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Why is Maths and Further Maths considered as one for Medicine?

(19 Posts)
swingofthings Mon 23-Jan-17 13:04:29

Just curious. DD wants to go into Medicine, but knowing how hard it is to get in, is keeping her options open. She particularly excels in Maths, so is considering studying Maths at Uni as a second option, although this is very much as default.

To get into a top Uni to study Maths, she needs A levels in both Maths and Further Maths. That's understandable, but why do Med school not consider Further Maths at GCSE and A levels an additional exam?

I suppose I know the answer and Further Maths is seen as exactly that, just Maths at a higher level. It just seems a bit unfair that you could study other closely related A levels but only Maths and FM are considered as one, when ultimately, the demand to study for FM is no different to the demand of studying for another one and according to DD, FM is actually quite different to normal Maths.

user7214743615 Mon 23-Jan-17 13:10:32

To get into a top Uni to study Maths, she needs A levels in both Maths and Further Maths.

Not entirely true - it depends how you define "top". FM is needed for Oxbridge, Imperial, UCL, Warwick, preferred by Bath. FM is not needed for all the other "top" universities.

FM isn't really different to normal maths. It's more maths, not different maths.

In any case, there isn't really an issue because she could do Maths, FM, Chemistry and Biology/Physics and keep her options open for both medicine and maths. Sure FM doesn't count for medicine, but the Maths, Chemistry and either Biology or Physics are fine for medicine.

whatsthecomingoverthehill Mon 23-Jan-17 13:13:08

They're not different though, but expanding and broadening on what is learnt as part of the standard maths course. When I did it the demands were not as much as studying an extra a-level. We had 6 lessons per week for each subject but only an extra 3 for doing further maths, and we fit everything in pretty comfortably in that.

I thought for medicine the requirement was chemistry was an absolute must, normally biology too, and one other maths/science subject. I'm not sure any of those can be regarded as closely related.

SarahMused Mon 23-Jan-17 13:17:29

It is still maths though. Medical schools prefer a wider range of subjects at A level generally but there are a variety of requirements. Check out this link and your daughter can look at the requirements for the various courses in the UK. Just remember that things do change and it is always worth contacting individual admissions departments to ask advice

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Mon 23-Jan-17 13:29:02

Pupils don't do FM unless they are doing (or, I suppose, have done) maths. They are linked as no other subjects are.

And my DC school - which is just going from 4 to 3 A levels counts Maths/FM as one option, so it's single or double maths plus 2 subjects. And as long as one of those two is chemistry, she should be fine for just about every medical school in the country. Does her school count it as one or two, and is this reducing her options?

swingofthings Mon 23-Jan-17 18:32:22

Yet many of her fellow pupils dropped it because they felt it was the A level they had to do the most work for. I can undersrand to some extent that it is just seen as the same subject as Maths after all it is 'Further' Maths but I find it quite surprising that the extra work that goes into getting an A* in addition to everything else that is expected to be done to get into medecine is not recognised at all.

I understand that FM is not a requirement for all top uni but considering the competitive nature I would think you significantly lower your chances of an offer just like medical schools that state that they require 5 GCSE at B grade but really would be unlikely to offer a place to anyone without most As and A*s if not taken.

APLP it is definitely counted as a separate A level but she is taking it in case she doesn't get an offer to study Medecine. She is very committed but also realistic in terms of competition so wants to keep her options open.

Witchend Mon 23-Jan-17 18:42:57

Further maths isn't just more maths though. It's harder maths, which is why you need it for maths at uni. Also desirable for engineering/physics etc.

That's probably why so many people drop it too. Because it isn't just more of the same, it's harder.
Personally as a mathematician I found I never noticed the jump from maths to further, and I did considerably less work for both those A-levels than either one of the other two I did (one being Physics so fairly mathematical). The maths was just so obvious.
However I know from others in my set, some of them were totally fine through the A-level course, but when they came to the further they were totally lost (same teacher) and really struggled with the understanding.

MedSchoolRat Mon 23-Jan-17 20:15:06

Honestly... my first thought is they require these things because they want candidates who are fully committed to the paths they pursue. The application process for medicine is very close to all or nothing, same for a top maths course.

user7214743615 Mon 23-Jan-17 20:36:52

Maths isn't all or nothing. By taking maths, FM, physics and chemistry, you would keep open maths, physics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, physical sciences, pharmacy etc. It's only at the start of year 13 that you would have to make your mind up and take MAT/STEP for top maths courses.

Can I say again that you don't actually need FM for maths at university, at all but the very top few universities. Since many schools don't offer FM, 30-50% of maths students at most RG universities don't have FM.

swingofthings Tue 24-Jan-17 13:32:46

.That's probably why so many people drop it too. Because it isn't just more of the same, it's harder
That's the view of my DD hence asking why it was more or less dismissed by Medical Schools in terms of it being another A level.

my first thought is they require these things because they want candidates who are fully committed to the paths they pursue. The application process for medicine is very close to all or nothing, same for a top maths course.
I think you are spot on with this one, which I think is unfair and unrealistic especially for 17yo kids to have to decide. DD is totally committed to go study medicine, has been since she was 12. There is no doubt that this is what she wants to do BUT, and that's the big BUT, that doesn't mean that she will get to do it because it is so hard to get in. 1 chance out of 10 (or so) is not much chance. Most candidates are top of the league, in terms of grades, exam results and work experience, so what makes the difference between someone who gets an offer and one who does is very marginal.

