Getting Your Grades
Which A level subjects should I choose?
The combination of biology and chemistry is the commonest choice among applicants for medicine. This is because chemistry is compulsory for most universities, along with a second science subject. Most students choose biology because it will aids studies in medical school. Some students take a non-science subject such as a language or humanities subject to demonstrate diversity.
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, impacting on 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.
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. Students my 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 also have to submit a reflection (which assesses your progress as well as your thoughts on what you achieved) and present the results.
Many universities like the EPQ as an opportunity to see how a student has delved deeper into a portion of work. Moreover, it develops the student’s organisational, self-directed learning, and presentation 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 that 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 practice for carrying out research and referencing sources, both skills which came in handy when I became a medical student.’