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GCSEs Needed To Be A Doctor (Your Essential Guide)

GCSEs Needed To Be A Doctor (Your Essential Guide)

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.

Almost every medical school evaluates an applicant’s GCSEs to decide whether or not to give them an offer.

With this being the case, what GCSEs do you need to be a doctor?

To become a doctor, students will generally need at least 5 GCSEs at grades 7 to 9 (or A to A*), including English, maths and science. However, applying to medicine is incredibly competitive so the better grade profile a student has, the more likely they are to be successful in their application.

If you’re at school now, looking ahead to hopefully attending medical school, now can be the perfect time to give yourself a great start to your medical career.

Or, you may be looking back at previous GCSE results and wondering if they’ll be good enough to get you in.

Either way, this article should help you out as I dive into what results you should be aiming for if you want to study medicine, the minimum GCSEs you’d actually need and what the best subject choices can be.

What GCSEs Are Needed To Study Medicine?

GCSEs are generally an incredibly important part of any medicine application.

For starters, most medical schools have a minimum GCSE requirement set for applicants to not get automatically rejected.

They’re also used by lots of medical schools to help select who they want to interview and subsequently who they want to give offers to.

With competition for medicine places seeming to rise every year, you can’t afford to have your GCSEs let your application down.

You need to only select medical schools that will work with your application.

Broadly, the GCSEs needed to study medicine are as follows:

Essential– Maths
– English Language
Recommended– Maths
– English Language
– Science (some form)
Ideal– Maths
– English Language
– Biology
– Chemistry
– Physics

For the vast majority of medical schools, these subjects will need to be held at grade 6 or above.

Now, although Maths, English Language and the 3 sciences at 6+ is ideal, there are of course always exceptions to the rules of what medical schools require.

Every medical school has slightly different requirements as we’ll see slightly later on.

Another point to note is that although medical schools publish their minimum GCSE requirements, the students who actually get offers often far exceed these minimum requirements.

For example, both Oxford and Cambridge have no specific GCSE requirements for their applicants- you could technically apply with one 3, one 4 and a 2.

However, everyone knows that that candidate will have almost no chance of being accepted- Oxbridge places a massive emphasis on the academic achievement of their applicants.

While this is a bit of an extreme example, you get the idea. You should be aiming for as many 9s and 8s in your GCSEs as you can as medicine is an incredibly competitive subject to study.

GCSE Requirements For Every UK Medical School

In the table below I’ve tried to summarise the GCSE requirements for every medical school in the UK.

I have slightly simplified the guidelines from some of the medical schools- for example, I’ve not included iGCSE or Scottish Higher conversions or some of the detail regarding double science awards vs taking the sciences individually.

However, the main sentiments are all included:

