We explore how applying to medical school from Scotland differs to applying to medical school from England.
Applying to medical school from Scotland can present quite different challenges when compared to applying from England.
Much of the content about entry to university assumes that the reader is English, discussing requirements only in terms of A-levels and GCSEs, rather than also including National 5s and Highers that take place in Scotland.
We understand this can place Scottish applicants at a disadvantage.
In this article we’ll be exploring both English and Scottish teaching systems, how to choose Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland, applying to Oxbridge from Scotland, and the Students Awards Agency Scotland.
As we’ve already mentioned, most of the resources you’ll see online will assume a reader knows the quirks of the English education system. But this is not always the case.
Here’s a breakdown of the English teaching system in contrast to Scotland:
English pupils start in reception (pre-school), then move into Year 1 and continue all the way up until Year 13. In most cases, English students transition to secondary school in Year 7, which is the equivalent of P7 in Scotland. This takes place a year earlier than in Scotland.
English students take their GCSEs after two years of preparation at the end of Year 11 (S4 in Scotland). GCSEs are similar to Scotland’s National 5s, although students study more subjects (between 9 and 12) with some being optional and some compulsory.
After Year 11, the system changes a little more. Whereas in Scotland both S5 and S6 are important exam years, students in England study for 3 or 4 A-levels over the course of Year 12 and 13. Some students opt for the International Baccalaureate (IB), which offers a wider range of subjects.
A-levels sit somewhere in between Highers and Advanced Highers in terms of UCAS points. You can use this calculator to explore the UCAS point values of different qualifications.
As A-levels are taken at the end of Year 13, many students will receive conditional offers for university based on their upcoming results. At the same time, Scottish students receive unconditionals, as they have already sat their Highers.
However, this is often not the case for medicine. Most universities give out offers for Scottish applicants based on Advanced Highers at one band lower than the offers they give to English applicants.
For example, if the A-level requirement was AAA then the Advanced Higher requirement would be BBB. Note that this does not always hold true for Oxford and Cambridge.
A summary of 2024 entry requirements for undergraduate courses at Scottish universities is shown below (UCAT is required for all).