Will my A-levels be too hard? Watch

telkov
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After A LOT of deliberation and having to change choices after my induction day, I've settled on either bio/chem/geography/history OR bio/chem/physics and history. I'm interested in medicine/biomedicine and I am very dedicated to my studies, but I was worried that these options might backfire and the workload may be too much? I am leaning towards the history option, whilst I know physics will be far more helpful and I'm predicted higher grades, because I enjoy it more and I don;t think I can do as well in Physics A-level because of the maths (I like maths, but not enough for A level but enough for chemistry)... I just wanted some opinions/advice?

P.s my predicted grades (if that helps):
Bio - 8 (working at 9)
Chem - 8 (working at 9)
Physics - 9
Geography - 9
History - 8
Maths - 8
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Deggs_14
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Firstly there’s no point doing four a levels, even for medicine as university offers are based on three. If your interested in medicine / biomedical science you’ll want maths, biology and chemistry, but physics in replace of a science can work too, eg two sciences and maths. Another important part of a medicine application is related work experience. Often they talk about this in interviews and as part of your personal statement. Have you done any prior medicine related work experience, if not could you find some this summer?

Otherwise you could try four a levels for the first few weeks or a term, but for medicine I believe doing well in three a levels and maintaining a medicine related club, society or part time job would be more beneficial. Although good luck in whatever you do! Have a look at BMAT and UKCAT as well, become acquainted with the U.K. Medicine application process.
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artful_lounger
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nexttime posted an interesting set of results from a FOI request regarding A-level subjects and performance on the medicine admissions tests (and may be able to advise otherwise) which might be worth looking over.

Beyond that, the only medical school which requires three STEM subjects is Cambridge, and it won't make any difference what your third subject is for any other medical school. Generally it's better to take three subjects and do very well in those than do more averagely in four, which is more likely than doing very well in four.

Do bear in mind A-level History is very content heavy, as is A-level Biology, and A-level Chemistry can be if you're relying more on memorising the content than learning the principles to apply. Taking A-level Physics without A-level Maths means you'll need to put aside some extra time each week to practice your maths skills, since you won't be reinforcing these skills through the A-level. However you don't need any of the A-level Maths content for A-level Physics, but you do need to be able to use maths fairly fluently.

Unless your school requires you to start with four subjects then drop one, I'd suggest just taking Bio/Chem/History. That will suffice for any medicine course outside of Cambridge, and fit your interests and aptitudes based on what you've said.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 4 days ago
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GreenCub
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A level physics is a lot less mathematical than I think it ought to be, but it's generally inadvisable to take A level physics without maths. The maths in it isn't very advanced, but in physics you have to be very comfortable with working with equations and a few extra things like logarithms that don't appear at GCSE.

In general, having biology and chemistry should be perfectly sufficient for medicine (which means your 3rd/4th subjects can be anything), except for a few top universities that prefer it if you have three science/maths A levels (Cambridge is one).

If you're not very confident in your maths ability go for geography, but if you like physics a lot and are very confident you'll be fine with the calculations, by all means take it. If the workload is too much, you can always drop a subject at the end of the first term.
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_gcx
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We don't have much to work off. The fact that you're expecting all 8s and 9s and are aiming to study medicine means you'll probably be ok. (there's no red flags at all) That said, GCSE results aren't a perfect predictor of A-level performance.

