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Can You Study Medicine Without A-Levels?

Can You Study Medicine Without A-Levels?

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Due to how competitive a subject medicine is to get into, students normally have top A-level grades and an outstanding academic record.

But, could you still get an offer for medical school despite not having achieved a single A-level?

In the UK, it is possible for a student to study medicine without having any A-levels. This can be achieved either by having equivalent international qualifications or by undertaking an access to medicine course. Alternatively, some graduate entry medicine courses have no requirement for A-levels.

Contrary to what you might think, you actually have a few options open to you as a medicine applicant without any A-levels.

In this article, I’m going to explore further what those options are, as well as giving you the information you’ll need to decide which is the best for your unique situation.

How Can You Get Into Medicine With No A-Levels?

Traditionally, students require at least AAA to have any chance of getting into medical school.

Not only that but offers are being given out as A*AA with increasing frequency, with the University of Cambridge even routinely demanding A*A*A.

With all this being said, it might seem incredibly unlikely that it’s possible to get into medicine without any A-levels at all.

Fortunately for hundreds of students every year, it’s totally possible.

But, you may just have to put a little bit more thought into where you’re going to apply compared to the average candidate.

If you don’t have any A-levels you essentially have 4 options:

  1. Apply with any foreign qualifications you may have
  2. Enrol in an access to medicine course
  3. Sit some A-levels in your spare time
  4. Earn an undergraduate degree and then apply as a graduate
Medical School Without A-Levels Pixel Infographic

Equally, you may have some A-levels, but just not the grades that are traditionally required for medicine.

In which case, you have 4 more options:

  1. Do a gateway to medicine course
  2. Resit your A-levels to get better grades
  3. Transfer to medicine from another degree
  4. Earn an undergraduate degree and then apply as a graduate

If you want to learn more about how to get into medicine with poor A-levels then you should check out this article.

For now, I’m going to focus on how you can get into medical school with no A-levels at all.

Apply To Medicine With Foreign Qualifications

The first scenario I’m going to consider is that of having no A-levels but you do have equivalent international qualifications.

If this is the case, you’re pretty much good to go.

Nearly every UK medical school is more than happy to accept international qualifications in lieu of A-levels.

The exact conversion of international grades to A-levels, and specific entry requirements as such, vary from medical school to medical school.

But, broadly if you have equivalent qualifications from leaving school that are internationally recognised then you should have no trouble getting into medical school.

At its most basic, this would look like applying to an English medical school with Scottish Highers.

For example, the University of Bristol lists its entry requirements as such:

  • AAA at A-level or
  • AA at SQA Advanced Higher or
  • AAAAB in Scottish Highers or
  • 36 points overall in the International Baccalaureate with 18 points in three Higher Level subjects

Most medical schools will list the most common conversions/requirements for international grades on their website.

However, if you can’t see your qualifications on there then the easiest thing to do is reach out to the admissions team via email or phone.

The UK national agency for international qualifications and skills can also help with comparing UK and international qualifications.

Enrol In An Access To Medicine Course

Now, if you’ve not got any A-levels, nor have you got any international equivalent, an access to medicine course may be exactly what you’re looking for.

An access to medicine course can be used to apply to medical school with instead of A-levels.

It’s a year-long college course aimed at mature learners who don’t have the qualifications traditionally required to get into medical school.

This might mean not having the right science subjects at A-level or not having any A-levels at all.

An access to medicine course isn’t aimed at students who have A-levels but underperformed and so didn’t meet their offers for medicine.

To enrol, you’ll often have had to be out of education for a certain number of years or be over a certain age.

An A-level student carrying textbooks

Instead of two-year-long A-levels, an access to medicine course is a year-long full-time program filled with the basic scientific theory you’d need to set yourself up to begin studying as a medical student.

You will generally still need GCSEs to study an access to medicine course and medical schools will often still require at least GCSE English and maths from mature students.

One important thing to note, however, is that not every medical school will accept candidates who apply with this qualification rather than A-levels.

You can find out which medical schools accept access to medicine courses here.

Sit Some A-Levels In Your Spare Time

Although you may not have any A-levels at present, one of your options is to go back to college and get some.

It’s not a sneaky backdoor way into medicine, but sometimes it is just the easiest way.

You can study A-levels at a local college full-time, part-time or even online.

A-levels generally take 2 years to complete, as in school, but with a concerted effort can be achieved in just a single year.

For medicine, I’d recommend you sit Chemistry, Biology and one other subject.

