There is often quite a lot of confusion surrounding what A-Levels you should study if you want to pursue a career in medicine. Most medical schools demand that students take three or four A-Levels and obtain grades of at least AAA. Of course, some people wish to take more subjects, but our advice is, never taking on more than you can manage. If you study an extra subject, it is likely to be at the detriment of your grades, which could prove to be very costly as, ultimately, your grades are more important than the number of subjects studied.
Most universities have similar requirements in terms of the grades to enter their medical schools. They will also have clear stipulations regarding which subjects are essential and which are desirable. Of course, as a leading international school, we always advise our students to pick their top three, for example, choices of university and select their A-Levels based on their requirements. Competition for places at medical school is always high, so you must have the foundations they require and personal attributes.
In this article, we will look at all the factors you should consider to meet the entry requirements.
How many subjects should I study at A-Level?
As we touched upon above, choosing the right amount of A-Levels and the correct subjects to meet the entry requirements of perhaps three universities is your main priority, but this needs to be balanced by not spreading yourself too thin. The top medical schools may demand four A-Levels, but most will require a minimum of AAA, and assuming these are the requirements for your chosen universities, this should be what you should base the number of subjects on. However, there is a school of thought that taking four demonstrates a higher level of academic ability.
Are there any A-Level subjects that are compulsory to study medicine?
All medical schools will require applicants to study A-Level chemistry, with the majority also requiring at least one of maths, physics or biology. You should check with your preferred universities which ones they favour or possibly demand, as this will obviously influence your decision. We would recommend choosing A-Level biology or A-Level human biology as your second choice as medical degrees will assume that you are familiar with many of the concepts covered at A-Level.
If you don’t choose to study biology at A-Level, it may be questioned during your interview whilst also making the start of your medical degree more challenging as you will need to do some wider reading. Naturally, competition for places being high, not selecting biology may put you in a weaker position if the final standings are between you and someone who has studied the subject. Therefore, we would recommend considering carefully if you think it is wise not to study biology at A-Level.
Which subjects should I choose for my third and fourth A-Levels?
In this instance, if we assume that you selected biology or human biology for your second choice subject, you may want to consider physics or maths, although the workload can be quite daunting. Grades are certainly the most critical factor in your third and fourth choices, and arguably, science subjects will not be given preference over anything else. As such, it may be wise to select something that you enjoy and that you are good at. It may also help to ease the stress when studying chemistry and biology.
Which subjects are not appropriate?
Many schools offer General Studies or Critical Thinking as A-Levels, although they are not particularly well respected by universities, especially medical schools. They may be valuable additions to your learning in that what you learn will give you excellent foundations for your course, but they are often not regarded as full A-Levels. If you study further maths and maths, some universities may class them as the same, so it is worth consulting with the university before making your final choices.
Some students will attend college instead of doing A-Levels where they may take BTECs. Some universities will disregard these qualifications, so you should consult the universities website or contact them to be sure.
Admissions tests for medicine
In addition to A-Levels, most universities with medical schools will require candidates to take an admissions test. The most common tests are UCAT, BMAT and GAMSAT, and the admissions teams will use the results in conjunction with A-Levels to judge the strongest candidates. As all universities have the freedom to choose which test they use, you should make sure you know which one you will be sitting, and prepare accordingly.
For example, the UCAT exam covers five sections: Decision Making, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. The scores are from 300 to 900, with the average over the last few years being 660. Uni Admissions will be able to give you more detailed advice on how to prepare.
Where can I get more information about the interviews and exams?
Several organisations, including Uni Admissions, can offer you guidance in preparing for the medical exams and the interview. A lot of the advice is free, but they also offer suitable tuition packages regardless of which university you apply for. The courses are superb for helping to build confidence and easing stress and are generally very flexible. The medicine interview packages considerably increase your likelihood of being accepted on your first choice course. The teams will be happy to discuss individual courses, interviews, exams and your personal concerns.
What else can I do to increase my chances of being accepted?
As with many university courses, demonstrating that you have a diverse range of interests is always beneficial and show that you are more broadminded and capable of using your initiative. Extracurricular activities are a perfect way of doing this, along with out of school activities. Where possible, try to obtain some work experience in the medical field, as this will show the admissions panel that you know what to expect both on your course and when you qualify.