As above, 4 A-levels isn't essential and some people discourage it, but if you have a broad interest and think you can handle it go for it. You can always try out 4 and drop it down to 3 if it has too much. Whereas, starting with 3 and changing your mind, it'd be a bit trickier.
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telkov
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Thank you for your replies! The advice on medicine has been very useful, and I am looking into some volunteer work. I was just wondering, though, if there is any benefit to doing four A-levels? I understand it is unnecessary, but I find it hard to drop a subject because I love them all so much. Without meaning to sound self-depricating, I don't have many hobbies and enjoy studyign (especially in these subjects, which I like) so would it be possible to do very well in all four if I worked very hard? Or maybe I could drop one at AS if it was too hard, but is that just a waste of time? I'm confused with the new linear course, so would an AS level essentially be worthless?
Thanks again, though! I also plan on taking core maths and practising maths outside of studies, so idk if that helps?
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GreenCub
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(Original post by telkov)
Thank you for your replies! The advice on medicine has been very useful, and I am looking into some volunteer work. I was just wondering, though, if there is any benefit to doing four A-levels? I understand it is unnecessary, but I find it hard to drop a subject because I love them all so much. Without meaning to sound self-depricating, I don't have many hobbies and enjoy studyign (especially in these subjects, which I like) so would it be possible to do very well in all four if I worked very hard? Or maybe I could drop one at AS if it was too hard, but is that just a waste of time? I'm confused with the new linear course, so would an AS level essentially be worthless?
Thanks again, though! I also plan on taking core maths and practising maths outside of studies, so idk if that helps?
There is generally no benefit to doing 4 - medical schools won't give an advantage to someone with 4 over someone with 3.

If you enjoy all the subjects and think you can cope with all of them, there's no reason why you shouldn't. Remember there are plenty of opportunities for you to drop a subject (at the end of the first term; at the end of year 12) if you really need to.
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_gcx
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(Original post by GreenCub)
A level physics is a lot less mathematical than I think it ought to be, but it's generally inadvisable to take A level physics without maths. The maths in it isn't very advanced, but in physics you have to be very comfortable with working with equations and a few extra things like logarithms that don't appear at GCSE.

In general, having biology and chemistry should be perfectly sufficient for medicine (which means your 3rd/4th subjects can be anything), except for a few top universities that prefer it if you have three science/maths A levels (Cambridge is one).

If you're not very confident in your maths ability go for geography, but if you like physics a lot and are very confident you'll be fine with the calculations, by all means take it. If the workload is too much, you can always drop a subject at the end of the first term.
Meh, I think someone who gets an 8/9 in GCSE maths is well equipped enough for the maths in physics and all of the (quite little) new maths is taught from scratch. I'd say it'd be more of an indicator if they couldn't do A-level maths as opposed to not wanting to. (but again, I don't think the maths is particularly demanding to someone with solid GCSE maths)
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Quick-use
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(Original post by telkov)
Thank you for your replies! The advice on medicine has been very useful, and I am looking into some volunteer work. I was just wondering, though, if there is any benefit to doing four A-levels? I understand it is unnecessary, but I find it hard to drop a subject because I love them all so much. Without meaning to sound self-depricating, I don't have many hobbies and enjoy studyign (especially in these subjects, which I like) so would it be possible to do very well in all four if I worked very hard? Or maybe I could drop one at AS if it was too hard, but is that just a waste of time? I'm confused with the new linear course, so would an AS level essentially be worthless?
Thanks again, though! I also plan on taking core maths and practising maths outside of studies, so idk if that helps?
As I said on another thread:

Right off the bat, I and many others can tell you that universities, including Oxbridge and Imperial, will not find it impressive if you're doing more than 3 A levels and will just ignore all of your additional subjects for all degree applications including Medicine. If you're genuinely interested in many subjects, learn them in your spare time as a hobby or ask to audit the classes so you can just sit in and listen to the teacher without doing any coursework or exams.

Admission teams literally do not care about any extra subjects. Don't take an unnecessary risk for no extra reward.

