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What A levels should I pick for medicine

What 3rd subject should I take with Bio and Chem for medicine? maths, comp sci, english lit or psychology (given that I have good grades for any requirements).
Reply 1
Original post by Snoyw
What 3rd subject should I take with Bio and Chem for medicine? maths, comp sci, english lit or psychology (given that I have good grades for any requirements).

You can take any subject as your 3rd, you have biology and chemistry which are the main ones. But at medical schools such as Cambridge, most applicants will take at least 3 science A Levels(maths is considered as a science)
Original post by Snoyw
What 3rd subject should I take with Bio and Chem for medicine? maths, comp sci, english lit or psychology (given that I have good grades for any requirements).

Any of those subjects is fine for any medical school except Cambridge.

Cambridge is the only medical school where to be competitive you would need to take a third science/maths A-level, in which case you ought to take A-level Maths.

For all others though as noted above, it won't make a difference as long as you get an A or A* in it. So pick whichever one gives you the best chance of that.
Original post by Snoyw
What 3rd subject should I take with Bio and Chem for medicine? maths, comp sci, english lit or psychology (given that I have good grades for any requirements).


The key points have been made before.
only Cambridge/Oxon really need a third stem (maths in this context)
choose the one you can get an A/A* in
choose the one you like.

to this I would add that English lit is really all about the texts you will study rather then the subject. Do you know what they are? Are you interested in them? It’s a very very time intensive, essay rich subject. In homework and in assessment.

However, I do think it’s good to have one essay based subject like Eng lit or psychology, to hone writing skills and for a bit of variety / interpretative value difference to Bio/chem. but this is a personal perspective. And if you opt to do an EPQ that can help in that way if you wish to do maths/comp sci.

normally you have a fair bit of time and flex before you have to firm those choices up, so speak to your teachers and read up, but focus on those GCSEs for now.
(edited 4 months ago)
Reply 4
Original post by George&Mary44!
The key points have been made before.
only Cambridge/Oxon really need a third stem (maths in this context)
choose the one you can get an A/A* in
choose the one you like.

to this I would add that English lit is really all about the texts you will study rather then the subject. Do you know what they are? Are you interested in them? It’s a very very time intensive, essay rich subject. In homework and in assessment.

However, I do think it’s good to have one essay based subject like Eng lit or psychology, to hone writing skills and for a bit of variety / interpretative value difference to Bio/chem. but this is a personal perspective. And if you opt to do an EPQ that can help in that way if you wish to do maths/comp sci.

normally you have a fair bit of time and flex before you have to firm those choices up, so speak to your teachers and read up, but focus on those GCSEs for now.


Even Oxford are not bothered about a 3rd STEM subject, it is just Cambridge. They say it is correlation not causation that those doing 3 STEM subjects are dramatically more likely to get an offer than those not, but it is a pretty powerful correlation and functionally pretty much a requirement, I would say!
Reply 5
Original post by GANFYD
Even Oxford are not bothered about a 3rd STEM subject, it is just Cambridge. They say it is correlation not causation that those doing 3 STEM subjects are dramatically more likely to get an offer than those not, but it is a pretty powerful correlation and functionally pretty much a requirement, I would say!


By that logic, everyone on the TSR applying for Cambridge should now be recommended to take 4 or more A-levels because there is a high correlation between the number of A-levels and success rate.

According to, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/587170/response/1409584/attach/2/FOI%202019%20444%20Caushi%20response%20letter%20and%20data.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

If you calculate the correlation for that data, there is a 98% (rounded to nearest whole number) correlation that the number of A-levels increases the success rate of your application to Cambridge.

Therefore, either everyone on TSR should now start recommending students to take 4 or more A-levels to increase their chance of success for applying to Cambridge, or your assertion that students studying at Cambridge having a high correlation of success for doing mathematics is wrong also.

It's either one or the other. But the rest of TSR hasn't worked based on correlation so far, so I don't see why on the merit of what you assert that should change.
(edited 4 months ago)
Reply 6
Original post by Baleroc
By that logic, everyone on the TSR applying for Cambridge should now be recommended to take 4 or more A-levels because there is a high correlation between the number of A-levels and success rate.

According to, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/587170/response/1409584/attach/2/FOI%202019%20444%20Caushi%20response%20letter%20and%20data.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

If you calculate the correlation for that data, there is a 98% (rounded to nearest whole number) correlation that the number of A-levels increases the success rate of your application to Cambridge.

Therefore, either everyone on TSR should now start recommending students to take 4 or more A-levels to increase their chance of success for applying to Cambridge, or your assertion that students studying at Cambridge having a high correlation of success for doing mathematics is wrong also.

