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What A-Levels Do You Need to Become a Doctor?

What A-Levels Do You Need to Become a Doctor?

10 min Read|February 07 2024
|Written by:

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa


Becoming a doctor is a highly respected profession and is a popular career choice for many students. However, the journey to become a qualified doctor is not easy and requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

One of the first steps to take is to ensure that you choose the right A-Levels. In this article, we will discuss which A-levels are essential to study medicine, how many A-levels you should take, and possible facilitating A-levels that can also lead to a career in medicine. We will also provide examples of university entry requirements for medicine in the UK and the admissions tests you need to take.

Recommended A-levels to study medicine

Medical schools in the UK require students to have a strong academic background in science, and therefore, the following A-levels are recommended:

1. Biology - covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, genetics, and disease, which are directly relevant to the study of medicine. It also teaches critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills. Biology A-level can also help develop a student's ability to work independently, conduct research, and interpret scientific data, all of which are valuable skills for medical students.

2. Chemistry - provides a solid foundation in the key concepts and principles of chemistry that are applicable in the medical field. Chemistry is important in medicine as it helps to understand the chemical processes that occur within the body, such as drug interactions and metabolism. Chemistry is also essential in areas such as pharmacology and drug design, which involve the synthesis and analysis of chemicals that can be used to treat and diagnose diseases. You can read more about the medical career options in our guide on career options with A-Level Chemistry.

3. Physics - provides a strong foundation in understanding the physical principles that govern the human body. Physics helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for understanding complex medical concepts such as biophysics and medical imaging. Physics provides students with a quantitative understanding of biological processes, which can be useful in fields such as biotechnology and medical research.

According to a study conducted by the Medical Schools Council, 98% of students entering medical school have studied Chemistry at A-level, 88% studied Biology, and 54% studied Physics. These subjects are not only important for gaining entry into medical school but also for succeeding in the rigorous and demanding medical degree programme. The most popular A-Level combination for medicine is 2022 was Maths, Biology, and Chemistry.

Recommended Facilitating Subjects for Medicine

Apart from the sciences, some medical schools may also require or recommend non-science A-levels. Should you wish to substitute one of the subjects above or study four A-levels, there are certain facilitating subjects that you could add or switch out. Facilitating subjects are useful for your application to study medicine based on how you position them in your application.

You should explain how they have better equipped you to study this degree. It is important to achieve a high grade in these facilitating subjects in order for them to positively contribute to your application to study law.

Our recommended facilitating subjects are:

1. Mathematics - can develop a student's analytical and problem-solving skills, which are essential in medical practice. For example, doctors use mathematical models to predict the spread of diseases and to determine appropriate treatment plans for patients. Additionally, mathematical skills are important in understanding medical research and interpreting data from medical studies. A strong foundation in mathematics can help prepare students for the quantitative demands of a medical education and career.

2. Psychology - can provide students with knowledge about human behaviour and mental processes, which is essential for understanding patient behaviour, mental health disorders, and the relationship between the mind and body. Psychology can help students develop key skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, which are all important in healthcare. Psychology also provides a foundation for further study in fields such as Psychiatry or Neurology, which are specialised areas within medicine that focus on mental health and the brain.

3. English - helps to develop critical thinking and communication skills, which are vital in the medical field. Medical professionals need to be able to communicate complex medical concepts to patients and their families, and good writing skills are essential for medical reports and research papers. Studying English literature can enhance empathy and understanding, which is crucial in the field of medicine where patients come from diverse backgrounds and may be facing challenging situations.

Additionally, medical schools may also consider other factors such as work experience, extracurricular activities, and a personal statement when evaluating applications. Keep in mind that A-level requirements vary by institution, and it is important to check the entry requirements of each university you are considering.

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What grades do I need to study medicine?

To study medicine in the UK, you typically need AAA grades in your A-levels or equivalent qualifications. However, some medical schools may accept lower A-Level grades, particularly for contextual applicants or those with extenuating circumstances.

It is worth noting that achieving the minimum entry requirements does not guarantee an offer from a medical school. Medical schools have a highly competitive application process, and factors such as the admissions test score, work experience, personal statement, and interview performance also play a crucial role in the decision-making process.

Some medical schools have specific subject requirements for A-levels or equivalent qualifications. For example:

  • the University of Cambridge requires A-levels or equivalent qualifications in Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics, or Mathematics.
  • The University of Oxford requires A-levels or equivalent qualifications in Chemistry and Biology, and one other subject.

In recent years, some medical schools have moved away from requiring A-levels or equivalent qualifications in traditional science subjects. For example, the University of Sheffield Medical School accepts A-levels or equivalent qualifications in any subject, as long as the minimum grade requirements are met. This change in entry requirements aims to attract applicants with diverse academic backgrounds, encouraging a broader range of individuals to pursue a career in medicine.

In summary, achieving AAA grades in A-levels or equivalent qualifications is typically required to study medicine in the UK. However, some medical schools may accept lower grades, particularly for contextual applicants or those with extenuating circumstances. It is essential to research the entry requirements for each medical school and consider other factors, such as admissions test scores, work experience, personal statements, and interview performance.

Minimum Grade requirements for medicine UK

Minimum Grade requirements for medicine UK

How many A-levels should students take to study medicine?

While A-levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics are essential for studying medicine at university, the number of A-levels required may vary between institutions. Some medical schools require students to have three A-levels, while others may accept applicants with just two. According to the Medical Schools Council, 90% of medical schools require students to have at least three A-levels, while the remaining 10% may accept students with two A-levels.

It is important to note that medical schools do not only look at the number of A-levels, but also the grades achieved. Students are encouraged to take only the number of A-levels they can manage while still achieving high grades, as universities will look at the grades achieved in all subjects.

