Subjects at GCSE/A level for Medicine

(51 Posts)
HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 15:07:45

Looking for some advice as DD aged 14 is thinking of applying to medicine when the time comes.

She is home educated and has chosen to do Biology and Chemistry for science GCSEs. She is in year 10 and hasn't chosen A levels (which she will go to school to do) but is interested in lots of subjects, so isn't planning to do just Science A levels. At the moment she's thinking of Chemistry and Maths, plus possibly English and Music (and/or French).

I've looked at all the med school requirements and it seems that this combination will be acceptable (on paper) for some of the universities, but many of them require Bio and Chem. In practice, would she be in with a chance with a mix of science and non-science A levels?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I'm a longterm MNer btw but have name changed for privacy.

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TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Tue 06-Nov-18 15:18:01

The UCAS site says that Chemistry is the must-have A Level, along with Biology or Physics or Maths plus another academic subject.

Chemistry, Maths and English would seem fine to me. Medicine is competitive, though, and Maths A Level is a big step up from GCSE, so she needs to be sure that she's capable of it. In old money, my school used to say that only those who got an A or A* at GCSE were likely to cope well with A Level.

This looks a useful site:

RedHelenB Tue 06-Nov-18 15:19:01

Definitely biology and chemistry so she has the most choice of unis. Maybe English or French. My Dd did psychology maths biology and chemistry and is a 2nd year dental student.

goodbyestranger Tue 06-Nov-18 15:22:18

In practice Op, if she swerved Biology, she'd be at a disadvantage in relation to the application and, if she was to get an offer, she'd be at a disadvantage particularly in the early years of the course.

goodbyestranger Tue 06-Nov-18 15:24:03

DS1 is an F1 at the moment and this came up recently. His strong advice would be both Chemistry and Biology (he did those, plus Physics and History).

Sammy867 Tue 06-Nov-18 15:30:42

I would say biology is a must as it would put her at a disadvantage in the first two years which is more biomedical based if she hadn’t studied the a-level content first. I would say biology, chemistry and one other subject would be better. (I know some who did music or English but most did maths as these a-levels were considered “hard” and a student who could achieve good grades here were likely to succeed at university standard stress and exams as well as the fact there is quite a lot of maths in medicine)
If maths was a no go, English would probably be more useful (there are a lot of essay writing assessments in medicine)

LIZS Tue 06-Nov-18 15:32:39

Agree Biology is usually expected for medicine, bio med, dentistry etc.


HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 15:35:54

Thanks everyone. We need to ponder. I’ve got a very out-of-date view of it all because DH is a doc and didn’t do Biology A level...!

I’m aware that she needs fab grades so this is all just a tentative exploration at this point.

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LIZS Tue 06-Nov-18 15:37:18

Might be worth googling some potential uni options and seeing what their current requirements are.

MedSchoolRat Tue 06-Nov-18 15:37:48

It will increase her choices if she does both Bio & Chem.
The places are very over-subbed so anything you can do to increase odds of getting a place, tend to have to do that.
She needs to be very experienced at exam techniques, you probably know that as a HEr.
She might want to consider allied health science degrees (physician associate, nursing, paramedic, Midwifery or physiotherapy, etc) which don't require as much focused strategy to get a university place.

Needmoresleep Tue 06-Nov-18 16:47:45

It is worth looking at what different Universities require. There used be a chart somewhere. Almost all require chemistry, and it would be odd not to do it. Not as may require biology, but it does limit choice - though we know one DC who got to Oxbridge without. DD's medical school used to simply ask for two lab subjects, so put physics on an equal footing with biology. She did all three plus maths, and though very few have done physics she has found it useful. Equally I think she would say that biology is useful but not essential, as medschool uses a different approach so prior knowledge is not required. They do quite a lot of maths, and this was one area where people without the A level seemed to struggle.

She is also lucky to be able to intercalate more or less where she wants, provided she gets a place, and is likely to want to do something that plays to her maths/physics bent, so for her having those A levels are useful.

But having said all of that, courses seem to vary enormously and as a result MN advice varies a lot. she says quickly before she is shouted down

HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 17:14:17

Thanks all. I’ve looked at this website
but I wondered what the “real” situation was — so your responses have been helpful.