A-level biology students studying water samples under a microscope

It’s not hugely important what this third subject is, as long as it’s recognised by the majority of UK medical schools (i.e. not General Studies, Critical Thinking, Citizenship and Key Skills etc.).

I’d recommend you take a subject you think you’d enjoy learning about, as that often correlates with students getting a higher grade.

With 3 As including Chemistry and Biology, you’ll be able to apply to almost any medical school you like.

If you’d prefer, you can even sit A-levels as a private student.

This is where you’d study independently for the qualification and then only pay an exam fee to turn up for the final exam.

It’s not a good option if you’re not self-motivated or need tuition, but could be a great way to fit studying for A-levels around an otherwise busy diary.

A-level exam fees typically range from £84 to £196 depending on the A-level course and exam centre you sit them at.

While the cost of enrolling in an online course will be significantly higher, starting at £340 and progressing up to around £1500, for that price you will get lessons, small group teaching and personalised feedback as you progress through the program.

If that extra money is going to be the difference between getting a ‘B’ by yourself or an ‘A*’ as a result of some 1-on-1 tuition, I’d say it’s definitely money well spent.

Apply To Medicine As A Graduate

Whether you don’t have any A-levels or you only have poor A-levels, applying to medicine as a graduate can be a good backstop in your plan to get into medical school.

It is arguably the longest and most expensive option, but sometimes it is necessary to get another degree if you decide you want to go to medical school.

Equally, you may already have an undergraduate degree and are now wondering if you can get into medicine as a graduate despite having no A-levels.

There are in fact 10 medical schools that accept graduate students without any specific A-level requirements.

Medical SchoolA-Level RequirementsDegree Requirements
University of Chester MedicalNone2:1 BSc or above.  Will accept 2:2 degree with Masters or Doctorate
King’s College LondonNoneMinimum of 2:1 in a biosciences subject
Newcastle UniversityNone2:1 achieved in any previous honours degree, or integrated Master’s or be a practising healthcare professional with a post-registration qualification
University of NottinghamNoneMinimum 2:2 expected in previous degree in any subject
University of SouthamptonNoneMinimum 2:1 in any subject, in their first degree
St George’sNoneMinimum 2:1 Honours degree in any subject or a postgraduate degree (any discipline) at a pass or above if your first degree is a 2:2 Honours
Swansea UniversityNoneBachelors degree 2:1 in any subject area, or Bachelors degree 2:2 with subsequent higher degree
University of WarwickNoneMinimum of 2:1 Honours achieved in any subject
Three Counties Medical SchoolNoneMinimum 2:1 in any subject (or 2:2 plus Masters or Doctoral degree)
Ulster UniversityNoneMinimum of a 2:1 Honours degree in any discipline. Alternatively, a Master’s Degree, with an overall pass of at least 60%

The entry requirements above are those for the graduate entry courses at each respective institution.

Some of the universities listed, such as Newcastle University, do run both an undergraduate medicine course as well as their 4-year graduate entry course.

But, without A-levels, you’d only be able to apply to the graduate entry option as their undergraduate program does demand 3As.

Having a degree sort of goes one step above A-levels, resulting in these universities being willing to accept students without any (or only poor) A-levels due to the fact that they’ve academically proven themselves in other ways.

What Are The Lowest A-Levels Needed For Medicine In The UK?

Finally, what if you do have some A-levels but don’t quite meet the standard AAA threshold?

What are the lowest grades needed to get into medicine in the UK?

The answer to this depends on two things:

  1. Whether you meet any widening participation criteria
  2. Whether you’re a mature student or already have a degree

If you already have a degree, or are eligible to enrol in an access to medicine course, as we’ve seen above it’s perfectly possible to get into medicine without any A-levels at all.

On the other hand, if you meet a medical school’s widening participation criteria, they will often give out offers one or two grades below their standard level.

For example, if you’re a care leaver and are applying to Brighton and Sussex Medical School, instead of their standard offer of AAA you may be given an offer of AAB.

But, what if you don’t hit any widening participation criteria nor are you a mature student with a previous degree?

Well, there are 3 medical schools that you may want to consider:

  • Brunel
  • University of Buckingham
  • Kent and Medway

Brunel and Kent and Medway generally require AAB from applicants while the University of Buckingham goes one step further and only asks for ABB.

These then, without any further extenuating circumstances, are the lowest A-levels you can get into medical school with.

Final Thoughts

Although you may not always need particular grades to get onto a medicine course, this shouldn’t be confused with not needing to be academically capable.

Medical school challenges even the brightest of students.

But, despite the fact that medical degrees are unquestionably highly academically demanding, it is entirely possible to study medicine without any A-levels.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.