Getting Your GCSE and A-level Grades for Medicine, UK


Last updated: 23/08/2021

In this article, you'll find information about:

Medical school requirements UK

Our article ‘How to get into medical school’ takes you through all the requirements, but in a nutshell:

GCSE students

GCSEs for medical school in the UK

1. GCSE grades needed for medical school

Around half of UK medical schools ask for a Grade 6 in at least one of your GCSEs (this is likely to be maths or science subjects). Around 25% ask at least one Grade 7. 

Consider which universities to apply to based partly on the strength of your GCSEs and how much they take that into consideration.

2. Recommended GCSE subjects for medicine

Most medical schools ask for:

  • Maths
  • English Language (very few ask for English Literature)

Many ask for:

  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

(around ⅔ accept Double Science, but you should check in advance).

An A level student studying in a library

A levels for medical school in the UK

1. A-level requirements for medical school

The typical A-Level grades required for Medicine are AAA, there are exceptions to this. For example, at Oxford the typical A-level grades are A*AA. 

There are also a handful of universities that will accept AAB. If you don’t get the grades, you can try to get in through clearing or try a plan B.

This is a summary of common subject combinations that are required for undergraduate medicine. You can find detailed information for the medical schools below and other medical schools on the Medical Schools Council website.

Chem + Bio/Math/Phys

Chem/Bio + Bio/Chem/Math/Phys

Chem + Bio

No Requirements

Aberdeen

Anglia Ruskin

Aston

Newcastle

Bristol

Keele

Birmingham

Cambridge

Kent and Medway

Cardiff

Edinburgh

Leicester

Edge Hill

Glasgow

Manchester

East Anglia

Liverpool

Barts

Exeter

Oxford

Sheffield

Hull York

Queen's Belfast

Sunderland

Imperial

St Andrews

King's

Lincoln

Nottingham

St George's

University College London

Looking for other options? Consider studying medicine in:

2. Which A-level subjects should I choose for medicine?

Taking biology and chemistry is the common choice for medicine applicants. This is because chemistry is compulsory for most universities, along with a second science subject. 

Most students choose biology because it will aid their studies while in medical school. 

Some students take a non-science subject such as a language or a humanities subject to demonstrate diversity.

There are 5 main factors you should consider when choosing your subjects:

  • University requirements

Make sure you choose subjects that meet the requirements of your preferred medical and dental schools. This usually includes Chemistry and Biology at A Level and Science, Maths and English Language at GCSE.

  • Your interest in the subject

It’s important that you pick subjects that you enjoy, most universities require high grades at GCSE and AAA at A Level. You’re much more likely to do well in a subject you enjoy than one you dislike. 

  • Will it help you get into medical or dental school?

Some subjects are more useful than others as you’ll learn different skills in them. Try to choose subjects that will develop skills that you may be lacking.

For example, A-level Maths is great for developing problem solving skills. This will help you prepare for the UCAT and BMAT

  • Workload

Although most subjects have roughly similar workloads, some subjects are more intense. These will take up more of your time and potentially reduce your scope for extracurricular activities. 

If you already have a subject with a heavy workload e.g. chemistry, it may be wise to choose a slightly less demanding subject in order to balance it out. 

  • Assessment style

It’s important to consider how you’ll be assessed. You can be assessed by coursework, exams or a mixture of both. You need to find what works for you and ideally choose subjects with an assessment style suited to you. 

If your course is exam based, you also need to consider the style of exams. For example, if you don’t like to do extended pieces of writing, avoid subjects that involve essay writing like English or history.

3. Should I take 3 or 4 A-level subjects?

Some students decide to do four A2 subjects with the aim of increasing their chance of getting an A*. However, you need to balance that carefully with the increase in workload that four subjects will bring; this may impact your quality of life and possibly your grades.

For the International Baccalaureate (IB) you will need a minimum of 36 out of 45 points to be considered for entry to medical school. 

For students taking Scottish Highers, five highers at grade A are usually required. However, each medical school varies in their exact requirements (check on their respective websites).

4. Retaking A levels for medicine

A-levels are challenging and sometimes things go wrong on exam day. A-level resits for medicine are common and give you the opportunity to try again and to have a more mature perspective to the application process. Learning about alternative ways to get into medicine can reduce your stress - this isn’t a one-shot thing.

Read ‘Taking a Gap Year’ to get some ideas.

A student working on their EPQ

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

The EPQ is an optional project that is equivalent to an AS subject. 

It is possible to achieve an A* grade for an EPQ. 

The EPQ can be based on any academic topic and students can take an EPQ based on a written dissertation, a hand-made model or even an event such as a charity production. 

To fulfil the criteria of an EPQ, you have to submit a reflection which assesses your progress and your thoughts on what you achieved, as well as requiring you to present the results.

Many universities like the EPQ as it is an opportunity to see how a student delved deeper into a topic. Moreover, it develops the student’s organisational, self-directed learning, and presentation skills. 

Student experience - taking an EPQ before medical school

Sapna – Brighton and Sussex Medical School

‘I did an EPQ in medical ethics. I wrote a dissertation on the topic of ‘capacity’ and how it relates to medicine. I also discussed why it has become increasingly important in an ageing population. 

BSMS was very interested in it. In fact, during the interview we went over what I had done and the interviewers got into a heated discussion with me.’