It's either one or the other. But the rest of TSR hasn't worked based on correlation so far, so I don't see why on the merit of what you assert that should change.


There are a few points here

- that FOI is for all courses at Cambridge, not just medicine
- most of the time period from that FOI involved modular A levels, when taking 4 or 5 was fairly standard
- it does not separate out international stats, where doing more A levels is more common, yet places for medicine are capped for international applicants.
- the figures for 2018 (when most subjects were sat as linear A levels) shows 25% of those sitting 3 A levels got an offer and 32% of those sitting 4 A levels. Even at 5 A levels it is only 36%
- for 2021, Cambridge stated that for the last 3 admissions cycles, 95% of applicants for Medicine (A100) offered three or more science/mathematics A Levels and, of these, 23% were successful in obtaining a place. Of the 4% of applicants who offered only two science/mathematics A Levels, just 3% were successful in gaining a place- if we look at 2018, there were 1474 applicants for medicine. 95% of those had 3 or more sciences (1400) and 23% got an offer (322). 74 offered <3 sciences and of those 3% got an offer (2). It has been at this level for many years.

To me, having a 3% chance of an offer without them makes it a virtual requirement that you do 3 sciences, if able, whether Cambridge say it is just correlation, or not - hence my comment is it a functional requirement. If not able, maybe looking elsewhere is a better idea
Reply 7
Original post by GANFYD
There are a few points here

- that FOI is for all courses at Cambridge, not just medicine
- most of the time period from that FOI involved modular A levels, when taking 4 or 5 was fairly standard
- it does not separate out international stats, where doing more A levels is more common, yet places for medicine are capped for international applicants.
- the figures for 2018 (when most subjects were sat as linear A levels) shows 25% of those sitting 3 A levels got an offer and 32% of those sitting 4 A levels. Even at 5 A levels it is only 36%
- for 2021, Cambridge stated that for the last 3 admissions cycles, 95% of applicants for Medicine (A100) offered three or more science/mathematics A Levels and, of these, 23% were successful in obtaining a place. Of the 4% of applicants who offered only two science/mathematics A Levels, just 3% were successful in gaining a place- if we look at 2018, there were 1474 applicants for medicine. 95% of those had 3 or more sciences (1400) and 23% got an offer (322). 74 offered <3 sciences and of those 3% got an offer (2). It has been at this level for many years.

To me, having a 3% chance of an offer without them makes it a virtual requirement that you do 3 sciences, if able, whether Cambridge say it is just correlation, or not - hence my comment is it a functional requirement. If not able, maybe looking elsewhere is a better idea

I completely understand what you are suggesting, and while your points are valid that the international stats are not separated, which affects the correlation, while also mentioning modular and linear A-levels affect the number of A-levels taken and hence the correlation, there is a common flaw within your conclusion.

While it is reasonable to consider taking A-level maths as a third A-level for medicine, especially for Cambridge, this might be because:

1. Analytical skills. A-level maths fosters analytical and problem solving skills that are beneficial for medicine, especially in research, pharmacology and diagnostics.
2. It provides a foundation to medical concepts in more specialised fields that require quantitative skills.
3. Data interpretation is a huge part of medical research, understanding patient statistics, and making informed decisions. It happens with doctors all the time.

However, this high correlation might not be caused by A-level maths specifically, but rather the implicit skills the person learns as a result, which could be causing the high correlation, rather than the knowledge you obtain from the qualification its self. In other words, if someone didn't take A-level maths, but demonstrated similar levels of analytical, problem solving and data interpretation skills in other ways, they wouldn't need A-level maths. It might be that students who take A-level maths demonstrate those essential skills more than students without A-level maths. This doesn't necessarily show that A-level maths is causing the higher offer rate, but rather it could be the implicit skills obtained from the qualification.

So, what is my point with this:

If the sole reason someone is taking A-level maths as their third A-level is because of an observed high correlation for Medicine applications, then I do not recommend purely on the basis of a correlation. It's possible A-level maths students have other skills and qualities that contribute to their applications.
- By choosing a subject purely on a statistical correlation will lead students away from a subject they are genuinely interested and passionate about.
- While it is an interesting and valid data, I wouldn't base a significant academic decision purely on an observed correlation. If a student hates A-level maths, and they choose it purely because of a correlation, then that may not align with their interest or strengths, which could be detrimental to their academic performance.

Finally, the remaining point:
- Choosing A-level maths, based solely on a correlation, is conceptually similar to choosing more than 3 A-levels based solely on a correlation. In both cases, the decision is driven by a statistical relationship without considering the broader context. In both scenarios, the principle remains: basing a significant decision on correlation alone can be misleading and may lead to the wrong outcome.

