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A Level Choices for a Would-be Medic

(27 Posts)
alteredimage Thu 21-Nov-13 13:37:52

DD, Yr 11, is determined to be a medic, and probably well suited. She is very sporty (national level) and has picked up quite a lot of physiology and diet knowledge. Her initial interest was sparked by medical documentaries and she has progressed to reading popular medical books, Scientific American etc. She is lucky in that she is a natural Mathematician/Scientist and quite organised, so ought to get the grades. She has responded with enthusiasm to the offer of spending the summer working in an entry level job in a care home. She has always done well at intermediate Maths/Biology type challenges which I assume suggests she might be OK at BMAT type tests. We live in London and so London medical schools are an affordable option.

Her problem is that she is dyslexic and really struggles with essay subjects. Her school's general advice that prospective medics take 4 A levels including a "complementary" subject, probably an essay subject. We also hear that some medical schools expect a minimum of a Grade A in English.

Advice please on the following:

1. What is the likely minimum requirement in GCSE English? Which medical schools need to be avoided?

2. Which Medical Schools are most likely to accept a more patchy set of GCSE results. The hope is she can get 8A*s (3xscience, 2xlanguage, art and one other) but it might be 6.

3. Her school offer the chance to do an extended project. Is this likely to satisfy any desire on the part of medical schools to see a complementary subject? An alternative might be to take a language to AS, or if really needed to A2, but she does not want to and though she should be able to get an A she would have to work quite hard.

4. She intends to take biology, chemistry (her favourite subject), and two of maths, further maths and physics at A2. Double maths would be a lighter workload but she wonders whether Universities might prefer a wider range? Having said that if medicine does not work out and she is looking to do something in the bio-chemistry field I assume she might be better off with double maths to support two sciences.

5. She also has the option of sports science AS instead of an EP or a language/further maths/ AS. She would really enjoy this as it would build on existing knowledge and she would have no problem meeting the sports participation requirements. However one of her favourite teachers has suggested that it wont give her anything extra breadth and she is better off with an EP.

Also does anyone have any suggestions for further reading. So far she has read and enjoyed books around the lack of evidence supporting complementary medicine, and about possible causes for autism.

Many thanks in advance.

Pleaseandthankyou Thu 21-Nov-13 14:13:13

No medics here but my dc's school did not advise medics to do double maths. They had to take 4 separate subjects at AS. Quite a few dropped one for A2 and still got in to do medicine. Three science plus maths didn't seem to be a problem.

peteneras Thu 21-Nov-13 15:47:24

[1] Most UK medical schools will accept a ‘B’ Grade in I/GCSE English. NO UK medical schools need to be avoided whatsoever if you’re talking about teaching standards and world standings. But I think you are talking about GCSE English in which case you should avoid Oxford and Birmingham who are looking for at least 8 or more GCSE A*s.

[2] These are generally the UKCAT schools e.g. Sheffield, KCL, etc. where a great UKCAT score can redeem a patchy set of GCSE results. But in reality, most serious candidates would have a tremendous set of results for both I/GCSE AND UKCAT/BMAT.

[3] Again, the serious candidates would generally have an awesome set of I/GCSE A*s plus at least 4 and possibly 5 A*/A’s at A2 which is far exceeding the minimum the medical school is asking for. The sad fact is, your DC is not competing against the medical school, she is competing against all the other candidates who are vying for the same places.

[4] Medical schools don’t count Maths and Further Maths as two A2 subjects - they count as only one and she would have to include at least two more science subjects from Chemistry (compulsory in most schools), Biology and Physics. Many candidates include a 4th or 5th non-science subject to demonstrate scope.

[5] I agree with her teacher - it won’t give her extra breadth. Just concentrate on getting the core academic GCSE and A2 subjects.

The BBC’s Science page is a good place to start. The Student BMJ makes good reading and of course, The New Scientist is a favourite amongst many potential medical students.

UptheChimney Thu 21-Nov-13 17:53:35

Not a medico academic, but having been an Admissions Tutor, I know generally what medical schools look for and 'patchy' GCSEs are going to be problematic. Most applicants will have an array of As and A*s at GCSE level. And it's pretty standard received wisdom in Admissions matters that GCSEs are good predictors of capacity to cope at university.

