What A-Levels Do You Need To Be A Doctor? (Full Comparison)

Updated on: December 17, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

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

Medical schools use a candidate’s A-levels to get an idea of how clever they are as well as to rank them against all the other applicants to help decide who will be accepted.

With this being the case, what A-levels do you need to be a doctor?

To become a doctor, a student will generally need at least 3 A grades at A-level, including As in chemistry and biology. A handful of medical schools, including Oxford and UCL, actually require A*AA for their standard offer. ABB is generally the lowest possible grade profile to be accepted.

Doctors need to be able to learn and remember a huge amount of information in order to be good at their jobs.

Your A-levels are possibly the most important element of your medicine application as they prove to medical schools that you’ve got what it takes to cope with the challenges of medical school.

In this article, I’ve pulled together the A-level requirements for all the different medical schools in the UK, as well as looking at how you can get into medicine even if you don’t have the grades traditionally needed.

What A-Levels Do You Need To Apply For Medical School?

Although AAA is the standard offer for medical school, there is actually considerable variation between all of the different universities.

Offers range from A*A*A for the University of Cambridge all the way to ABB for the University of Buckingham.

Some require both chemistry and biology, while others do not.

In this table, I’ve pulled together the A-level requirements from every medical school in the UK:

Medical SchoolStandard A-Level Requirements
University of AberdeenAAA including Chemistry and one of Biology, Physics or Maths
Anglia RuskinAAA including Biology or Chemistry and one of either Biology, Chemistry, Maths or Physics
Aston UniversityAAA including Chemistry and Biology
University of BirminghamA*AA including Chemistry and Biology
Brighton and SussexAAA including Chemistry and Biology
University of BristolAAA including Chemistry and one of Biology, Physics or Maths
BrunelAAB including Biology or Chemistry and a second science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics) or Maths
University of BuckinghamABB including Chemistry and Biology
University of CambridgeA*A*A including Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics or Maths (two required by some Colleges)
Cardiff UniversityAAA including Chemistry and Biology. Applicants offering only one of Biology or Chemistry at A2 may be considered
University of DundeeAAA including Chemistry and another science
Edge Hill UniversityAAA including Chemistry and Biology
University of East AngliaAAA including Biology or Chemistry
University of EdinburghA*AA including Chemistry and one from Biology/Human Biology, Mathematics or Physics
University of ExeterAAA including Chemistry and Biology
University of GlasgowAAA including Chemistry and Biology or Physics or Mathematics
Hull YorkAAA including Chemistry and Biology
Imperial College LondonA*AA including Chemistry and Biology
Keele UniversityA*AA including Biology or Chemistry and one from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Further Maths, Maths, Physics, Psychology, Statistics
Kent and MedwayAAB including Biology and/or Chemistry, plus another science if both are not offered (can include Physics, Maths, Psychology, Computing)
King’s College LondonA*AA including Chemistry and Biology
Lancaster UniversityAAA including two from Biology, Chemistry and Psychology or AAB in 3 A levels (as above) plus an EPQ
University of LeedsAAA including Biology or Chemistry. Physics or Maths must also be offered if Chemistry is not taken
University of LeicesterA*AA including Biology or Chemistry and one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths or Psychology
LincolnAAA including Chemistry and Biology (or Human Biology)
University of LiverpoolAAA including Chemistry with either Biology, Physics or Mathematics
University of ManchesterAAA including Biology/Human Biology or Chemistry and one of Chemistry, Biology/Human Biology, Physics, Psychology, Maths or Further Maths
Newcastle UniversityAAA in any subject excluding General Studies, Use of Mathematics, World Development, Communication and Culture and Critical Thinking
University of NottinghamAAA including Chemistry and Biology/Human Biology
University of OxfordA*AA including Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics, Mathematics or Further Mathematics
University of PlymouthA*AA-AAA including Biology and one further science from Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Psychology
Queen Mary UniversityA*AA including Biology or Chemistry plus another science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics, or Maths)
Queen’s University BelfastAAA at A level and A in a fourth AS level subject including Chemistry plus at least one other from Biology/Maths/Physics
University of SheffieldAAA including Biology or Chemistry, and another science (Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Physics, Psychology)
University of SouthamptonAAA including Biology and one other science (Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Environmental Studies or Geography)
University of St AndrewsAAA including Chemistry and one other of Biology, Maths or Physics
St George’sAAA including Chemistry and Biology
University of SunderlandAAA including Biology or Chemistry plus another designated science subject (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths/Further Maths/Statistics)
University College LondonA*AA. Biology and Chemistry are required with either at grade A*
University of Central LancashireAAA with at least two science subjects including Chemistry

