3.1 Getting your grades

Which A-level subjects should I choose?

The combination of biology and chemistry seems to be the commonest choice amongst applicants. This is because chemistry is compulsory for most universities along with a second science subject/ Most choose biology because it will benefit your studies in medical school. Some students take a non-science subject such as a language or humanities subject demonstrating diversity.

Should I take 3 or 4 A-level subjects?

Some students decide to do 4 A2 subjects as it can give them a greater chance of getting an A*. However you need to balance that carefully with the increase in workloads too, which could impact on your quality of life (and your other grades!).

For the IB (International Baccalaureate) – you will need a minimum of 36 out of 45 points to be considered for entry and medical school. For Scottish Higher’s students – five highers at A-grade are usually required. Though each medical school varies.

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

The EPQ is an optional project that is equivalent to an AS subject. It is also possible to achieve an A* grade. The EPQ can be based on any academic topic. Some students have taken to do EPQs based on a dissertation, hand-made model, or even an event (charity production). To fulfil the criteria of an EPQ, you also have to submit a reflection (which assess your progress as well as your thoughts on what you achieved), and present the results.

Many universities like the EPQ as an opportunity for the student to delve deeper in a portion of work. Moreover it develops the student’s organisational, self-directed learning, and presentational skills.

Sapna – Brighton and Sussex Medical School
“I did an EPQ in Medical Ethics, whereby I took the topic of capacity and wrote a dissertation of what capacity was, how it relates to medicine and why it has become increasingly important in an aging 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!”

Steven – King’s College London
“I did an EPQ as part of my AQA Baccalaureate, in which I wrote a dissertation about drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and the challenges faced worldwide in eradicating this disease. It allowed me to learn how to conduct my own research, by perusing journals and visiting a local TB specialist hospital. I was asked about it during my interview as well, and it was nice to be able to speak with confidence about a topic I had selected myself.”

Charlotte – University of Leeds
“I undertook an EPQ on the current trends in obesity in children, a subject which really interests me. I explored the possible causes of this phenomenon and trends in different areas of the UK. I then tried to form links to rates of obesity and levels of social deprivation and accessibility to healthy foods and green spaces. I enjoyed spending the time to learn about this topic, which also gave me something unique to talk about during my interviews. It was also good practise for carrying out research and referencing sources, – both skills which came in handy when I became a medical student.”

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