Becoming a Doctor takes lots of hard work and many years of specific training after Higher Education, but how will your GCSEs impact your opportunities in the field? Which subjects do you need and what grades should you be achieving in them? What other qualifications might you need to become a Doctor?
It seems likely that if you are researching the pathways to becoming a Doctor as early as the time that you are taking your GCSEs, that you are very motivated and focused, which will be beneficial to you if you would like to pursue Medicine as a career. In this article, I am going to explain which GCSEs you will need in order to become a Doctor, and how they will impact your academic path to becoming a Doctor.
If you want the short answer, here it is: In order to be able to become a Doctor, you will need at least 7 GCSEs, 5 of which will need to be at Grades 7-9. You will also need to have pass grades (at least) in Maths, English Language and either Triple (ideally) or Combined Science. However, it is important to note that these are simply minimum requirements, and Medicine is an incredibly competitive field, so ideally you want to aim for as many grades 7-9 as you can, and avoid achieving anything less than a grade 4 in any subject. It is also incredibly important that, as a minimum, you make sure that your GCSE grades mean that you can access the right A-Levels which will allow you to progress into your career as a Doctor.
What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Medicine Related A-Levels at Sixth-Form?
If you want to become a doctor, it is a very good idea to study Chemistry and Biology at Sixth Form, as these are often the subjects which are required by Universities (Chemistry especially is almost always absolutely required by Universities). Therefore, if you are looking to take these Medicine related A-Levels at Sixth Form, it is incredibly important that you get good GCSE grades in Science and Maths.
It is a very good idea to take Triple Science at GCSE if you would like to become a Doctor. Although it is not necessarily required in order to become a Doctor, it will certainly make it easier for you to progress into the field, and you will find the A-Level subjects slightly more manageable. Though this is not to say that they will be impossible if you have taken Combined Science at GCSE.
Physics, Maths and Humanities subjects at A-Level are also often valued by Universities, so you may want to consider taking subjects which allow you to continue with these at A-Level. If you were considering doing a Humanities subject at A-Level (such as History), you may want to take this at GCSE in order to put yourself in a stronger position for the A-Level course. This is not essential, as usually the courses require you to have GCSEs in English Language as a minimum and History as a preference, but it will give you a better understanding of the subject, while also making sure that it is the subject you would like to study.
For most Sixth Forms, you will be required to have GCSE passes in Maths and English Language as a basic requirement for any course, and if you want to do Science A-Levels you are often required to have at least a 6 in the subject area that you would like to continue with. However, this does vary between Sixth Forms so it is important that you look into the specific grades that are required at the Sixth Forms near you.
What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Medicine at University?
There are no formal GCSE requirements for some Medicine Degree courses at University. However, as with most subjects, this can vary between Universities. Generally, you will be required to have GCSE passes (Grade 4 minimum) in any of the preferred subjects (Physics, Biology, Maths) which you have not taken at A-Level.
Though, again, these can very easily vary between Universities, so it is incredibly important that you research each individual potential University you would like to apply to. The top University in the UK according to the Guardian University Guide in 2020 was Oxford University, who don’t require any specific GCSEs for their course (you can find more details here).
However, it is important to remember that Medicine is an extremely competitive field, and so achieving the best GCSEs you can is something which will put you in a much better position. Ideally, you want to aim for those 7-9 grades If you can to show how capable you are of working hard and achieving high grades. It will also look much better on your University Application if you make sure you don’t have any subjects below a grade 4 (this really is the minimum that you should be achieving!).
What GCSEs Do You Need to Train to Become a Doctor After University?
After you have gained your degree in Medicine, there are a number of further education courses which you will need to complete in order to become a Doctor (keep reading this article to find out what these may be), however they obviously vary depending on what type of Doctor you would like to be. Therefore, there are likely to be differences in how competitive the courses are, and therefore how relevant and important your GCSEs are in your time after University.
After you complete your Medical Degree at University, you will have achieved a number of qualifications which are more specific and valuable to you than your GCSEs will be (including your degree and your Medicine related A-Levels).
This is certainly not to say that GCSEs won’t still hold some relevance, as Medicine is incredibly competitive, so they may be considered (even if only looked at briefly). Therefore, it is still incredibly important that you work as hard as you can when doing your GCSEs, in order to put you in the best position you can be in when progressing with your dream career in Medicine.