These represent the standard offers universities routinely give out to students applying to their A100 medicine course.

Things are often a little different for either graduate-entry applicants or for applicants who would qualify for a university’s widening participation program.

I’ve done my best to ensure the accuracy of this table at the time of writing, but things do change.

If you are about to shortlist a medical school, I’d always recommend getting the information from the horse’s mouth itself- either direct from the university’s website or by giving their admissions team a ring.

What A-Level Subjects Are Essential To Study Medicine?

If you want to be a doctor but you don’t have the classic science and maths A-levels of a medicine applicant, I have some good news for you.

You can get into medicine with any A-levels.

However, while it is possible to get an offer for medicine with general studies, dance and German, you’ll be severely limited by which universities you can apply to.

You’ll almost certainly have to study medicine as a graduate, having gone away and got an undergraduate degree before applying.

You can make your life a million times easier, and give yourself a far wider range of university choices, if you take some more traditional subjects.

Almost every medicine course requires at least one science A-level from either chemistry or biology:

If you take chemistry, biology and either maths or physics, you’ll keep all your options open.

If you take chemistry, biology and a subject of your choosing, you’ll keep almost all your options open.

If you only take chemistry, you’ll still have kept most of your options open.

If you only take biology, you’ll still have kept some of your options open.

If you only take communication studies, you’re in trouble.

If you’re hoping to study medicine, and haven’t made your A-level choices yet, then I’d do everything you can to make it as easy as possible to be accepted to medical school.

This means keeping as many options open to yourself as you can so that you can make informed decisions about which universities you’ll put down on your UCAS form further down the line.

For example, if you have the worst day of your life on your UCAT exam day, you’ll want to have the freedom to solely apply to universities that don’t really look at it.

If you’ve ruled these ones out by not having the right A-level subjects, you’ll have a much steeper uphill battle in order to secure an offer.

Which Medical Schools Don’t Necessarily Require Biology?

You don’t need to have studied biology at A-level in order to apply to the following universities:

  • University of Aberdeen
  • Anglia Ruskin
  • University of Bristol
  • Brunel
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Dundee
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Keele University
  • Kent and Medway
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Oxford
  • Queen Mary University
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Leeds
What A-Levels Do You Need To Be A Doctor Pixel Infographic

Which Medical Schools Don’t Necessarily Require Chemistry?

You don’t need to have studied chemistry at A-level in order to apply to the following universities:

  • Anglia Ruskin
  • Brunel
  • University of East Anglia
  • Keele University
  • Kent and Medway
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leicester
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Plymouth
  • Queen Mary University
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Manchester

You might also be interested to find out whether you should be taking 3 or 4 A-level subjects to support your medicine application here.

Can You Become A Doctor Without Any Science A-Levels?

Even if didn’t take any science subjects at all at A-level, you can still become a doctor.

Although it’s not an ideal position to be in, the door to medicine is definitely still open to you.

You essentially have three options:

  1. Sit science A-levels in your spare time
  2. Apply to Newcastle University
  3. Apply as a postgraduate

Newcastle University is the only medical school in the UK that doesn’t require applicants to have taken at least one science subject at A-level.

Given that this would be the only university you’d be able to apply to, the odds would definitely be against you.