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bengalcat Tue 06-Nov-18 17:45:29

Look at themedicportal along with individual uni/med school websites . Chemistry is a must , Biology extremely useful but two sciences and an art subject would work although a combination of three out of bio/ physics/ Chem and maths is more usual . Also it's more than just grades - work experience and evidence of activities that show good communication skills and teamwork necessary .

awishes Tue 06-Nov-18 17:51:34

My DS took maths, further maths, chem and biology and wouldn’t be without any of the knowledge from them. 3rd Year now.
Best of luck to your daughter 💐

Decorhate Tue 06-Nov-18 18:36:35

Dd did Maths, Biology & Chemistry + Physics to AS

She did not enjoy Chemistry but it would have severely restricted where she could apply to. Regarding Biology, her attitude is that if you don't like it enough to study for A Level, are you sure you want to do a subject like medicine!

goodbyestranger Tue 06-Nov-18 18:50:13

DS1 said that Biology is more important in a practical sense than Chemistry and that you don't need an incredibly high level of understanding of Chemistry, but that the med schools make it mandatory as a baseline check of intellectual ability.

HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 19:22:53

Thanks again.

DH thinks she’s definitely bright enough... I do worry that she’s not passionate about science as such. She’s done St John Ambulance for years and really enjoys it (but I realise that there’s very little first aid in Medicine...). Hard to know how to guide her.

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MedSchoolRat Tue 06-Nov-18 19:47:49

I was impressed by one candidate talking about her St.JA experience. She suddenly snapped into reciting the protocol they follow for doing first aid. It was quite relevant; a lot of medicine is like following a recipe, too. Her recital seemed spontaneous not practised. Showed she could recall & follow a multi-branched set of procedures.

Being a doctor who treats patients is a people job not a science job, imho.

My worry about a HE-background applicant is them buckling down to the institutionalised system, taking exams possibly marked to a capricious marking scheme, the sheer conservatism of medicine can be over-whelming even to kids who are used to school-ed, never mind if they've had the freedom of HE. All med school applicants need a lot of resilience.

mumsneedwine Tue 06-Nov-18 20:14:35

Currently about half of Medical schools insist on both biology and chemistry. But these things change annually so could be more or less when your DD applies. But, my DD, currently a first year says biology A level is invaluable and I've just sent her A level notes to her as she said what they are doing builds on these. She says if you don't like biology it must be hell ! Although she doesn't miss plants .
The only way to reliably check requirements is to go on each Uni website and check. Don't rely on spreadsheets or TSR as they go out of date v fast. Good luck

mumsneedwine Tue 06-Nov-18 20:15:53

PS I think a lack of physics GCSE could be an issue at some places as they use this in their scoring system. Might be worth emailing a few places to check ok now

BringOnTheScience Tue 06-Nov-18 21:21:43

With the subjects you've listed OP, how about the IB? Biol & chem, maths, English, French... just add one of the social sciences. 3 at Higher (like A level) & 3 at Standard (like AS level).

HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 21:50:05

Very interesting, thanks MedSchoolRat. DH has also done some interviewing (but about 15+ years ago, for Oxbridge) and there is no way DD is in the same league as his then interviewees — but he feels she definitely has the potential to be a decent doctor which is what it’s all about.

My older DC have moved from home ed to school without too much trouble so I think the institutionalisation shouldn’t be a problem (but that’s a whole other thread...)

Yes, I worried about lack of physics mumsneed. Not sure what to do about that as she’s fully occupied already.

I don’t know anywhere locally that offers the IB unfortunately BringOn but that would be a great fit for DD in theory <starts lengthy google rabbit trail>

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HomeEdMom Tue 06-Nov-18 21:51:25

PS: I love MN for just this sort of practical, helpful advice.

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BringOnTheScience Tue 06-Nov-18 23:22:49

IB schools list ...

My DC1 is doing it and I'm a huge fan of it for the ones who need a range of subjects and are willing to work hard.

TheWiseWomansFear Tue 06-Nov-18 23:30:02

Doctor DSis did Bio, Chem, English and Geography and qualified as a doctor in 2016

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