwide will not be used to predicting exam grades, how we nonetheless ask that these should be provided - if you have exams that you have not yet taken at the point of application, we cannot consider your application without grade predictions.

You may be aware that we have typical offers (se our entrance requirements). If we select you for a conditional offer, the offer conditions may be tailored to the applicant and may vary by subject. Note that offer conditions are most likely to reflect the demands of the course you are applying for, as well as any areas of concern identified at interview, rather than predicted grades as such.


Contextual Information and Extenuating Circumstances

If you come from a school context associated with weaker academic outcomes, or low levels of progression to university, you should ensure that you or your referee mentions this fact in your reference. 

If your performance in education has been affected by other factors (such as dyslexia, ill health, familial or personal disruption), then it may be appropriate to ask a teacher or doctor to submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form or additional letter on your behalf.

Further resources


Back to the international students applying page.