Physics degree entry requirements

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • May 05 2023

The majority of universities require students to satisfy certain requirements before they can be admitted onto their undergraduate or postgraduate physics courses. But what are the typical requirements, and what can you do if you don’t meet them?


Why do universities set academic entry requirements?

Universities set entry requirements for two main reasons: to shortlist applicants, and to ensure students aren’t on a course that’s too difficult for them. First, universities, especially the most prestigious ones, receive hundreds of applications each year. Most universities receive more applicants for a course than they have spaces available, so including entry criteria is a way for them to shortlist applicants faster. 

Second, entry requirements make sure that students have the necessary capabilities for the course. If a student applies for a physics degree, but they didn’t study physics post-16 and their grades aren’t very good, a university will be reluctant to admit them. They don’t have the specialised knowledge for the course, and may struggle with the academic rigour of the course.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate physics courses?

Entry requirements vary depending on the university, and even within universities. However, the most common requirement for a physics degree is AAB in your A-Levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent. Your university will provide you with specific information about their own entry requirements, and your requirements based on your qualifications. 

In addition to this, you’ll also need to have studied Maths and Physics post-16. 

What is a contextual offer?

Some universities will offer certain students a contextual offer, which is lower than the general admission. For example, a university whose requirements are AAB may offer contextual students ABC. Universities recognise that some students have to overcome additional challenges to achieve their grades, such as being in care, having a disability or coming from a low-income family. These students are eligible for contextual offers, providing they can provide proof of their eligibility.

What are the requirements for postgraduate physics courses?

To complete a master’s, you’ll typically need an undergraduate degree in a related subject with a 2:1 or above. To secure a PhD, you’ll also need to fulfil the requirement above, as well as a master’s in a STEM subject.

What do I do if I don’t meet the requirements?

If something happened during your studies that was out of your control, and negatively affected your performance, your university will take this into account. Be sure to mention what happened in your application. Otherwise, make sure you strengthen the rest of your application. Make sure you have a demonstrable interest in physics, and can explain why you are interested in pursuing the specific course you’ve chosen. Universities regard work experience very highly, so try and get some relevant experience.