My conclusion from this:
- If the student is interested in A-level Maths, brilliant, I would encourage them to take it.
- If the student is not interested in A-level Maths, has a dislike for it, or disinterest, then:
rather than recommending students taking A-level maths to increase their chance to obtain an offer at Cambridge, instead I would encourage students to take on activities or extra-curricular events that promote and develop skills related to A-level maths, such as problem-solving, analytical skills and data interpretation skills, or equivalent skills that match those that are obtained from A-level maths.
(edited 4 months ago)
Reply 8
Original post by Baleroc
I completely understand what you are suggesting, and while your points are valid that the international stats are not separated, which affects the correlation, while also mentioning modular and linear A-levels affect the number of A-levels taken and hence the correlation, there is a common flaw within your conclusion.

While it is reasonable to consider taking A-level maths as a third A-level for medicine, especially for Cambridge, this might be because:

1. Analytical skills. A-level maths fosters analytical and problem solving skills that are beneficial for medicine, especially in research, pharmacology and diagnostics.
2. It provides a foundation to medical concepts in more specialised fields that require quantitative skills.
3. Data interpretation is a huge part of medical research, understanding patient statistics, and making informed decisions. It happens with doctors all the time.

However, this high correlation might not be caused by A-level maths specifically, but rather the implicit skills the person learns as a result, which could be causing the high correlation, rather than the knowledge you obtain from the qualification its self. In other words, if someone didn't take A-level maths, but demonstrated similar levels of analytical, problem solving and data interpretation skills in other ways, they wouldn't need A-level maths. It might be that students who take A-level maths demonstrate those essential skills more than students without A-level maths. This doesn't necessarily show that A-level maths is causing the higher offer rate, but rather it could be the implicit skills obtained from the qualification.

So, what is my point with this:

If the sole reason someone is taking A-level maths as their third A-level is because of an observed high correlation for Medicine applications, then I do not recommend purely on the basis of a correlation. It's possible A-level maths students have other skills and qualities that contribute to their applications.
- By choosing a subject purely on a statistical correlation will lead students away from a subject they are genuinely interested and passionate about.
- While it is an interesting and valid data, I wouldn't base a significant academic decision purely on an observed correlation. If a student hates A-level maths, and they choose it purely because of a correlation, then that may not align with their interest or strengths, which could be detrimental to their academic performance.

Finally, the remaining point:
- Choosing A-level maths, based solely on a correlation, is conceptually similar to choosing more than 3 A-levels based solely on a correlation. In both cases, the decision is driven by a statistical relationship without considering the broader context. In both scenarios, the principle remains: basing a significant decision on correlation alone can be misleading and may lead to the wrong outcome.

My conclusion from this:
- If the student is interested in A-level Maths, brilliant, I would encourage them to take it.
- If the student is not interested in A-level Maths, has a dislike for it, or disinterest, then:
rather than recommending students taking A-level maths to increase their chance to obtain an offer at Cambridge, instead I would encourage students to take on activities or extra-curricular events that promote and develop skills related to A-level maths, such as problem-solving, analytical skills and data interpretation skills, or equivalent skills that match those that are obtained from A-level maths.


Hence why I say "if able to do 3 STEM subjects" to the level required by Cambridge. If you can achieve A*/A in maths or physics and want to apply for Cambridge, the stats suggest you have a 97% chance of being rejected without so doing, so to me, it is foolish not to do so, whether the reasons are that it improves your logical reasoning skills or admissions teams show a bias - it matters not. And it is not maths that is the determinant, it is 3 STEM subjects - could be any combination of chem, physics, bio and maths for some Colleges. For others (21% of then), they stipulate they want 3 STEM subjects, hence it is a literal requirement, as well as a functional one.

There is a correlation between doing A level maths and better performance in BMAT (or at least there used to be) but I think what would be most interesting is to see the stats of the 2 people who did get accepted without 3 STEM subjects.....

I am not encouraging anyone to take anything, just pointing out that the only med school where an application is disadvantaged without 3 STEM subjects (as I say, doesn't have to be maths, physics is fine, too) is at Cambridge. If someone is predicted the minmum A*A*A needed to apply to Cambridge, but is not sitting 3 STEM subjects, they almost certainly have places where they have a far better than 3% chance of an offer, so I would be suggesting they do not apply to Cambridge at all!

If someone wants to sit other A levels, great, given decent stats (at the level needed for Cambridge), they are likely to have options as to where to apply with dramatically better odds, even if doing Eng Lit, History and Economics!

I suspect there is a degree of causation given how significantly it affects an application, but Cambridge say not.
(edited 4 months ago)

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