I consider it a show of maturity that she is considering other avenues that doesn't mean the end of her dream career. She enjoys maths, but mainly finds it easy, so it make sense to consider it too if medicine is not to be (even after taking a gap year and reapplying).

User, I understand what you say about not needing FM to study Maths, but DD would be aiming at top unis.

The issue is not so much doing or not doing FM because DD finds it easy and is highly likely to achieve a A*. The issue is that by taking it, even though she finds it relatively easy, she needs to allocate some study time to it, and that's taking time away from study of the other subjects which she has to work harder to get an A.

On one hand, by taking it, she might miss on her chance to get top grades in the subjects she needs for medicine. By not taking it, she might still not get in medicine and not get in her Uni of choice to study Maths. Difficult decision to make!

Needmoresleep Tue 24-Jan-17 15:54:03

Its not just medicine. This is what the LSE say about maths and further maths:

Some degree programmes at the school are highly mathematical in content and therefore Maths A level or equivalent is a requirement. A number of programmes also require a qualification in Further Mathematics (where available), or consider one helpful. However, the combination of Maths, Further Maths plus one other subject is considered insufficiently broad for many of our programmes.

Oddly the BSc in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, is one of the degrees where "Further Maths is desirable as a fourth subject only".

I guess if you offer double maths you are in effect only offering two subjects, which is a narrow basis on which to launch University level studies.

I found this really useful chart (an update of an earlier The Student Room chart) which gives you an idea of who might accept double maths. Though with a warning that entry requirements can change from year to year so you always need to check with the medical school website.

A quick glance suggests Cardiff and Durham may be possible and probably more. You can only apply to four. The trouble is that you then need to be pretty confident you have a good UKCAT, PS and other criteria.

Medicine is competitive but odds are far better than one in ten.

user7214743615 Tue 24-Jan-17 16:23:56

The issue is not so much doing or not doing FM because DD finds it easy and is highly likely to achieve a A star

If she hasn't even started A levels yet, how can you be so confident of this? Remember that most students who do FM have A stars in GCSE maths. Yet those with A stars in GCSE maths still get grades from A star right down to E at FM.

And maths at university is not that difficult to get into. If you have the required predicted grades you get an offer at all but the top 2-3 universities.

Agree with Needmoresleep that the chance is not as low as 1 in 10, bearing in mind that people have multiple choices on their UCAS form and often re-apply after A levels if unsuccessful in year 13.

swingofthings Wed 25-Jan-17 18:48:38

If she hasn't even started A levels yet, how can you be so confident of this?
She has started her A levels, doing her AS level and predicted A* in Maths and FM. DD has always excelled in Maths and every single report she's had has mentioned the word 'exceptional' in regards to her ability. Of course, an A* is not guaranteed, but according to her teacher, highly likely. She will need to work much harder to achieve an A* in her other subjects.

Good to know that it is not that hard to get into Uni to study Maths.

Thanks Needmoresleep for the link. Just to clarify, I didn't mean to moan that FM should be counted as a third A level when already taking Maths, but counted as a general fourth one, ie. acknowledging the difference between taking four A levels compared to three, whatever the subject. I am surprised that Medical Schools value applicants showing they can handle the demand of a full-on life, but don't recognise the extra work that comes with studying an additional A level.

My odds were based on stats I read on themedicportal but again, good news if the reality is not as bad.

Needmoresleep Wed 25-Jan-17 19:11:23

Barts/Royal London give some weighting to a fourth A level. However generally medicine is looking for the rounded individual over a geek with masses of A*s. Be a bit cautious with Cambridge as if you offer 4 A levels, especially from a selective school, they may give you an offer based on 4 A levels.

If your daughter is good at maths she should find some sections of the UKCAT relatively easy. Though be warned it is effectively a speed test so practice is still needed.

One advantage of taking more than four is that you demonstrate you can handle a heavier work load. This should help in the first year. Another advantage of keeping up both maths is that it gives you options should you decide to intercalate. Imperial, say, offer medics some interesting year long medical engineering courses if they can offer good maths.

I don't think she should drop another subject simply because she is better at maths. This would rule out too many options. And if she studies medicine she will not be reading maths (obviously) so keeping up subjects she may be finding more difficult is important. If she cant get the grades in subjects like Biology or chemistry at A level, medicine is probably not the right course.

(And if she is not sure, look at bio-medical engineering, a rapidly growing field. DD is on a gap year so applied last year. She kept the fifth line on her UCAS form blank but if she had not got an offer she planned to have a look at Imperial. They were offering open days and were willing to consider applications through till June, which meant DD did not need to think about a fall back until she knew how her med school applications had gone.)

roguedad Wed 25-Jan-17 19:15:00

Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Biology keep all options open between maths and med. Not sure what the problem is.