There would also need to be a good record of work (paid or volunteer) in health or a cognate area.

Are there "reasonable adjustments" in place for her dyslexia? Has she been properly assessed by an Ed. Psych? This might help, but the problem generally is that if adjustments are made during teaching & assessments, no further mitigation is given -- that is, the pupil is examined as normal, but with the extra time, amanuensis etc -- whatever adjustments are recommended by the EdPsych. So there's no lowering of standard marking to accommodate dyslexia, which I tend to think is a pity, but you can't 'double dip' as it were.

alteredimage Thu 21-Nov-13 22:23:08

Thank you all so much for your detailed replies. Some real food for thought.

In terms of the dyslexia she more or less gets the works: extra time, laptop, recommendation for a quieter room. Her reading and writing speeds are in the bottom 3-4%, results which have been pretty consistent through three reports from different Ed Pyschs at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. The surprise has been how well she is doing both in maths/science and languages, given her real struggle, particularly with English Lang. The school say they hope to get her to an A, but really a B would be a pretty fair result - though she may do better in Eng Lit. iGCSE Eng Lang may prove to be the hardest exam she ever has to take.

She should, in contrast, be more than capable of getting A* in Chemistry, Physics and Maths. Biology is a bit trickier because it contains more writing, and she tends to be better in class than in exams, but she should be capable of an A at least.

The school do allow five A2s, however the same teacher has suggested that taking a fifth does not provide much additional benefit and it is better to use the time for extra-curricular etc. Doing an Extended Project instead would allow her to access support to help her develop her research and writing skills, and presumably would give evidence of broader reasoning skills.

Its beginning to feel like a plan. Pity though. Sports Science seemed fun and would have provided her with an excuse to spend even more time in the sports department than she does already. Sports though might provide a pathway into some interesting volunteering.

lljkk Thu 21-Nov-13 22:27:02

Does it have to medical school? confused
Why not something else in the health area: Nursing, Physiotherapy (Physio for sport is a boom area), paramedic medicine, etc.

mindgone Fri 22-Nov-13 00:12:00

Why not take her to a few local open days in the summer term? Then she would have a much better idea of what a medical degree involves, and would also give the opportunity to ask questions, and get the answers from the horse's mouth, rather than relying on opinions. And still time to change her mind about A level subjects, EPs etc. Also a great opportunity to meet current medical students and ask about their experiences. Btw, if you do this, book early, as they get booked up quickly.

Gigimama Fri 22-Nov-13 03:33:02

Just curious - would 8A*s in GCSE really be considered patchy?
Surely even 6 A*s would have a decent chance for medicine (with the exception of Oxford & Birmingham which rely heavily on academic prowess)!

Kazzyv Fri 22-Nov-13 06:57:23

Having spent 2 years researching medicine for DS you should look around yourself. Most medicine courses will be fine with 6 or 7 GCSE A's. Some do not even take them into account. Some with decide on interviews on UKCAT only - so get her trying some of this type of test early. Practice does help. I don' t know about Oxbridge but I did not see or talk to any uni that looked for 5 A levels. The norm of 4 AS and 3 A is fine - some even state that applicants will not be disadvantaged by only doing 3. She must get Chemistry and another Science but some will consider Maths as a Science. Because everyone applies with AAA the most important thing is usually work experience and interview.

NoArmaniNoPunani Fri 22-Nov-13 07:11:33

Has she considered dentistry? I'm a dentist and it's a great career

BeckAndCall Fri 22-Nov-13 07:18:52

Great advice already, but I would add that it's not too early to start thinking about her work experience and volunteering, which she'll need to do from after her GCSEs next summer and all through the lower sixth - part of the reason why you don't want to overload her with too much academic work at school, as you can expect to her use Saturday/Sunday for volunteering in a hospice or as a hospital volunteer.

eggsnbeans Fri 22-Nov-13 07:20:20

From a long time back admittedly, but A level further maths is HARD! And I was supposedly one of the top students in the class! So maybe not always a lighter option, but it depends on what she is best at smile It has changed a bit since I applied, but they used to be interested in bio and chem, then preferably maths or physics (but not too worried if it wasn't) and any more than that was just a bonus! I know plenty of people in my class had done only chem + bio and another random subject smile

Honestly, if she wants to be a medic and she gets the grades, I wouldn't even bother thinking of a backup option, just take the year out to travel/do work experience, and apply again. She will never be satisfied with anything else.