Medical school acceptance rates UK

Direct Entry Medicine: 2022 is likely to be extremely competitive for medicine as students defer entry from 2021. The acceptance ratio at present is around 1 in 4.

Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM): This depends on the university, read the article to dip deeper. It is generally more competitive than Direct Entry Medicine (i.e. more applicants per place), but the GCSE and A-level requirements are often lower. This means your degree transcript will be more significant.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

1. What are the lowest grade requirements for medical school?

The course with the lowest A-level grade requirements in the UK is Southamptons 6-year widening access programme. There are specific requirements and only 30 places per year, but you only need BBB grades.

A handful of medical universities do accept AAB. 

Note: “lowest grade requirements” does not always mean the least competitive. You also have to consider the UCAT, BMAT, interview, and personal statement. For example, a medical school with lower A-level requirements may have a huge number of applicants, which drives up the competition.

2. Which are the highest and lowest ranking medical schools in the UK?

Check out our medical school rankings article to explore this in detail. 

Generally, Oxford, Cambridge and UCL rank highly in international rankings and Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh rank highly in rankings published from domestic sources.

Note that a low ranking does not mean a medical school is bad - as we discuss in the article. Rankings are generally quite irrelevant to medical schools.

3. Which are the most competitive medical schools in the UK?

The competition ratios were not published in 2021 due to COVID-19. 

According to last year’s report, University of Central Lancashire was the most competitive medical school with a 38:1 applications-to-place ratio. 

Lincoln Medical School and the University of Sunderland had the lowest competition with a 4:1 ratio. 

Remember that different applicants apply to different medical schools, so the ratios don’t always accurately reflect how hard it is to get into a medical school. 

The fact is that every medical school in the UK is very competitive.

Learn how to strategically choose a medical school

4. What are the average grades needed to get into medical school?

If we take the average to be the mode, then AAA is the average grade requirement for medical school; a minority accept AAB.

5. How can I get into medical school with bad grades?

A levels are challenging and sometimes things go wrong on exam day. If you get low A-level results, consider:

A-level resits for medicine are common, so take a gap year and try again - if needed. Remember that you will also need to take the UCAT or BMAT again.

You can do a degree in a field that your A levels allow for and then apply for Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM).

Some universities allow you to do GEM without a science degree. 

For GEM, universities place greater emphasis on the classification of your degree, rather than your A levels. This means that not having science A-Levels won’t necessarily matter.

6. Can you do medicine without any A levels?

Some Medical schools do accept BTECs for Gateway courses, these include:

  • Bristol
  • Hull York
  • Keele

If you have international qualifications, you should check each university's website to see whether your qualification is accepted. 

You can also do access-to-higher education courses. This option is generally for mature applicants who don’t have any A levels. You should check with medical schools directly to see if they accept the access course you're doing.

7. Can I do medicine without science A levels?

  • Apply to Newcastle

Newcastle University has no requirement for science subjects, as long as you aren’t doing the following subjects: 

  • General Studies
  • Use of Mathematics
  • World Development
  • Communication and Culture 
  • Critical Thinking

Newcastle generally requires a high score in the UCAT to be considered for an interview. This means that if you don’t have science A levels, it's essential that you’re well prepared for the UCAT and that you achieve a high score in it.

  • Bridging courses

To meet the medicine requirements, you could do a bridging course over the summer, just before semester one. Within this bridging course you will study the basics of science in a very short time and be expected to achieve a certain score in the course’s examination. We recommend this to be your very last route of choice and to give it a careful consideration.

  • Taking a foundation year

You could apply to a medicine course with a preliminary course. These courses are specifically for students that didn’t take science subjects but got high grades in the A levels they did take. 

8. What is the best A level combination for medical admission?

The best A levels for medicine are Biology and Chemistry. Having these 2 subjects, virtually opens up all UK medical schools to you. You can apply to most medical schools with just chemistry, but it’s likely you’ll need another science subject as well.

9. I speak a foreign language. Should I take an A level in it?

This is a good idea.

Languages show mental agility and a diversity of skills.

However, some universities, like the University of Leicester, ask what languages you are a native speaker of and whether you took a qualification in them. This means that they probably won’t use that qualification in their decision making.

There’s no harm in taking your native tongue as a 4th A Level, but you need to make sure you can balance your workload.

10. Can you do medicine without a Chemistry A level?

You can still do medicine without an A level in Chemistry but your options will be limited. You can apply to: 

  • Anglia Ruskin
  • East Anglia
  • Keele
  • Kent and Medway
  • Lancaster
  • Leeds
  • Leicester
  • Manchester
  • Plymouth
  • Queen Mary
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton
  • Sunderland

11. Do you need a Biology A level to do medicine?

Although an A level in Biology is not necessary, it can be very helpful. It will give you a good foundation for when you start your medical studies. This will make it easier for you to learn the new information as you will already have seen the basics at A level. Additionally, doing biology will open up a lot of other science related courses.

12. Do you need a maths A level for medicine?

An A level in Maths isn’t necessary. However, A level Maths is great for developing problem solving skills. These are essential for the UCAT and BMAT.

13. Should I avoid any A levels?

Avoid A levels in Critical Thinking, General Studies or Citizenship Studies as most medical and dental schools don’t accept them. 

You should also avoid A levels that are very similar and have a lot of subject overlap, like biology and human biology.

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