A Level Requirements for Medicine UK

Applying to Medical School  · April 29, 2019 Miss Rebekah Morris

Becky is a Medical Student at Exeter Medical School. She was part of the 2nd place team in the National Student Medical Ethics Debating Competition. She  is a Research Assistant and Interview Coach for theMSAG. Additionally, she is a Co-author for two of theMSAG guidebooks.

Choosing your A-levels or international baccalaureate options can seem like a huge decision. If you wish to do a degree in medicine, the task may seem even trickier with every medical school in the UK asking for a different set of subjects and varying grades. Trying to do your own research can quickly become overwhelming but don’t panic! There’s no simple answer but there are a few key things you should consider when making your A-level choices and in deciding where to apply once you’ve picked your subjects. In this blog post, I’ve outlined the 4 key questions you should be asking yourself when considering which A-levels to take.

a-level-requirements-for-medicine-uk

1. Which subjects are essential?

Whilst it’s true that there is no simple answer for what combination of subjects you should choose, there is some common ground on which subjects most medical schools require. You might naturally first think about Chemistry and Biology and a large proportion of UK medical schools will ask for both so you’re probably thinking along the right lines! 

1a. Do I need Chemistry?

“But Chemistry is so hard - can I just not do it?” In short, you probably should. Nearly every medical school in the UK will require applicants to have studied Chemistry to A2 level. There are however a couple of exceptions to this rule. Even if you don’t take Chemistry at all, all is not lost! Some universities ask for either Chemistry or Biology, plus another science (generally Physics or Maths).

Other schools will allow Psychology as an alternative science subject. See the table below for which Medical schools you could apply to without Chemistry A2. Also check how the recent A-level reforms affect your requirements from the university.

a-levels-needed-for-medicine

1b. What if I don’t study Biology?

It’s also very common for UK medical schools to ask specifically for A-level Biology. Aside from simple requirements though, spare a thought for how the subject may actually help you at medical school. An A-level in Biology will give you a good foundation for understanding human physiology - a key aspect of Medicine. However, like Chemistry there are exceptions with a number of medical schools asking for either Chemistry OR Biology and a number specifying just Chemistry and any other science. The table below also lists UK medical schools which don’t require Biology to A2 level.

Many schools, such as Aberdeen and Manchester, will consider Human Biology instead of Biology so this could be another option. The schools which state this explicitly in their admissions policies are included in the table below but if you are interested in taking Human Biology instead of Biology then it is worth checking what your university requires. 

Medical School Policy on Required Subjects (Universities that don't require both biology and chemistry)

  • Anglia Ruskin - Chemistry or Biology; and one of either Biology, Chemistry, Maths or Physics
  • Aberdeen - Chemistry, and at least one from Biology, Human Biology, Physics or Maths
  • Barts - Chemistry or Biology with at least one other from Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Maths
  • Bristol - Chemistry and either Biology, Physics or Mathematics
  • Buckingham - Chemistry and at least one from Maths or Biology. If Biology is not studied to A level, should have at least a B at GCSE level
  • Cambridge - Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Maths, and Physics
  • Dundee - Chemistry and at least one from Biology, Maths or Physics
  • East Anglia - Biology/Human Biology or Chemistry
  • Edge Hill - Biology and Chemistry
  • Edinburgh - Chemistry and one subject from Biology/Human Biology, Mathematics or Physics
  • Glasgow - Chemistry and at least one from Biology, Maths or Physics.
  • Keele - Chemistry or Biology with at least one other from Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Maths
  • Kent and Medway - Chemistry or Biology and one of Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Physics, and Psychology
  • Leeds - Chemistry or Biology. If Chemistry is not offered then Biology must be offered with either Physics or Maths
  • Leicester - Chemistry or Biology and one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics or Psychology
  • Manchester - Chemistry or Biology/Human Biology and one other science, including Chemistry, Biology/Human Biology, Physics, Maths or Further Maths
  • Newcastle - No biology or Chemistry required for 2020 onwards
  • Norwich Medical School - Biology/Human Biology or Chemistry
  • Nottingham - Biology/Human Biology and Chemistry
  • Oxford - Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Maths or Physics.
  • Plymouth - Biology and one further science from Chemistry, Physics, Maths, and Psychology
  • Queens Belfast - Chemistry plus at least one other from Biology/Human Biology, Mathematics or Physics at A2. If not offered at A2, Biology/Human Biology AS is required.
  • Sheffield - Chemistry or Biology with at least one from Maths, Physics, Biology/Human Biology or Psychology
  • St Andrews - Chemistry and at least one from Biology, Maths, or Physics.
  • St Georges - Chemistry and Biology/Human Biology
  • Sunderland - Biology or Chemistry plus another designated science subject Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths/Further Maths/Statistics
  • University of Central Lancashire - Chemistry and one other science subject

