Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Get a taste of university life with free courses from FutureLearn

Kathryn Skelton is Head of Strategy and Insight at Here, she explains how courses on FutureLearn can help you choose the right degree and get ready for university.

When you’re at school, it can be tough to get your head around what university will be like as well as understanding the wealth of different degrees available and the careers they could lead to. Taking a course with FutureLearn - a website that offers short, free online courses from top UK and international universities - can help with both these problems.

You’ve done your UCAS application. Now what?
If you’ve already completed your UCAS application, there are three things you could do next: 

1. Get ready for interviews
“Why do you want to study with us?” That’s just one of the questions you’re likely to be asked at a university interview, and you’d be surprised at how many people it will trip up. Being prepared and understanding what universities are looking for in their applicants will help you to make a great impression. The University of Sheffield’s How to Succeed at: Interviews has all the advice you’ll need.

2. Learn to think critically
Critical thinking is an essential skill and one you’ll have to demonstrate when you start your course. In a nutshell, it means creating an argument by weighing up and using the data and information available to you. The University of East Anglia’s Preparing for Uni course will help you develop key skills like this one. 

3. Improve your English
If you’re coming to study in the UK from overseas, you’ll need to learn to write using academic English. There are some features to this style of writing that you might not have used before, in particular the stages of writing an essay. You can master the basics in A Beginner's Guide to Writing in English for University Study from the University of Reading.

Not sure what you want to do?
If you’re still choosing which degree to do, our courses can offer a taste of what studying and working in a field will be like – beyond the traditional subjects you’ll have experienced at school.

For example, you could find out what working in filmmaking, nursing, forensic science or overseas aid is like; explore areas such as mobile app development or cultural studies; or understand complex maths required for careers in engineering and science.

Talk about courses in your interview or application
Because our courses are developed by universities, you’ll get a real sense of what university-level study is like, and find out answers to questions such as: what materials will I be using at university, and what sort of work will I be doing?

Many of our university partners say that completing a course is evidence that applicants are interested in the subject and can learn successfully on their own. So, once you complete a FutureLearn course, use it to demonstrate your commitment and skills when you come to write your UCAS personal statement or attend an interview. 

To see all of the courses we have coming up, visit Or to find out how other sixth formers are using FutureLearn, read about the students of Buller’s Wood School.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Behind the scenes of Uni Leap

In 2014 we launched our first ever mobile game, Uni Leap (if you haven’t already played it you can download it for free for Android devices here and iOS here). The object is to jump your way through the levels to reach the end goal – university. But there are plenty of hazards to avoid along the way.

Lots of development and illustration work took place behind the scenes to get Uni Leap off the ground, and with thousands of new mobile apps and games being launched every day, there’s an incredible amount of this work going on! This got us thinking about the different careers in the world of mobile apps, so we caught up with Rory and Keiron from Koko, the agency that developed Uni Leap, to find out how they came to work on projects like ours.

Rory, Multimedia Developer

1. What is your job title and what does it involve?
I’m a multimedia developer – that means I get involved in the development of projects of all kinds from websites to mobile apps and games. I code in languages such as AS3, JavaScript and HTML5 and I am constantly expanding my knowledge of these languages. 

2. How did you get to where you are now? 
Before I finished school I had a part-time job at Koko, albeit my main role was making brews! But from there I was always interested in what was going on in the studio and I started to try and make websites and games in my own time. Since then I’ve proved myself a worthy programmer and have worked on some cool projects for big brands and KoKo has helped me build my skill set. 

3. When did you become interested in games development?
I had always been interested in playing games, but never really considered that I could be making them! Once I started testing the games at KoKo I started to get really interested in understanding how they were developed and wanted to have a try myself.

4. What’s the best part of your job?
That feeling of satisfaction when I fix a bug that I’ve spent hours (sometimes days) trying to find. Also knowing that something I helped create will be played by lots of people from around the world.

5. What advice do you have for anyone who’s interested in game development?
You should keep a close eye on the industry and the technologies you are using, everything is constantly progressing and it doesn’t take long to fall behind! I never switch off and am constantly thinking of innovative ideas that could be brought into the games I develop.

6. What’s your highest score on Uni Leap?
I don’t know my exact score but I know I spent a long time testing it whilst developing it and I’ve completed all 30 levels!

Keiron, Games Artist

1. What is your job title and what does it involve?
I’m a games artist and that basically involves anything to do with character designs and animations, in-game artwork, and concept art for the games.

2. How did you get to where you are now? 
I studied animation at university. During the final year, the directors at Koko were looking for animators to join them since the company was still rather new at the time. They’d seen my work and took interest, and once I had graduated I had a job waiting for me. I’ve now been with them for seven years and I’ve developed my skills considerably.

As for qualifications, I have a BA Honours degree in Animation – but for art-based jobs there’s a lot of emphasis on your portfolio and having good quality work that you can show to potential employers.