If you have had a last-minute change of heart and decided you want to pursue medicine, sitting some science A-levels may be the best way to go.

You could study for them alongside other school work or take a year out after school to study at a college.

A medicine applicant studying for her science A-levels

This is arguably a quicker (and cheaper) route than going out and getting an undergraduate degree.

With an undergraduate degree, you’d then be able to apply for postgraduate medicine, for which many universities don’t have such stringent A-level requirements.

It’s not ideal if you know you want to study medicine now, but sometimes being willing to bide your time is exactly what it takes.

Can You Get Into Medicine Without 3 As?

3As is the standard offer for medicine, with an increasing number of medical schools slowly upping their requirement to A*AA.

But, even without that almost perfect grade profile, you can still get into medical school.

One of my best friends actually managed it back when we both applied to Leicester Medical School.

He had an offer for AAA, but had a results day hiccup and only achieved AAB.

He was incredibly lucky in that after a panicked phone call to the Leicester admissions team, he was still eligible to be accepted.

However, you can save yourself a lot of stress by actually applying to one of the three UK medical schools that routinely give out offers below triple A:

  • Brunel
  • University of Buckingham
  • Kent and Medway

To be clear, here I’m not talking about contextual admissions.

Contextual admissions are where medical schools will offer lower entry requirements to select individuals in order to increase diversity and equity within medicine. For example, if you come from a deprived background with poor progression to higher-level education.

Rather, these are medical schools that you can get into, without any special circumstances, without 3As.

In addition to those above, if you’re studying an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) then you have an additional couple of options.

Applicants who are studying an EPQ and who make Hull York their firm choice in UCAS will be eligible for the A-Level EPQ offer of AAB, plus an A in the EPQ.

Equally, Lancaster might offer you AAB plus an EPQ (or 4th A-level subject achieving at least a B).

Find out more in this article that lays out every method for getting into medical school with low grades.

Although you should definitely be aiming for 3As to maximise your chances of getting in, it could be a tactical decision to put one of these 5 universities down on your UCAS form so as to have a bit of insurance if one of your grades do slip come results day.

What A-Levels Should You Avoid If You Want To Study Medicine?

Although it is true that you can get into medicine with pretty much any combination of A-levels, as I said you can make your life a whole lot easier by selecting certain subjects… and equally, avoiding others.

It varies from medical school to medical school, but some do specifically outline A-level subjects that will not be considered for a medicine application.

For example, at the University of Cardiff, General Studies, Critical Thinking and Further Maths are not accepted.

A medicine applicant studying for his A-level exams

A-levels you should ideally avoid if possible include:

  • General Studies
  • Critical Thinking
  • Citizenship Studies
  • Thinking Skills
  • Global Perspectives
  • Use of Mathematics
  • World Development
  • Communication and Culture

These are traditionally considered ‘softer’ subjects by many universities and so don’t go far enough to prove a candidate’s academic aptitude.

There’s no harm in having them as additional qualifications, over and above your core 3 subjects, but you shouldn’t be solely reliant on them for getting those 3 As.

Other subjects that significantly overlap in content might only be considered as one qualification by universities. For example:

  • Biology and Human Biology
  • Maths and Further Maths

I actually did take both maths and further maths, but I took the further maths as a fourth A-level. This meant I wouldn’t be in trouble if any of the universities I wanted to apply to didn’t count it.

Each medical school decides its own rules for these sorts of things so I’d always look up the guidance for any university you’re planning to apply to.

Final Thoughts

A-levels can absolutely make or break an application to medical school.

There truly would be nothing worse than going through all the trouble of securing an offer for medicine only to miss your grades and not be allowed in.

Use the A-level requirements of different universities to your advantage by allowing them to influence you.

Your choice of subjects, your choice of institutions to apply to and your choice of which offer to firm on your UCAS portal.

That way, by making informed decisions, you’ll have a far better chance of becoming a doctor, no matter what your 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.