Medical SchoolStandard GCSE Requirements
University of AberdeenMinimum grade 6 in English Language and Maths
Anglia RuskinMinimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 6-9 including English Language, Maths and two science subjects
Aston UniversityMinimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 6 or above including English Language, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology or Double Science
University of Birmingham7 GCSEs including a minimum of grade 6 in English Language, Maths, Biology and Chemistry or dual award science
Brighton and SussexMinimum grade 6 in English (Language or Literature) and Maths
University of BristolMinimum grade 4 in English Language and 7 in Maths
BrunelMinimum grade 6 in Maths
University of BuckinghamNo specific requirements
University of CambridgeNo specific requirements
Cardiff UniversityMinimum grade 6 in English Language, Maths, Chemistry and Biology (or double science)
University of DundeeMinimum grade 6 in English Language, Maths and Biology
Edge Hill UniversityMinimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 6 or above including English Language, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology or Double Science
University of East Anglia6 GCSEs at grade 7 or above, including Mathematics and two science subjects or (double science). GCSE English Language grade 6.
University of EdinburghMinimum grade 6 in English Language, Maths, Biology and Chemistry
University of ExeterMinimum of grade 4 in GCSE English Language
University of GlasgowMinimum grade 6 in English
Hull York6 GCSEs grade 4 and above, including GCSE English Language (6+) and GCSE Maths (6+)
Imperial College LondonMinimum grade 6 in English
Keele UniversityMinimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 7 or higher; at least 6s in English Language, Maths and sciences
Kent and Medway5 GCSEs at grades 6-9 including Maths, English Language, Biology, Chemistry and Physics
King’s College LondonMinimum grade 6 in English Language and Maths
Lancaster UniversityMinimum of 8 GCSEs, including English language, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics
University of Leeds6 subjects at minimum grade 5 including English Language, Maths, Double/Additional Science or Chemistry and Biology
University of LeicesterMinimum grade 6 in English Language, Maths, and two sciences
Lincoln6 GCSEs at grade 7 or above including Chemistry and Biology plus a minimum of 6 in English Language and Maths
University of LiverpoolA minimum of 9 GCSEs
University of Manchester7 GCSEs at grade 7+. English Language, Maths and at least two science subjects required at grade 6+
Newcastle UniversityNo specific requirements
University of Nottingham6 GCSEs at grade 7 or above including Chemistry and Biology plus a minimum of 6 in English Language and Maths
University of OxfordNo specific requirements
University of Plymouth7 GCSEs at 4+ which must include English Language, Maths and 2 science subjects
Queen Mary University777666 required in any order including the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, English Language, and Maths
Queen’s University BelfastMinimum grade 4 in Maths plus Physics or Double Science if not taken at A-level
University of Sheffield5 GCSEs at grade 7. Minimum of grade 6 in English Language, Maths and Science
University of Southampton7 GCSEs at grade 6+, including English Language, Maths and either Biology and Chemistry or combined science
University of St AndrewsIf Biology, Maths or English are not offered at A level then each must be offered at GCSE grade 5+
St George’s5 GCSEs including Maths, English Language and sciences at grade 6+
University of Sunderland5 subjects at grade 7+ with a minimum of grade 6 in Maths, English Language, Biology, Chemistry and Physics
University College LondonMinimum grade 6 in English Language and Maths
University of Central Lancashire“Evidence of sustained academic achievement with a broad study of Science, Maths and English”

Just be aware that the table above is only in reference to a university’s standard-entry undergraduate medicine course.

GCSE requirements often differ for undergraduate vs graduate entry vs foundation year courses.

If you are trying to drill down to the exact requirements for a particular medical school, I would recommend heading over to a university’s website or calling up their admissions team.

I did my best to ensure the above information was accurate at the time of writing but the best place to get your data is always from the horse’s mouth.

The only university that I couldn’t find a solid answer for regarding their GCSE requirements was the University of Central Lancashire.

Their website simply states they require “evidence of sustained academic achievement with a broad study of Science, Maths and English” so if you are thinking about applying there I’d definitely give them a call.

Where To Apply If You Don’t Have A 6 in GCSE English Language

  • Bristol
  • Brunel
  • Buckingham
  • Cambridge
  • Exeter
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • Oxford
  • Plymouth
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • St Andrews

Where To Apply If You Don’t Have A 6 in GCSE Maths

  • Buckingham
  • Cambridge
  • Exeter
  • Glasgow
  • Imperial
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • Oxford
  • Plymouth
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • St Andrews

What Are The Minimum GCSE Requirements For Medicine?

One of the problems with GCSEs being used to select future doctors is that, in the grand scheme of things, students are incredibly young when they take them!

Loads of people aren’t mature enough at 14-16 years old to give these exams the respect they deserve.

Who’s to say that the actions of a 14-year-old not bothering to revise biology should dictate whether or not they can become a doctor 10 years later?

If you’re in the unfortunate position of having poor GCSEs as a result of past mistakes, you’re in luck.

There is no minimum GCSE requirement to study medicine.

That’s right, there are medical schools out there that won’t even look at your GCSEs!

However, if you’re currently studying for them don’t take this as an excuse to completely stop working.

Due to the fact that medicine is incredibly competitive, the better your GCSE results, the higher chance you’ll have of getting in.

A student filling in a GCSE answer paper

But, the fact stands that you could theoretically get into medicine with the worst GCSEs in your school.

