There are many students in the UK, and internationally, who have set their hearts on becoming a doctor. Becoming a doctor may be an ambition for many of you, but it is no simple task. Institutions want to make sure that only the most intelligent and capable students are accepted. This is so that they can keep up with how academically rigorous a medicine degree can be. Therefore, many universities will have strict grade requirements for entry to their course.
It is generally agreed upon that the standard grade requirement is AAA at A-Level. Two of these grades must be from chemistry and another science subject, usually biology. The competitiveness of the course means that some universities may even consider your GCSE grades. Most successful applicants will have achieved at least 5 A*/A grades (7-9 grades). Grades are not the only factor assessed in applications. Many schools will set their own requirements including a specific pass mark on admission tests.
For a student aspiring to go to medical school, it is natural for you to be nervous about the competitive grade requirements. You may be wondering if your grades could put you at a disadvantage. Read on, to find out what sort of grades you will be needing to be a successful applicant to medical school.
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What A-Level grade requirements do you need for a medicine degree?
Most medicine degrees offered in the UK will require an A-Level in chemistry and or biology. You may be surprised to hear that a Chemistry A-Level is often more important than a Biology A-Level. An understanding of chemistry is important as it helps you to understand how vital medicines and drugs work in the body. The basic principles of chemistry will be addressed frequently in a medicine degree.
Lots of medical schools will go over key concepts in Biology, which are otherwise taught at A-Level, during the first year of the course. This means that students who take different exam boards or did not take Biology at A-Level will not be disadvantaged.
Of course, grade requirements will vary depending on the rank of the university you are applying to. A typical offer from Cambridge will be A*A*A in chemistry and another science. However, a lower ranking medical school like Buckingham requires at least ABB in biology and chemistry.
Check out this article from Think Student for a list of medical schools that are easier to get into.
If you are considering applying to medical school, it is likely that you are already an academic high achiever. It also means that the other students applying will be the same. This means that excellent A-Level grades are not a guarantee for entry to a medicine degree.
What is the UCAT and BMAT pass mark?
In addition to good school grades, it is equally important to get a good mark in your admissions test. The two tests usually sat by students are the BMAT or UCAT. The test you take will depend on the medical school you’re applying to. Check out this link to find out which test you should be preparing for.
Whilst both tests are used for medical school admissions, the format of each test is very different so you should be sure you know which one you are taking. For a complete list of medical school test requirements, check out this article from MedSchoolGenie.
UCAT pass mark
The UCAT is used by most medical schools. It is a digital test that assesses your general aptitude over 4 main sections. These include verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and decision making. Each section will be scaled to a score between 300 and 900 and your scores in all 4 sections will be totalled to produce a score out of 3600. The average UCAT score is 2499 in total.
The final part of the UCAT test is the situational judgement test which tests how you handle real-life situations. Your score is separated into 4 bands with Band 1 being the highest. Band 2 is considered a good score and the majority of people will score in Band 2 or Band 3.
This section of the test can be considered more difficult because you must remember not to apply personal judgement. In 2021, only 14% of people achieved a Band 1 on average whereas 30% did in 2020.
BMAT pass mark
In contrast, the BMAT consists of 3 sections and is a written assessment. Section 1 and 2 consist of 59 points in total and these points will correspond to a scale between 1.0 and 9.0. As section 3 is an essay section, the quality of your English is what will primarily be assessed. The quality of your English will be given a score of A, C or E whilst the quality of content will be given a score between 1 and 5. The average overall BMAT score is 5.0 but the best candidates will generally score between 6.0 and 7.0.
Higher ranking schools will expect higher scores in the BMAT. For example, UCL expects an applicant to score roughly 4.5-5 in Sections 1 and 2 and an estimated 3.5 Grade A in Section 3. However, Cambridge generally expects an average of 4.6 for Section 1, 5.9 for Section 2 and 3.2 for Section 3 for an applicant to be successful.
Check out this helpful article for the BMAT expectations from different universities.
How long is a medicine degree?
The knowledge and skills you need to acquire in order to become a doctor cannot be acquired over the average degree length. Therefore, most medicine degrees will take between roughly four to seven years to complete.
This process can be longer if you wish to study an intercalated year which will extend your degree by a year. An intercalated degree gives students the opportunity to explore other areas of medicine, or a field entirely separate in between their medicine degree. Usually, 3 years of work for a Bsc will be combined into this one year, therefore it is a lot of work.
A medicine degree will primarily be focused on classwork and lab work in the first two years, but students will frequently cover real-life scenarios which involve interviewing and examining patients. Once you reach the third and fourth years of your degree you will gain more clinical experience which involves rotations at hospitals and assisting doctors.
What do you do after a medicine degree?
The expected route to take after a medicine degree is to complete a foundation programme. A foundation programme is a two-year programme and this covers general medical training and helps you to develop skill sets such as managing patients. Training will cover different medical specialities and you will later be given the choice to choose a specialty.
Even though becoming a qualified doctor is the traditional route after a medicine degree, it is not the only route. By the end of your degree, you may realise that becoming a doctor is not the life you want and that is perfectly okay. The medical skills and training covered in medical school makes medicine degree graduates valuable applicants for jobs alternative to medical careers.
If you enjoyed the theory and practical aspects of your degree, you may consider a career in medical research at a university or even a professor of medicine.
A large motivator for people leaving the medical industry is the low starting salary and the years of continuous training. This is why the pharmaceutical industry is extremely popular amongst medicine graduates as your extensive knowledge of anatomy can offer an attractive salary.
If you know that a pathway in medicine will work best for you, check out this article from Think Student for a more in-depth overview of the steps to becoming a qualified doctor.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand what grades you should expect to have in order to enter medical school. Completing a medicine degree will require a lot of work and is not the last step in becoming a doctor. Make sure you get a head start and start preparing for those admission tests.