IMHE interviews have always been really important for med school applications and she sounds very well read and like she would have a lot of things she could talk to them about! Lucky girl smile

As a starter, have a look at a couple of the med school websites, they all have good admissions info and is probably the best start point for you. All are regarded pretty much equally, but some schools are 'known' for different things and have different programmes that might be better for your DD than others. There's not a huge amount of essay writing in many courses, so that should be a bonus for her smile

alteredimage Fri 22-Nov-13 08:35:38

Thank you all. Lots of food for thought.

In terms of other options, our assumption was always that though she expressed an early determination to be a doctor this focus would also open the door to other careers such as physiotherapy. We have all, including DD, been quite surprised at how much she has enjoyed the greater challenge of GCSE science and maths and that this has propelled her towards the top of the year group, to a place where her aspirations seem more realistic.

I had started looking at Medical school websites. Unfortunately I started with Birmingham, where the GCSE requirements are tough. No natural fit there. She/I need to get researching more. I hope I and DC are not the only ones who find the overachieving kids who post on The Student Room quite scarey. Surely there can be room for kids who don't achieve across the board perfection, but exhibit strengths and weaknesses. There ought to be special UCAS points for being human.

She will do quite a lot of unglamorous work experience with older people this summer. The aim will be as much to test her resilience and interest as have something for her UCAS form. She watches far too much Grey's Anatomy.

Her school has almost all sixth formers starting with four subjects, with a number then dropping one after AS. Advice to medics is to keep up four and have one outside maths/science to show breadth. A few might do five but this normally includes double maths, but there seems little point. They are really keen pupils also doing an Extended Project in addition. Something she had not really thought of but which might make sense given her otherwise lack of academic breadth. She really does not want to flog through French A level, though they might let her, when she could be in a lab.

UptheChimney Fri 22-Nov-13 08:50:02

The thing about some courses is that they are in demand: medicine is one, as it's a profession that's seen as both safe & lucrative (a starting out GP gets paid quite a bit more than a university professor, believe me!). So the school results are partly a reflection of demand, as they are an indication of the academic ability & capacity for sheer hard work. So I'm sorry but UCAS points for being human are not likely grin

If I ruled the world < cue music> not only would every day be the first day of spring, but anyone would be able to enter any degree programme in the first year. And then there'd be really tough exams to filter through those who really can hack it into the 2nd year.

And pigs might fly, but oh well

Theas18 Fri 22-Nov-13 09:07:50

Loads of useful info here already. We are going through this proscess at the moment.

Don't over load her if she struggles with the literary stuff. We have seen no med schools that require 4/5 subjects at A2. Better to do well in 4AS and 3A2.

I don't know if any where that the traditional 3 sciences plus maths profile is less preferred and it looks like this would suit her.

Having said that also talk in advance re what additional support she could have at uni with the schools, it is a written, narrative subject

What she needs is the highest grades possible in what she does. epq carries no advantage other than giving her something to talk about at interview and whilst it's fun,that's about all the advantage you get for a lot of work.

lljkk Fri 22-Nov-13 17:37:31

I was talking to someone who teaches in a medical school today & it sounds like statistics would be an excellent & very suitable A-level for many.
Excellent prep for the 2nd choice courses, too.

Antidote Fri 22-Nov-13 17:54:50

I really applaud your DD for being so engaged and focused on her career choice and you've had lots of great advice on application to medical school.

However, I think it would be vital for her to do some real work experience as a medic as soon as possible. In the work place there is so little scope to accommodate problems such as slow reading, poor spelling, slow writing that it would be heartbreaking for her to graduate and then really struggle in the workplace.

I know most hospitals are much tighter on work experience than they used to be, and lots of 6th form students get plonked in rather dull bits of medicine to prevent problems with consent etc. She needs to make every effort to evaluate the work environment from the perspective of what she will need to be able to do all day.

There used to be a 3 day course in er Nottingham? For potential candidates to show them what medicine was like. Might be worth seeing ittc that still exists.

PM me if you need more info.

ThenSheSaid Sat 23-Nov-13 01:08:14

Start researching on The Student Room Website. It usually fairly accurate but it's sensible to double check any important facts with the actual Medical School admissions policies. If there is anything that is unclear get it in writing from the Medical School. Don't worry about the scary students on The Student Room, I doubt its that representative.

