The Big 4’s entry criteria and your graduate job application

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

All the Big 4 firms have made significant changes to their academic entry requirements in recent years, giving hope to students whose applications in previous years would not have got through initial screening. How will these changes affect your chances of getting employed by EY, Deloitte, KPMG or PwC?

Big 4 firms represented as four pineapples

EY : no applications screened out based on A level or degree grades

EY does not include UCAS and degree classification in its entry criteria, meaning that a 2.2 or disappointing A level grades (lower than three Bs) will not get you automatically rejected from the application process. You do however need a minimum of grade 4/C in GCSE (or equivalent) in English Language and Maths to be eligible to apply. The firm combines your academic results with the scores you obtain during the online assessments (based on studies predicting future success at EY), pointing out that, for example, 'if you have less than 112 UCAS points from your top three A-levels, five Highers or equivalent, you will need to achieve high scores within the online assessments to meet the threshold.'

EY does not require you to have had work experience to apply for a graduate role, and operates a blind CV policy. Candidates’ names and other key details are hidden so that recruiters see only the strengths and future potential of applicants.

PwC : removal of its 2.1 degree requirement

PwC's latest change to its entry criteria is its removal of the 2:1 degree classification requirement for all its undergraduate and graduate roles, internships and placements. The move will allow the employer to attract students from more diverse backgrounds. Ian Elliott, Chief People Officer at PwC, comments: 'Talent and potential are determined by more than academic grades and so removing the 2:1 entry requirement will open our roles to a greater pool of talent.'

PwC's decision echoes its scrapping of the UCAS tariff as an entry criterion for the majority of its graduate schemes some years ago. In placing emphasis on UCAS scores, PwC recruiters felt they were missing out on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not have done well at school. ‘Our decision to remove UCAS points as entry criteria for our graduate roles has led us to hiring graduates from broader social backgrounds than ever before,’ said Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, at the time.

Deloitte and KPMG : more flexibility introduced

Even if you don’t meet KPMG's minimum requirements (120 UCAS points, not including general studies, and on track for a 2.1 degree), the firm is keen to state that your application won’t be automatically rejected. Instead, your skills, strengths and achievements will be assessed against the firm’s global behavioural capabilities. KPMG tells applicants: ‘We look at more than just your academic results. We will review your application, together with your performance in our assessments, to ensure that you have the best opportunity to demonstrate your potential. We will be considering your strengths and achievements alongside a number of other metrics.’

If you didn’t do as well as you’d expected in your exams, make sure you let KPMG’s recruiters know about any extenuating circumstances that affected you.

In general, Deloitte expects 104 UCAS points and a 2.1 degree from applicants to its graduate programmes (GCSE requirements differ depending on programme) but reassures prospective applicants in a similar way: 'If you’re only a few grades short of our requirements, we’d still encourage you to apply... Sometimes we do adjust the requirements based on personal circumstances, so you could still impress us and secure a place on your chosen programme.'

What this means for you

If you achieved a less than stellar degree result or have a low UCAS score, the Big 4 firms’ relaxation of application criteria is clearly a good thing. However, you’ll still need to make sure that during the application process you highlight the aspects of your personal or professional life that demonstrate to recruiters that you’ve got what it takes despite not having achieved high academic results.

But what does this mean if you’re a graduate with a good UCAS score and a 2.1? First, take heart: your academic grades have not become meaningless. As EY’s Maggie Stilwell explains, they are ‘still an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door’. However, it’s undeniable that you will now be competing with a wider pool than you would have previously, so you need to be on the ball. All our great advice for successful applications (beyond your academic grades) is more relevant than ever.

In a nutshell, whatever your academic record, it’s essential that you demonstrate to recruiters that you’ve got the competencies and qualities the firm is looking for, relate any skills you’ve developed during work experience or from your time at university to the role that’s on offer, be your best self at interviews and complete assessments to the best of your ability. Check out the advice in the articles below to find out how to shine above and beyond (or despite) your grades.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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