a-levels-needed-for-medicine

What about the third subject?

So we’ve covered the essentials, but what next? What about that remaining subject?

2a. Science or non-science?

One of the commonest dilemmas future medical school applicants face when choosing their A-levels is whether to study three sciences or to choose a non-science subject as their third option. Our advice is to choose what you’re interested in. If you are interested in a subject you’re much more likely to be motivated to get the grade you need. Although no medical schools in the UK require three science subjects, their views on it differ.

At Cambridge for example, each college has a slightly different requirement policies but most colleges prefer three sciences/maths. For example, Christ’s College states: just 2% of applicants have offered only two sciences. Of these, just 8% have been successful in gaining an offer. Of the 98% that have offered three sciences/maths, 31% have received an offer.  
Other medical schools, such as Brighton and Sussex Medical School, encourage applications from students who have taken a non-science subject as their third A-level. 
Essentially, if science is what you really enjoy then a third science A-level subject could be for you, but don’t be put off from choosing a humanities subject.Remember that most medical schools also require additional admissions tests as part of their selection criteria. Sometimes doing three sciences might help, for example, if you are going to sit the BMAT examination, but it is by no means necessary. 

2b. Subjects to avoid

In general, most UK medical schools will not accept General Studies or Critical Thinking as a third A-level so it’s worth avoiding these if you can. Some schools such as UCLan ask for the third subject to be an "Academic subject”. If you’re not sure about whether a particular subject is ‘academic’ enough as a third A-level, we'd recommend checking with the school directly.

3. Should I study a fourth a-level?

If you’re looking to study medicine in the future it’s likely that you are an overachiever. Many future medicine applicants are tempted to carry on four subjects to A2 level. There are no medical schools that require 4 subjects at A2 but there are medical schools that may consider your application to be stronger if you have taken four subjects at A2, though these are rare. 

As a general rule, it’s much better to focus on achieving the grades you need in three subjects. If you do decide to study four you will have less time to dedicate to each subject and this may impact your results. Three excellent A-levels will stand you in better stead than four good ones, as dropping just one grade might drastically limit your options of where you can apply.

4. What grades do I need?

With entry to medical school in the UK remaining highly competitive, top A-level grades are important. Typical offers vary between medical schools with some such as Cambridge expecting applicants to achieve A*A*A and some such as Aston, Buckingham, and UCLan allowing entry with AAB. With these high-grade requirements in mind, it’s a good idea to think about where your strengths lie when selecting your options.

Even if you don’t make the grades the first time round, all is not lost. Many medical schools will still accept applicants who have had to retake their A-levels, though may ask for higher grades from re-sitters. Check out our blog on the medicine resit policy for advice on where to apply and how to get in. 

Summary

Make sure to check the medical school entry requirements before making any decisions and ensure that you choose based on not only what you'll do well in, but also what you're interested in. 

We hope this information on A-level requirements for medicine useful. If you have any questions or would like more information, email us at hello@theMSAG.com.

Disclaimer: All the information above was verified via the university websites in April 2019 and predominately relates to the undergraduate courses. Please note that the information is subject to change and you are advised to confirm before applying.





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