For Medicine, the most important things are:

  1. Grades in A level Bio + Chem + 1 more subject (ANY rigorous subject like a foreign language, a social science or English Lit unless you want to go to Cambridge in which case they prefer another science)
  2. Personal statement
  3. Competency tests like BMAT
  4. References
  5. Interview
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GreenCub
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(Original post by _gcx)
Meh, I think someone who gets an 8/9 in GCSE maths is well equipped enough for the maths in physics and all of the (quite little) new maths is taught from scratch. I'd say it'd be more of an indicator if they couldn't do A-level maths as opposed to not wanting to. (but again, I don't think the maths is particularly demanding to someone with solid GCSE maths)
I agree, although experience suggests that people who take physics and not maths tend not to do as well as those who do take it. Correlation but not necessarily causation.
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_gcx
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(Original post by telkov)
Thank you for your replies! The advice on medicine has been very useful, and I am looking into some volunteer work. I was just wondering, though, if there is any benefit to doing four A-levels? I understand it is unnecessary, but I find it hard to drop a subject because I love them all so much. Without meaning to sound self-depricating, I don't have many hobbies and enjoy studyign (especially in these subjects, which I like) so would it be possible to do very well in all four if I worked very hard? Or maybe I could drop one at AS if it was too hard, but is that just a waste of time? I'm confused with the new linear course, so would an AS level essentially be worthless?
Thanks again, though! I also plan on taking core maths and practising maths outside of studies, so idk if that helps?
No benefit in terms of advantage in admissions. But I think interest is a very valid reason to take 4 A-levels. Plenty of people are successful in getting good grades in 4. Tempted to say Core Maths would be too easy for you with an 8/9 to no real benefit considering the qualifications are accessible to people with grade 5 and above who want to keep up their maths. I think it'd be more beneficial to read up on maths in your own time. This way you'll cover more interesting and challenging maths.
Last edited by _gcx; 4 days ago
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_gcx
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(Original post by GreenCub)
I agree, although experience suggests that people who take physics and not maths tend not to do as well as those who do take it. Correlation but not necessarily causation.
yeah but I think these people would more fall into the former group than the latter.
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telkov
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again, thanks, these replies are very helpful. Just one last question, though. If I do want to do three A-levels, would a better option be biology and chemistry with geography or history? Personally, I prefer geography more and I do very well in it (I was straight 9s throughout y11), but I do enjoy history and do well (but only achieved 1 in a practice paper and was always a couple marks off :/). I think history is more respected but does it really matter if I (hypothetically) do well in bio/chem?
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GreenCub
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(Original post by telkov)
again, thanks, these replies are very helpful. Just one last question, though. If I do want to do three A-levels, would a better option be biology and chemistry with geography or history? Personally, I prefer geography more and I do very well in it (I was straight 9s throughout y11), but I do enjoy history and do well (but only achieved 1 in a practice paper and was always a couple marks off :/). I think history is more respected but does it really matter if I (hypothetically) do well in bio/chem?
Don't worry about which is more 'respected' - both are facilitating subjects. Since you prefer geography more and do well in it, I'd advise you go for that.
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Paulina-paulina
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(Original post by telkov)
After A LOT of deliberation and having to change choices after my induction day, I've settled on either bio/chem/geography/history OR bio/chem/physics and history. I'm interested in medicine/biomedicine and I am very dedicated to my studies, but I was worried that these options might backfire and the workload may be too much? I am leaning towards the history option, whilst I know physics will be far more helpful and I'm predicted higher grades, because I enjoy it more and I don;t think I can do as well in Physics A-level because of the maths (I like maths, but not enough for A level but enough for chemistry)... I just wanted some opinions/advice?

P.s my predicted grades (if that helps):
Bio - 8 (working at 9)
Chem - 8 (working at 9)
Physics - 9
Geography - 9
History - 8
Maths - 8
I did Biology, Chemistry, maths and Physics and As Critical thinking (yes I did 5 science As Levels....).
The workload is not bad if you enjoy the subject. Maths in Physics is MUCH easier than in Chemistry as you mostly do inverse square laws which is the same thing for every topic. A paper from that you get a 8-page formula booklet for Physics so you just use formulas give to answer questions while in Chemistry you just get a periodic table. I’m off to Cambridge to do Vet Med in September (hopefully). With a 8 in maths you’ll be fine with all the maths topics in physics so go with what you enjoy best
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telkov
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Thanks! I will email my sixth form tomorrow with my decision this helped a lot
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Quick-use
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(Original post by telkov)
Thanks! I will email my sixth form tomorrow with my decision this helped a lot
Bio + Chem + your favourite one. Literally don't worry! All you should be worried about are your A level grades, your interview, references, how to write a good personal statement and performance on BMAT etc.