It is important to remember that there is a lot of duff information about regarding medicine and that admission policies change year by year. Something that may have been true a couple of years ago may not be relevant now.

(There is incorrect info on this thread already sad )

Medicine is hard and there is a lot of reading required. There are pages and pages and pages of BIG WORDS grin I am completely unqualified to comment about dyslexia blush but I would want to make sure that any medical school would support such students. The exams are difficult and failure rates can be high.

UptheChimney Sat 23-Nov-13 05:51:12

TSR is a useful resource, but please, go to medical schools' websites first! And you'll find information for support for those with learning disabilities on each university website. Do a search for 'learning disability' or 'dyslexia.'

My DD1 is in her 4th year of Medicine. She didn't have 10A*s, (think she had 7) and she is dyslexic. She is also doing very well indeed, tho she hates the essay component of the degree! Yes there are perfect academics but they aren't always the kids who get places at med school, personal qualities are definitely as important .

Yes yes to getting work experience.. VERY important. DD1 did community service from school at a local hospital and also helped with a special needs charity for a few summer groups. She needs to be able to talk about what she has learned from it, how the experience has given insight into medicine etc.. it doesn't need to be shadowing a gp or anything like that.

Support at Uni is good, and with a diagnosis she will qualify for disabled students allowance, laptop, printer etc. She will need a current assessment before she goes tho..makes it a much quicker process.

4 goof AS levels and 3 A/A*s at A2 is far more important than trying to have more. DD1 did Maths, chem and Bio and Psychology at AS and dropped psychology (tho she loved it!) at A2 to concentrate on the three. Maths and Chem at A2 IS hard work.. bio not so much.

Good luck to your DD! Mine is at Peninsula (now split into Exeter and PLymouth.. seperate applications, and LOVES it.) It is all she ever wanted to do since she was 4 years old and I can hardly believe she will be qualified in a year's time.. it has gone SO fast!

Antidote Sat 23-Nov-13 18:54:10

So glad to hear your daughter is loving Peninsula Medusa.

At the risk of completely outing myself, that's where I work!

Well you do a fab job. DD1 was unhappy in her 1st year ..not with the course but she was bullied in her hall of residence and developed anorexia as a result. The Uni was fantastic with their support.. she is fully recovered now and well, but they have kept an eye on ehr every since and the kindness she recieved was lovely..they really have made sure that she stayed ok.
We would recommned Peninsula to everyone..the amound of clinical experience she gets, the style of learning.. the lot. Plus in her case being in Truro at the mo means excellent surfing.. win win grin

alteredimage Mon 25-Nov-13 11:47:33

Thank you all again. I have now met a few parents with children applying to medicine this year. With grades, work experience requirements etc, it is quite an obstacle course. However hopefully it goes some way to ensuring that our DC don't find themselves half way into a long course and realise this is not for them. Quite a few girls at my year at school did medicine. I think without exception they had fathers who were Doctors and it was just assumed they continued in the family trade.

I visited Exeter University with DS last year and thought it would suit my daughter more, so Peninsula on the initial long list.

NorthBucksMum Tue 26-Nov-13 20:12:36

I do know someone at Bristol Med school who did Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Sports Science all at A2. You can keep the sport element in and get a place. Do loads of work experience and some of this could be sport medic related.

Beastofburden Tue 26-Nov-13 20:27:02

Bear in mind also that Nottingham does a range of foundation degrees that can lead into medicine. The other way to get into medicine is to do a related degree and enter medical school as a graduate.

Brighton apparently has a new and interesting medical course, next so traditional in its approach.

I am going to be mean about sports science. To traditional recruiters it has the same reputation as media studies. I would avoid it. It will just take up time, she would be better off doing maths and three sciences and demonstrating her breadth of approach some other way. Oxford say that 3 a levels, with chemistry as compulsory, plus two of biology, physics and maths, and they have NO preference as to whether any fourth A level is a science or not. So I doubt she needs to do an essay based A level, and it would be bad for her, given how much work it would be.

Everyone will be looking at her BMAT scores, that's the main thing. Ad, as others have said, her volunteering experience- can she hack illness, death and bad news?

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