3. When did you become interested in games design?
I’d say from around sixth form, though it was more of a general interest in animation as a whole. I’d always enjoyed animation and how it’s made, but it was around that time that I started to seriously consider a career in it. 

The games development and design industry had also been of interest to me. Games need animators and artists, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to consider that as an option. 

4. What’s the best part of your job?
Getting to see the final product come together, and getting the validation that all the effort that went into it is paying off visually.

5. What advice do you have for anyone who’s interested in game design?
Take an interest in what’s going on in the industry and keep an eye out for cool concept art and animation. Also anything from games, TV shows, cartoons and anime, and various internet artists might trigger an idea or help solve a visual or animation problem you’re having, so keep a wide range of interests to take in a lot of good ideas.

6. What’s your highest score on Uni Leap? 
Honestly? I’m terrible at it! I don’t have any scores to hand, but I’m sure they weren’t that high, ha-ha!


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Professional Skills Test

If you're applying for teacher training programmes you may have seen that some providers ask for professional skills tests as one of the entry requirements. We've answered three of the frequently asked questions we've received about them.

Do I need to take a professional skills test?

To study for a teacher training program in England you need to pass the numeracy and literacy skills tests. Some training providers may require you to complete them before your interview but you need to check this with them. If you’re applying for training programmes in Wales then you’re not required to pass the skills tests.

When can I book a professional skills test?

The booking system has been open since 1 October 2014 and the tests take place from 1 December 2014 onwards. You can book your skills tests through learndirect, but places are on a first-come, first- served basis so it’s worth trying to book a space as soon as possible! You can book a test up to three months in advance.

Who do I contact if I can’t find a suitable booking slot? 

The learndirect helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 16:00. Call them on 0300 303 9613 or email

We’ve got lots of advice about entry requirements on our website.  If you have any questions about the requirements for your chosen training programmes, get in touch with the training providers you're interested in. Be aware that the most competitive programmes may have higher entry requirements.

Want more information about applying for teacher training? Check out our website or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Paying for your application

You can only pay for your UCAS application when every section is marked with a red tick. If you’re applying through your school or college, they’ll be able send us your application after you’ve paid. If you’re applying independently then you can hit ‘pay/send’ straight away once your referee has completed their reference. Ross, one of our advisers, explains all in this short video.

If your payment won’t go through…

Make sure you:

  • enter the correct 16 digit number from the front of your payment card.
  • enter the end date and start date, if shown, from the front of your payment card.
  • enter the last 3 digits from the signature strip on the back of your payment card when you’re asked for the CV2 number.
  • have sufficient funds in your account to pay for the application – it’s £12 if you’re applying for one choice or £23 if you’re applying for multiple choices, or if you’re applying after 30 June.
  • enter the correct issue number as shown on the front of your card. This is usually only necessary if you have a Maestro card. An issue number isn’t needed for most Visa cards.

If you’re applying from outside the UK

Your payment may be failing for a number of reasons:

  • Your bank may think the transaction is fraudulent as it’s being made to a different country. Contact your bank to confirm the payment is genuine.
  • Your payment card may not be registered for online payments – this is a requirement for all payments we accept. If this is the case, or you’re unsure whether your card is registered to make online payments, contact your bank to register your card for either Verified by Visa or MasterCard Securecode (depending on the card you’re using).

If after reading all this advice you’re still having payment problems, contact us to speak to one of our advisers.

Friday, 2 January 2015

15 January FAQs

As the 15 January application deadline approaches, here are some of the top questions we’re answering at the moment:

Q. Why can’t I log into my application?
A. If you can’t log into your application, first of all make sure you’re trying to log into Apply  and not Track by mistake. If you’ve forgotten your username or password, try our ‘Forgotten login?’ link to retrieve or reset your details. If you’re still having trouble then give us a call so one of our advisers can help.

Q. How do I add my qualifications?
A. Before you can add any qualifications you need to add the schools or colleges where you’ve taken them. This video explains everything you need to do.

Q. How should I write my personal statement? 
A. The personal statement may appear daunting at first but try not to panic, we’ve got lots of advice to help! Start by checking out the pointers on our website then take a few moments to watch our personal statement video.

Finally, read this blog post where university staff tell you what they’re looking for, which will give you a better idea on what you should include.

Q. How does the reference section work?
A. There are three ways to request a reference, and the one you’ll use will depend on how you’re applying. Watch our video for a step-by-step guide to what you’ve got to do.

Q. Why can’t I pay and send my application?
A. You can only pay for and send your application when every section of your application is marked with a red tick. If you’re applying through a school or college, they’ll be able to complete a reference and send us your application after you’ve paid for your application. If you’re applying independently then you can pay for and send us your application once your referee has finished your reference. Ross, one of our advisers explains all of this in this video.

Q. What time is the deadline on 15 January?
A. Applications for the majority of courses should arrive at UCAS by 18:00 UK time on 15 January (check your chosen course details in our search tool for the correct deadline). This is to ensure that it gets equal consideration by the unis and colleges you're applying to.

If you’ve got any other questions about your application check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Good luck with your application!