Do the third subject which you think will get you the best grade / the one you enjoy the most. :fluffy:
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Vetrix42
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Good Afternoon, I am hoping to study Medicine in the future. I will be doing Bio, Chem, Physics & History. People saying that 4 A-Levels has no benefit other 3 is mostly true. However, there are exceptions. For example, I am going to an elite school in September and they have to do 4 A-Levels compulsory. This was recommended by Ofsted in order for the school to offer a balanced curriculum instead of people doing the traditional Maths, Bio, Chem they wanted variation so the inclusion of a humanity etc. Therefore, Universities are aware of such schools that have been recommended by Ofsted to do 4 subjects and take that into account. That's why when I apply I will put about how doing 4 subjects has helped my time management skills etc. Also, what you'll find is that schools that compulsively do four A-Levels get better grade than schools that do three A-Levels.
(Original post by telkov)
Thank you for your replies! The advice on medicine has been very useful, and I am looking into some volunteer work. I was just wondering, though, if there is any benefit to doing four A-levels? I understand it is unnecessary, but I find it hard to drop a subject because I love them all so much. Without meaning to sound self-depricating, I don't have many hobbies and enjoy studyign (especially in these subjects, which I like) so would it be possible to do very well in all four if I worked very hard? Or maybe I could drop one at AS if it was too hard, but is that just a waste of time? I'm confused with the new linear course, so would an AS level essentially be worthless?
Thanks again, though! I also plan on taking core maths and practising maths outside of studies, so idk if that helps?
(Original post by telkov)
After A LOT of deliberation and having to change choices after my induction day, I've settled on either bio/chem/geography/history OR bio/chem/physics and history. I'm interested in medicine/biomedicine and I am very dedicated to my studies, but I was worried that these options might backfire and the workload may be too much? I am leaning towards the history option, whilst I know physics will be far more helpful and I'm predicted higher grades, because I enjoy it more and I don;t think I can do as well in Physics A-level because of the maths (I like maths, but not enough for A level but enough for chemistry)... I just wanted some opinions/advice?

P.s my predicted grades (if that helps):
Bio - 8 (working at 9)
Chem - 8 (working at 9)
Physics - 9
Geography - 9
History - 8
Maths - 8
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_gcx
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(Original post by Vetrix42)
Good Afternoon, I am hoping to study Medicine in the future. I will be doing Bio, Chem, Physics & History. People saying that 4 A-Levels has no benefit other 3 is mostly true. However, there are exceptions. For example, I am going to an elite school in September and they have to do 4 A-Levels compulsory. This was recommended by Ofsted in order for the school to offer a balanced curriculum instead of people doing the traditional Maths, Bio, Chem they wanted variation so the inclusion of a humanity etc. Therefore, Universities are aware of such schools that have been recommended by Ofsted to do 4 subjects and take that into account. That's why when I apply I will put about how doing 4 subjects has helped my time management skills etc. Also, what you'll find is that schools that compulsively do four A-Levels get better grade than schools that do three A-Levels.
think this is more because it wouldn't make sense for academically weak schools to make 4 A-levels compulsory.
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Vetrix42
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That's obvious. But universities compensate for this. For example academically weak schools can get contextual offers. However, academically strong schools that do 4 A-Levels are acknowledged that this has been compulsory on them.
(Original post by _gcx)
think this is more because it wouldn't make sense for academically weak schools to make 4 A-levels compulsory.
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