Definitely do FM if you are serious about university maths at a top uni. It's necessary for the really good places and highly desirable for the first year not to be a nightmare, anywhere.

Medical schools will probably look more closely at what else is being done by the candidate. Time interning in old people's homes, medical practices, other evidence of a good broad character.

I used to teach uni maths to first years and have several doctors in the family. Dreaded getting kids with no A level FM as they really struggled, although we had to give them a place if they looked good but were at schools dumb enough not to offer it to A2.

swingofthings Thu 26-Jan-17 18:42:52

If your daughter is good at maths she should find some sections of the UKCAT relatively easy.
That's positive news as it feels such an unknown quantity at this stage, and yet alone counts for more than anything else. She has already looking into it, but plan is for plenty of practice in the summer before taking the test.

And if she is not sure, look at bio-medical engineering, a rapidly growing field.
That's a great tip, thank you (you were already very helpful in a previous thread I posted last year I think!). Indeed, there are still other avenues to be explored and that's something definitely worth looking into.

It is indeed a very good point that even if doing a fourth A level doesn't help to get in, it will definitely help in getting on with the demand of the course if she gets in, so that is a positive aspect.

She is certainly not intending on dropping any of her courses, just probably needs to put a bit more work into getting the grades .Her teachers have said exactly the same her science teachers said last year, her issue is not with understanding and processing of the content of the course, she is always the first to get things and to put the theory into practice, what she finds more difficult in evidencing it in the expected exam format! She struggles a bit with the concept of 'expanding her answers is a good thing' because for her the response is obvious. That's why she finds maths so much easier! It's a technical matter though and her teachers said they were confident she will get the required A/A*s if she puts the practice in, but less time, less practice!

As you pointed out roguedad, outside activities are essential and she does dedicate many hours a week to it in addition to being at school 8 to 3pm every day and studying outside. No spare time, but indeed, what better preparation as Needmoresleep pointed out than what it will be like for many years to come if she gets into Medicine.

user7214743615 Fri 27-Jan-17 09:45:32

Dreaded getting kids with no A level FM as they really struggled, although we had to give them a place if they looked good but were at schools dumb enough not to offer it to A2.

As has been pointed out many times on related threads, you are out of date. Nowadays "top" universities (outside the very top few) are taking a large number of students for maths without FM and the curricula have been adjusted accordingly. Students without FM don't really struggle in the first year.

Also insulting to say that schools are "dumb" not to offer FM. The reason for not offering FM is usually budgetary, not "dumbness".

For OP I wonder whether her DD would benefit from looking more deeply into available STEM courses. Maths or medicine is a very polarised choice. There are lots of other possibilities.

Needmoresleep Fri 27-Jan-17 11:01:10

Thanks Swing.

1. A long shot, but are you certain that your daughter does not have any SPLDs. A level, and the essay demands that come with it, can be the time these show up. DD has slow processing speeds and though she knows and understands the biology/chemistry, she is not great at getting it down on paper. Understanding her strengths and weaknesses has really helped.

2. It sounds as if our DDs are on a similar journey. DD found she increasingly enjoyed maths/physics, especially in Yr 13. I then met a biomedical engineer, who I think researched artificial hearts at a London teaching hospital. He advised that DD should think carefully about whether she wanted to be a doctor, as there were lots of other ways to practice medicine. He saw a small number of patients over a long period, far from the production line many hospital doctors faced, and very far from the lumps and bumps, chills and ills seen by GPs. He suggested he was closer to a car designer whilst many doctors were mechanics, and he regularly came across doctors who realised they had missed their vocation. DD did not look into it much further other than to note the huge developments in scanning etc that generally come under medical engineering which would fit with her current interest in neurology, and that if her interests continue in that direction it is a speciality that can be accessed via intercalation. Apparently there is a shortage of doctors in that field, and I read somewhere that maths is becoming increasingly important in medicine. And that there is frustration in the UK that so many kids who take science A levels want to be doctors, yet the limited range of A levels they take means they can only access a limited range of science degrees if they don't get their medical school place. User is right. Plan B need not be maths, but taking double maths will leave her in a good position to apply for some very interesting degrees.

swingofthings Sun 29-Jan-17 15:58:54

Hi Needmoresleep, I don't think DD has any learning difficulties from an education/health sense, but yes, she does find it more difficult to express her ideas on papers. I think her issues is the other way around, she processes things too quickly and so struggles to break each component of her thinking, but as you've said, she now understands this and should be fine with a lot of practicing and learning to tick the boxes.

Thank you for your suggestion of looking into Medical Engineering. I expect DD's first reaction is that it is not for her because a large aspect of her interest in medicine is that actual interaction with patients. She is very social and like to interact with others. During her placement, she said that she really enjoyed learning about the associated disorders from a scientific perspective (she was in Hematology), but what she enjoyed the most was the interaction with the patients, both in and out patients. Still, I do think it is a field she should keep her mind opened to, as it is opening mine right at this moment! Thank you.

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