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Emily Slaine
3rd Year Medical Student at The University of Liverpool
September 21, 2021

A Levels requirements for Medicine

It’s important to choose the right A Levels for Medicine and give yourself the best chance of getting in. Different universities have different requirements, so it’s important to be up to date with these. Do your research and get ahead. It can be a bit overwhelming when deciding on A Levels, particularly after having just completed GCSEs, so I’m here to help.

A Levels for Medicine – summary

  • Biology and/or Chemistry is always one of the requirements
  • Maths can help you with the UCAT preparation
  • Some medical schools accept applicants with results lower than AAA
  • There are some subjects you should avoid
  • Don’t take on 4 A Levels unless you really need to

Best A Levels for Medicine

Something that I did back in 2016 when I was deciding was I made a list of my GCSE subjects and wrote the grades achieved beside them. Some subjects like Biology and Chemistry are pretty standard choices that are often (*see table below) mandatory for medical school. However, with your 3rd and 4th (if you so desire) choices, you have a bit more flexibility.

3rd and 4th choices

Choose something you enjoy, are good at, and that may be helpful for medical school. It doesn’t have to be, but it sure helps. I picked Mathematics because it was one of my favourite subjects, and I thought it matched well with Chemistry. 

Side note, mental arithmetic is important to do well in the UCAT, so choosing mathematics could be a bonus! 

Often students choose a non-science subject for their 3rd or 4th subject choice, for some variety. I would advise choosing subjects that complement each other, e.g. physics and maths or biology and chemistry.

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My own experience

On speaking to my friends in medical school, their A Level choices included: Biology, Chemistry alongside Maths/Religious Studies/Law/Geography. Mine were Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics (AS Level). I applied for the following medical schools with these subjects: the University of Bristol, University of Liverpool, University of Nottingham and Queen’s University Belfast.

Key points

The table attached to this blog may seem a little overwhelming, so I will pick a few key points from it. 

The standard offer for most medical schools at A Level is AAA. However, it may be higher or lower for a few medical schools. Science subjects are expected (Biology and Chemistry usually), as well as Mathematics. 

An important point for the University of Cambridge is “the success rate for students offering three or more Science/Maths A levels has often been higher than for those without”. 

For the University of East Anglia, “applicants taking longer than 2 years will normally be subject to our resit policy and expected to demonstrate a higher level of achievement by achieving an A*, reflecting the longer study period, as per our resit policy”. 

The University of Glasgow “requires Biology to at least AS level, with an A grade”. 

Medical schools with lower A Level requirements (including extenuating criteria)

  • Lancaster university mentions extenuating circumstances: “applicants who fulfil two or more widening participation criteria, may be considered for a contextual offer of ABB”. 
  • Aston University: AAA-AAB at A Level which must include Chemistry and Biology (including passing the practical elements).
  • University of Buckingham: AAB at A level including Chemistry and Biology. BBB at Advanced Highers to include Chemistry and Biology. AAABB at Highers at S5 level with 3.
  • Kent and Medway medical school: AAB including Chemistry or Biology, plus one of Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Psychology or Physics. Excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking.
  • Lancaster University: AAA at A level including two from Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. Applicants who fulfil two or more widening participation criteria may be considered for a contextual offer of ABB.
  • University of Leicester: consider A*AB provided you have an A in Chemistry or Biology.
  • University of Plymouth: A*AA–AAB at A Level to include Biology and one other science from Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Psychology. Please note the AAB offer is influenced by contextual data known at the point of application.
  • University of Sunderland: AAA at A level, completed within two years and including Chemistry or Biology plus a second science. It is likely that a number of applicants achieving AAB in the subjects listed above will also be admitted.
a levels needed for medicine

A Levels for Medicine – what to avoid

For certain medical schools, the following subjects may not be accepted, so better to avoid choosing these: Citizenship Studies, Communication and Culture, Critical Thinking, Further Mathematics, General Studies, Global Perspectives & Research, Use of Maths, World Development. 

Don’t take on 4 A Levels unless you really need to, e.g. for Queen’s University of Belfast. A Levels are an enormous amount of work, so I advise choosing 3 A Levels and putting all of your efforts into them, to ensure you get the best results possible. 

Be careful when choosing mathematics subjects as often only one is accepted, i.e. one of Mathematics, Further Mathematics etc (e.g. in Queen Mary University of London). 

How to prepare while managing other aspects of Medicine application

There are many components during the two years of A Levels when applying for medical school: UCAT, work experience and volunteering, writing a personal statement, the UCAS deadline, interviews and waiting for offers.

It’s important as these numerous deadlines approach to try and keep on top of your work. You may have secured an offer, but it’s not finished there. You still need to achieve your grades! It doesn’t take long to get behind with work. 

A key tip I have is to start early and be organised. Buy a diary and make checklists of what you need to do. Write in all your deadlines and goals to try and keep you on track. Take any mock exams you have seriously, and prepare for them as if they are your real exams. This means that when your actual A level exams roll around, you will be in the best possible position to achieve your grades. 

However, don’t be disheartened by poor grades in your mocks. You will have plenty of time to turn it around for your examinations in May/June. From my own experience, I got a D in my chemistry, which broke my heart. However, I managed to pull it out of the bag and achieve an A* in my actual exams.

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is also key. Applying for Medicine is important, but your mental health is more important. Make sure to take some time out to relax and do something you enjoy. 

Don’t forget about all of your hobbies that you will likely be mentioning as part of the (all-important) personal statement. Easier said than done, but try and relax as much as you can.

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