What A-Levels do you need to be a doctor?
Getting into medicine can be really tough. Students need to perform to their very best in A-Level exams in order to stand any chance of being accepted into medical school. This article will tell you exactly what A-Levels you need to be a doctor, and provide you with examples of entry requirements for specific universities.
What are the University Requirements?
The majority of universities will demand applicants to receive at least 3 As in their A-Levels to be a doctor. From these A-Levels, at least 2 of them must be science subjects. These can be either Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Environmental Science. However, it is recommended that one of your science-based A-Levels is Chemistry. 1 If you want to find out the best independent schools by A-Level results in the UK, check out our table here.
Most universities ask applicants to have an A level in Chemistry, and if this is not the case, they will likely ask for Biology instead. Not taking biology could potentially come back to haunt you, as it is common to be asked biology-related questions during your interview. 1
Your 3rd A-Level subject does not have to be science-related. You can choose anything else, such as Maths, or Geography. Just make sure to include Chemistry as one of your 3. 1
It is also possible to take 4 A-Levels instead of 3, in an attempt to stand out in the crowd. However, each A-Level requires lots of hard work and studying to achieve a high grade. This means taking 4 A-Levels could be too much for you and become your detriment to not receiving the required grades.
As previously mentioned, exact university requirements vary across all universities. So make sure to research your favourite universities in advance to ensure you choose the correct subjects. This will give you the best chance of getting accepted. All of the relevant information you need can be found on university websites.
In the Future…
The number of medical applications to universities is increasing, which is great to see! However, this means there’s more competition than ever to get one of those rare places on a medicine course. This means that in the future the A-Level requirements may be increased to 1 A* and 2As.
If You’re Applying to Oxbridge
Those of you wanting to apply for either Oxford or Cambridge, they tend not to make their requirements public knowledge. However, in 2019, 95% of successful Cambridge applicants needed 2 A*s and 1 A. 2 In terms of A-Level subjects, Cambridge state most of their students study Chemistry and two of Physics, Biology, and Maths.
Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most competitive universities in the world, with the average success rate for Oxford medicine being only 9%.3 In 2019, 14% of Oxford’s medicine applicants achieved A*s in at least 4 A-Levels. This means some students that achieved the very best grades possible were still rejected by Oxford, showcasing the difficulty of being accepted into the prestigious university.
Are there A levels You Need to Avoid?
Most medical universities do not accept A-Levels in subjects such as Critical Thinking, Global Perspectives, and General Studies. Critical thinking can help you with section three of the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test), however it is recommended to take this subject as a fifth AS-Level instead of a replacement for physics, biology or maths. 4
It is also common for universities to not accept subjects with overlapping material, and only classify these as one subject. For example, A-Levels in Biology and Human Biology would only count as 1 A-Level. 5
The Scottish education system is different, with Highers and Advanced Highers replacing A-Levels. This means the entry requirements are slightly different. Scottish students need 4 As and 1 B at the very minimum, to be accepted into medicine at university level. 1
Doctors recommend that applicants also have work experience in the medical field. This shows universities that you have first-hand experience in the industry, and you know what you’re signing up for. 1
It is also a good idea to show universities what you enjoy doing in your spare time. Participating in a team sport can be a bonus as it shows universities you have the ability to work well in a team and are also sociable.
Here are some of the minimum A-Level requirements of universities across the UK (As of June 2022):
University of Aberdeen Medical School - AAA including Chemistry and one of Maths, Physics or Biology, and one other subject. 6
Brunel Medical School – AAB at A-Level including Chemistry or Biology and a second science (physics, biology, chemistry) or maths and a 3rd subject (cannot be general studies). 7
Cardiff University School of Medicine – AAA including Chemistry and Biology. Biology and Human Biology are not accepted as separate A-levels. Critical Thinking and General are not accepted. 8
King’s College London School of Medical Education – A*AA including Chemistry and Biology. A-Levels in Thinking Skills, Global Perspectives, Critical Thinking, and General Studies are not accepted. 9
Queen’s University Belfast, Medical School - AAA at A level and A in a fourth AS level subject including Chemistry plus at least one other from Physics/Biology/Maths, or A*AA at A level including Chemistry and Human Biology/Biology or A*AA at A level including Chemistry and either Physics/Maths and AS level Biology grade B. 10
The main point to take from this article is that Chemistry is an essential A-Level to take if you want to be a doctor. You should also look to take two of Biology, Physics, and Maths to be in line with all medical universities. You may be tempted to take on 4 A-Levels to give yourself the best chance, however, universities prefer students that excel in 3 subjects, instead of performing less well in 4.
1. Blue Peanut Medical Education - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgacl6C9TZg
3. University of Oxford - https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/course-listing/medicine
6. University of Aberdeen Medical School - https://www.abdn.ac.uk/smmsn/undergraduate/medicine/uk-academic-requirements.php#panel536
7. Brunel Medical School - https://www.brunel.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/Medicine-MBBS
8. Cardiff University School of Medicine - https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/course/medicine-mbbch
9. King’s College London School of Medical Education entry requirements - https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/medicine-mbbs#:~:text=Must%20include%20grade%206%20in,applicants%20must%20take%20the%20UCAT
10. Queen’s University Belfast, Medical School - https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/medicine-mb-a100/#entry