Additionally, students should also consider taking additional qualifications that may enhance their application, such as the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which is highly valued by medical schools. Other qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Scottish Highers may also be accepted by medical schools in place of A-levels.

Examples of university entry requirements for medicine

Different universities have varying entry requirements for medicine, with some being more competitive than others. The majority of medical schools require students to achieve AAA or AAB in their A-levels, with at least two science subjects, including Biology and Chemistry.

However, some universities have higher entry requirements than others. For example, the University of Cambridge requires students to achieve A*A*A in their A-levels, with A*s in Biology and Chemistry, as well as the university's admissions test. The challenge of achieving two A*s results in a large proportion of students choosing to get the help of an A-Level tutor.

Other universities, such as the University of Bristol, require students to achieve AAA in their A-levels, but also place a strong emphasis on work experience, personal statements and the university's admissions test.

It is also worth noting that some universities have contextualised admissions processes, which take into account an applicant's socio-economic background, education history or geographical location. For example, the University of Birmingham offers places to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who achieve BBB in their A-levels, and meet other criteria.

Which Subjects Do I need to study medicine? - Figures represent the no. of UK universities

Which subjects do I need to study medicine?

Admissions tests for Medicine

Along with meeting the A-level requirements, aspiring medical students in the UK may also need to take an admissions test to secure a place at university. These tests are designed to assess a student's ability to handle the rigours of a medical degree, and also to ensure a level playing field for applicants from different backgrounds. The two most commonly used tests for medicine are the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT).

The UCAT is used by many medical schools in the UK, and tests a student's ability in areas such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. The test is computer-based and consists of five sections, with a total testing time of two hours.

The BMAT, on the other hand, is used by a smaller number of medical schools in the UK, but is still a popular choice. It tests a student's ability in scientific knowledge, mathematics, problem-solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. The test is pen-and-paper based and takes two hours to complete.

It is important to note that not all medical schools require admissions tests, and those that do may have different weightings and cut-off scores for these tests.

How to Get into Medical School: 17 Key Questions | Blog | Medify UK

How to Get into Medical School

How important are A-level grades for getting into medical school?

A-level grades are a critical factor in the admissions process for medical school in the UK. Typically, universities require a minimum of AAA grades, and some institutions may require even higher grades, depending on the level of competition.

According to the Medical Schools Council, A-levels are the most common qualification among medical students, with 97% of medical students holding A-level qualifications. The importance of A-level grades can vary between medical schools. Some universities place more weight on A-level grades, while others may place more emphasis on the admissions test and other factors. For example, the University of Bristol considers the admissions test as the primary factor in their admissions process, while the University of Oxford places more weight on academic performance.

Alternative Qualifications to get into Medicine

While A-levels are the most common qualifications needed to study medicine, they are not the only option. In fact, some universities are beginning to accept a wider range of qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, BTECs, and other vocational qualifications. Some universities also offer foundation courses for students who don't meet the standard entry requirements.

The International Baccalaureate, for example, is widely recognised as an alternative to A-levels. It offers a more holistic and well-rounded education and is highly valued by universities around the world. BTECs are vocational qualifications that offer a more hands-on approach to learning and can be useful for those who want to pursue a career in healthcare but don't want to go down the traditional A-level route.

It's important to note that entry requirements can vary between universities, so it's always best to check with the institution directly. Additionally, some universities may have specific requirements for certain courses within the medicine programme, such as requiring A-levels in chemistry or biology. If you find difficulty in these then you should consider an A-Level Chemistry tutor or an A-Level Biology tutor.

Final Thoughts

Pursuing a degree in medicine in the UK is a rigorous process that requires dedication, hard work, and the right qualifications. While A-level grades and subject choices are important factors in getting into medical school, they are not the only ones. Admissions tests, work experience, and personal statements are also key components that need to be considered. Students who are passionate about medicine and have a strong desire to help others should not be discouraged by the challenges they may face. With the right preparation and support, it is possible to pursue a career in this rewarding field.


Can you become a doctor without A levels?

In the UK, it is highly unlikely to become a doctor without A-levels or equivalent qualifications. A-levels are a key requirement for entry into medical school, and without them, it may be challenging to gain acceptance. However, some universities may consider alternative qualifications or experiences, such as a foundation year, access course, or relevant work experience. It is important to research the specific requirements of each medical school before applying.

Do all UK universities require A levels?

No, not all UK universities require A-levels as an entry requirement. While A-levels are a common requirement for many degree programs, there are alternative qualifications and pathways that can be accepted by universities, such as BTECs, vocational qualifications, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Access to Higher Education courses.

Do you need Maths A-level for medicine in the UK?

No, Maths A-level is not a requirement for studying Medicine in the UK. However, some universities may prefer applicants with a strong foundation in mathematics as it can be helpful in certain areas of medicine, such as pharmacology. It is worth checking with individual universities to see if they have any specific requirements or recommendations for subjects to study at A-level.

What are the lowest A-levels to get into medicine?

There are no specific A-level subjects that are considered 'lowest' for getting into medicine in the UK. However, some medical schools may have specific subject requirements or preferences for A-levels. For example, some medical schools require or prefer Chemistry, Biology and/or another science subject at A-level. It is important to research the specific requirements of the medical schools you are interested in applying to and choose A-level subjects that meet their criteria.

What GCSEs do you need for medicine?

To apply for medicine in the UK, there are certain GCSE requirements that you need to meet. Generally, you will need at least a grade C or higher in GCSE Maths, English Language and Science subjects (double award or two separate sciences) or equivalent qualifications. However, the specific GCSE requirements may vary depending on the medical school you are applying to. Some medical schools may require additional subjects such as Biology and Chemistry at GCSE, while others may place more emphasis on other subjects such as languages or humanities.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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