You’d just have to apply to one of these universities:

  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Buckingham
  • University of Newcastle

The above three medical schools don’t have any specific GCSE requirements for their applicants.

However, with only 3s (or Ds) across the board in your GCSEs, you would essentially be limiting yourself to only being able to apply to those universities.

The simple fact is that although there is no minimum requirement, the better GCSEs you have the more doors you’ll leave open for yourself when it comes time to apply.

Check out this article if you want to learn about some other medical schools with low GCSE requirements.

What Are The Best GCSE Choices For Being A Doctor?

If you’re in the process of selecting your GCSE subjects and already know that you want to be a doctor in the future then you’re in luck.

By being able to look this far ahead you can make decisions now that will save you massive headaches with a medicine application further down the line.

The best GCSE choices for being a doctor are as follows:

  • English Language
  • Maths
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Personal choice 1
  • Personal choice 2
  • Personal choice 3

It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that- medical schools just don’t really require anything more.

GCSEs Needed To Be A Doctor Pixel Infographic

Without specific requirements from a medical school, there’s no need to flog yourself pursuing Further Maths or English Literature if you really hate them as subjects.

Now I personally actually studied both of those subjects at GCSE- but not because I had to.

English Literature was just a standard at my school but the Further Maths was a personal choice of mine. I knew it wasn’t strictly required for medicine.

Now, although 8 is the highest number of GCSEs explicitly demanded by a medical school, there is something to be said for taking more than 8.

Anything you can do to differentiate yourself from the crowd is going to do your medicine application favours.

So, having a few more 9s or 8s than the next person can look pretty good on your application.

However, the flip side of this is that you shouldn’t overstretch yourself trying to go after those extra grades.

A solid set of eight 9s and 8s looks far better to a university than ten GCSEs at 4s, 5s, or 6s.

What Other GCSE Subjects Should You Choose?

With your core subjects set, you may be wondering what other subjects you should choose for your optional slots.

I strongly believe that your personal choices should be subjects that you enjoy.

Having something to look forward to in the week will put you in a far better state of mind for performing in the harder subjects than if you hate your entire timetable.

When I did my GCSEs, I personally studied:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Maths
  • Further Maths
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • French
  • Economics
  • Design & Technology
  • History

Although not as academic as some of the other subjects, I absolutely loved the Design & Technology course.

There was just something about getting to be hands-on and learning about woodworking that was a complete breath of fresh air compared to my other GCSEs.

Honestly, as long as you’ve got that core of English Language, maths and science, I don’t think it hugely matters what you choose to study.

Psychology could be an interesting one with a bit of crossover with medicine, but I think the focus should be on selecting a subject that you can enjoy and get a good grade in, rather than what will help your medical studies in the future.

Can You Be A Doctor With No GCSEs?

If you left school without any formal qualifications or just didn’t achieve the GCSEs traditionally required to get into medicine, can you still become a doctor?

The simple answer: Yes.

But, you may have to take a bit of a long way around- you can’t after all just apply to universities that specifically state you need to have 7 GCSEs at grades 6 and above.

One option you have is to only apply to the medical schools that have no specific GCSE requirements.

But, you will need A-levels so this option is viable if you get at least 3 As at A-level.

A student flicking through a GCSE exam paper

A second option you have is to apply to medicine as a graduate.

If you’re able to get a degree under your belt, a lot of medical schools will be more interested in your degree classification and A-levels than your GCSEs.

Thirdly, you always have the option of going back to school to get some GCSEs.

This could be attending a college full-time alongside your A-levels, or it could be studying for them online and then just going to sit the exam.

Resitting GCSEs (or sitting some in the first place) can be the best option if you also don’t have the A-levels required to get into university to get a degree.

Final Thoughts

People may tell you that it’s not possible to study medicine without achieving a minimum of 8s and 9s at GCSE. And, to be fair, it’s easy to understand why they say this.

The minimum standards set by universities act as a barrier to unqualified applicants and many use GCSEs directly in their selection process for interview.

However, by carefully evaluating a medical school’s GCSE requirements, it’s possible to become a doctor with almost any combination of GCSE grades.

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.