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Ultimate Guide – Choosing the Right Subjects for Medical School

5 minute read

 

What A-Levels should I choose?

GCSE’s, or their equivalents, are coming to an end and it’s time to start thinking about what three subjects you’d like to take to A-Level. Each Medical School has their own individual breakdown of what three subjects they require at A-Level or equivalent, to get this in detail check our ultimate guide on “What Grades do I need to get into Medical School?”. All individual subject requirements can be found there.

What subjects are commonly requested?

Typically, Medical Schools require two science or mathematics subjects. Science subjects being Biology/Human Biology, Chemistry, Physics and sometimes Psychology. Mathematics subjects being Maths or Further Maths. Most Medical Schools specifically request applicants to have Chemistry and Biology amongst their science subjects and some request Chemistry or Biology amongst their science subjects.

For most Medical Schools apart from Oxbridge, the third subject can be anything considered “academically rigorous” instead of being a specific subject. Note; some Cambridge and Oxford Colleges do require the third subject to be either Science or Mathematics. Contrasting with Brighton and Sussex Medical school who actively encourage the third subject to be a humanities or arts subject in order to “broaden academic horizons.”

Finally, there are a list of subjects which Medical Schools will disregard, these subjects are not deemed academically rigorous enough to form a part of any offer. General Studies and Critical Thinking are almost always disregarded by Medical Schools so will not provide any advantage in the academic part of your application. Other “non-standard” subjects including Citizenship and Global Perspectives are sometimes disregarded. Regarding “non-standard” subjects, some Medical Schools recommend contacting the admissions office beforehand to confirm whether or not they are acceptable.

How should I choose my third subject?

Choose something you’re interested in. You may have heard that Medical Schools only accept applicants with 3 science and mathematics A-Levels. This is untrue. When choosing your third subject make sure it’s something, you’ll be able to stay motivated with and interested in for two years.

Of course, if you’re wanting to go to Oxbridge, all your subjects should be a combination of Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Physics to keep all colleges open to you in application. If Oxbridge isn’t for you, then there’s plenty of choice! To guarantee the subject is “academically rigorous” enough to meet requirements of most medical schools, taking a facilitating subject is recommended.  Facilitating subjects are: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, English Literature, Geography, History, Modern and Classical Languages. Non-facilitating subjects such as Religious Studies, Psychology and English Language are also acceptable.

Do I need a fourth A-Level?

Generally, no. Fourth subjects are not required and will not boost the academic section of your application. If there’s a subject you’re passionate about and you feel that by taking it, it’ll improve your performance at interview by giving you something extra to talk about then go for it! Fourth subjects can be valuable for this purpose as you could discuss how you required good time management skills and work ethic to accomplish the extra work load.

Don’t feel any pressure to take on the additional workload, it won’t add much to your application. I didn’t take a fourth subject and know very few Medical Students in my year who did. Just to provide some first-hand experience to dispel the myth that a fourth subject is needed!

Summary of the essential A-Level subjects to study Medicine

  • All medical schools require at least two Science (Chemistry, Biology and Physics) and Mathematics (Maths and Further Maths) subjects.
  • Certain Oxbridge Colleges require three Science and Mathematics subjects
  • Taking Chemistry and Biology will keep most Medical Schools open to you
  • Most Medical Schools accept applicants with a wide range of third subjects as long as they are “academically rigorous” so choose something that interests you!

Alternative qualifications to A-Levels

Universities list individual requirements for Scottish Higher’s and the International Baccalaureate. The requirements vary more from medical school to Medical School than the requirements for A-Level subjects but there are some general rules. The Welsh Baccalaureate is not as widely accepted. However, Cardiff amongst a few other Medical Schools will accept it in place of a third A-Level. It is best to speak to the Medical School you want to apply to in order to clarify their position on this.

Alternative qualifications:  Scottish Higher’s

  • Most Medical Schools require two or three science and mathematics subjects (usually including Chemistry and/or Biology) to be studied at Advanced Higher Level
  • With 5-6 academic subjects to be studied at Standard Higher Level.

Alternative qualifications: International Baccalaureate

  • Three science or mathematics subjects at Higher Level (usually including Chemistry and/or Biology)
  • The remainder of points (usually 32-36 points minimum) can be from Standard Level qualifications in academic subjects.

 

 

Author: Cameron Elsworth

Author: Cameron Elsworth

Manchester Medical School

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