What GCSE Grades Do You Need to Achieve to Become a Doctor?
Ideally, if you would like to become a doctor, you should have at least 5 GCSEs in which you have achieved grades 7-9. You should also have 7 GCSEs in total as a bare minimum, but really you want to aim for a total of 9 (so you haven’t achieved less than a grade of 4 in any subject).
You should also be aiming for a minimum of a grade 6 in Maths, as this will not only help you get into the right A-Level courses, but will also demonstrate your baseline abilities in the subject, which will be incredibly useful to show off to Universities – especially if this is not one of the subjects that you continue with at A-Level!
As I said before, you will also need to consider the GCSE requirements for your chosen A-Level courses at the Sixth Forms which are local to you. It is vital that you make sure you can get on to the courses that are required by Universities (Chemistry in particular), so make sure that you are aware of what these are before to give you a good idea of minimum grades – though remember that the minimum is not what you should be aiming for!
Can You Become a Doctor Without Particular GCSEs?
Technically, you can become a doctor with just 7 GCSEs (which means you can get grades less than 4s in 2 of your subjects), though this is not an ideal situation to be in to say the least. You need to be aiming for top grades in as many subjects as you can, as Medicine is so competitive.
It is also absolutely required that you have GCSE passes (and ideally higher) in the core subjects, including Maths, English Language, and all the Sciences (whether that is Triple or Combined Science). Without these, you will not be able to progress onto the right A-Level courses which will permit you to do a Medical degree.
If, after reading this article, you have decided that perhaps being a doctor isn’t for you, or you are worried about what you will be able to do after you get your results, take a look at this useful article, which lists some of the jobs which you can do without any GCSEs.
What Other Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Doctor?
Becoming a Doctor requires many years of training, and therefore, you will have to gain a number of extra qualifications before you will be able to start working properly. These vary slightly depending on the type of doctor you would like to be.
After you have done your Medical degree, you will need to complete 2 years of Foundation training, and then after this, you will need to complete some specialist training. For example, if you wanted to be a General Practitioner (GP) you would need to complete 3 years of specialist GP training. If, however, you wanted to be a Hospital Doctor, you would need to do 3-7 years of specialist training after the foundation training.
More details of these specific career paths can be found on the UCAS Website:
Don’t forget that GCSEs are not necessarily the most important qualification for Doctors, but that they do serve as stepping stones to get you onto the courses that you will need in order to progress into that career. You must try to get the best grades that you can all the way through your academic career, because Medicine is so competitive.
Which Skills Learnt at GCSE are Most Useful to a Perspective Doctor?
A good Doctor should have a wide range of skills. You can develop some of these general skills at GCSE level. There are many lists of examples of skills which you need, for example on the NHS Website.
An example of a skill which you could develop during your GCSEs is your ability to collaborate with other people (teamwork). It is highly likely that you will be given the opportunity to work in groups to learn the content for GCSEs (even though you obviously won’t be able to do this in your exams!), and these projects should be taken full advantage of. Teamwork skills are something that are valued by all employers, as communication skills are incredibly important in any workplace. As a Doctor, it would be vital that you were able to communicate with your colleagues effectively and work alongside them successfully.
Another example of a skillset which you can learn and develop at GCSE are your organisation and time management skills. Throughout your academic career, it will be incredibly important to be able to keep all of your notes and revision organised, as well as to be able to manage your time effectively to let you balance academic activities with hobbies. As a Doctor, it will be important for you to have these skills so that you can balance your work life and personal life.
Does the School at Which You Get Your GCSE Qualifications Matter to Universities?
The school at which you get your GCSEs from should make absolutely no difference to your University application. The qualifications will be the same regardless of the school where you gained them, and therefore, the school is not considered by Universities when you apply.
The same applies for the Sixth Form which you get your A-Levels from. Universities will not have any biases towards particular schools or Sixth Forms. The important part of your qualification is the grade that you have achieved, and the subjects which you have studied.
So, overall, you should not be worrying about which school you are at, but instead you should be working incredibly hard to achieve those top grades in your GCSEs, specifically focused on Maths, the Sciences, and English Language.