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Looking for some guidance

I want to become a heart surgeon in the future, however i can’t choose biology or chemistry at a level because u need a 6 in maths, i am only getting a 5 at the moment and it can’t be higher as i’m on foundation. I also can’t be moved up to higher.However, i’m getting 8s and 9s in every other subject, so just wondering if maybe a collage would allow me to take bio and chem if i achieve those high grades in my other subjects and also agree to study for the gcse maths higher paper along with my a levels to hopefully get a 6. Is this a possibility? Just feeling completely lost at the moment. I am in year 11
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Reply 2
So some things

1.

ask your teacher as schools didn't submit exams registration still, my son was asked to change after January mock exams . So you need to find your teacher and talk to him , Ask what you need to do to be placed at higher math GCSE . Don't give up as some ask you to get specific grade in the mocks to be registered in higher GCSE , if nothing worked then ask your parents to either call or email the school ( this last resolute as it is best if you convince your teacher that you can do it).

2.

in same time put a lot of effort in studying math even if you can get help or attend any school extra help provided.

3.

find a backup school as there is other schools that allows you to do it with 5 in math

4.

if nothing works then look at resitting it at Nov as you can register as private candidate and do the exam in Nov( schools don't help with this as we done it outside the school) This is if nothing works and you get 5 but you need tutor or find someone to help you get the 6 as it is not worth the hassle of wasting beginning of year 12 as year 12 is hard and you need to study from get go.

5.

don't worry as I believe if you show the school you are committed to then they will help you .

Reply 3
Original post by crashbandicoot77
I want to become a heart surgeon in the future, however i can’t choose biology or chemistry at a level because u need a 6 in maths, i am only getting a 5 at the moment and it can’t be higher as i’m on foundation. I also can’t be moved up to higher.However, i’m getting 8s and 9s in every other subject, so just wondering if maybe a collage would allow me to take bio and chem if i achieve those high grades in my other subjects and also agree to study for the gcse maths higher paper along with my a levels to hopefully get a 6. Is this a possibility? Just feeling completely lost at the moment. I am in year 11


Nearly all medical schools require a 6 in maths so this is going to be an important consideration which goes beyond choosing A level subjects.

Registering for higher maths as a private candidate sounds like a good idea but you'll need to think about how you're going to learn the subject once you've left school.

Different colleges have different entry requirements - some may be happy to let you study biology and chemistry A level with a 5 in maths.
Original post by Democracy
Nearly all medical schools require a 6 in maths so this is going to be an important consideration which goes beyond choosing A level subjects.

Registering for higher maths as a private candidate sounds like a good idea but you'll need to think about how you're going to learn the subject once you've left school.

Different colleges have different entry requirements - some may be happy to let you study biology and chemistry A level with a 5 in maths.

I was aiming to do foundation year medicine which allows me to enter without a 6 in maths, but i think i’m going to be a private candidate in november 2024 and hopefully get a 6 with the help of a tutor, Thanks for your help
Original post by Ibmoahsa
So some things

1.

ask your teacher as schools didn't submit exams registration still, my son was asked to change after January mock exams . So you need to find your teacher and talk to him , Ask what you need to do to be placed at higher math GCSE . Don't give up as some ask you to get specific grade in the mocks to be registered in higher GCSE , if nothing worked then ask your parents to either call or email the school ( this last resolute as it is best if you convince your teacher that you can do it).

2.

in same time put a lot of effort in studying math even if you can get help or attend any school extra help provided.

3.

find a backup school as there is other schools that allows you to do it with 5 in math

4.

if nothing works then look at resitting it at Nov as you can register as private candidate and do the exam in Nov( schools don't help with this as we done it outside the school) This is if nothing works and you get 5 but you need tutor or find someone to help you get the 6 as it is not worth the hassle of wasting beginning of year 12 as year 12 is hard and you need to study from get go.

5.

don't worry as I believe if you show the school you are committed to then they will help you .


Thanks for this, i’m gonna try and do higher maths in november 2024 and pray i get a 6
Reply 6
Original post by crashbandicoot77
I was aiming to do foundation year medicine which allows me to enter without a 6 in maths, but i think i’m going to be a private candidate in november 2024 and hopefully get a 6 with the help of a tutor, Thanks for your help

I see 🙂 Good luck.
Original post by crashbandicoot77
I want to become a heart surgeon in the future, however i can’t choose biology or chemistry at a level because u need a 6 in maths, i am only getting a 5 at the moment and it can’t be higher as i’m on foundation. I also can’t be moved up to higher.However, i’m getting 8s and 9s in every other subject, so just wondering if maybe a collage would allow me to take bio and chem if i achieve those high grades in my other subjects and also agree to study for the gcse maths higher paper along with my a levels to hopefully get a 6. Is this a possibility? Just feeling completely lost at the moment. I am in year 11

What other subjects are you taking? As a former special needs teacher, I would want to look into the situation if I knew a student was getting 8s and 9s in physics and chemistry but doing Foundation tier maths. There might not be much crossover in content between those subjects, but there is in the skills required, and while every student has their strengths and weaknesses it's quite unusual to see such a sizeable and very specific disparity unless there are extenuating circumstances. In my experience, those are usually a specific learning difficulty, patchy teaching in the affected subject (e.g. the pupil has moved schools frequently, or their school relies heavily on supply teachers), an inaccurate assessment of the pupil's level when setting them, or some combination of the three. It's not uncommon for academically able pupils with specific learning difficulties to be put into a lower set than they should be, and unfortunately some schools do have a tendency to treat sets as if they're fixed in stone and no one can ever be moved up. It's frustrating. But to get off my teaching soapbox and to return to your question, this shouldn't cause you any problems as far as medicine is concerned. If you approach local sixth-form colleges with a predicted 5 in maths and 8s and 9s in everything else, including biology and chemistry, I'd be extremely surprised if any of them refused to enrol you in subjects where you were expecting a top GCSE grade. If you do end up with a string of 9s, you might even find your current school is suddenly quite eager to make an exception to the A-level enrolment policy for you! They tend not to like their high achievers going elsewhere for sixth form.

Regarding the maths grade itself, there are several medical schools for whom a 5 is absolutely fine. Remember you can only apply to a maximum of four medical schools anyway, and with a good set of A-levels and a solid UCAT score you will have many more options open to you than that. So don't waste your time and energy on doing higher maths when you could be concentrating on your A-levels and building up relevant work experience. (If it's also that you quite enjoy maths and you'd like to stretch yourself more, there are free short online courses on platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn that will let you do this in your own time, without putting you under extra unnecessary pressure.) Best of luck with it all! 🙂
Original post by TheMedicOwl
What other subjects are you taking? As a former special needs teacher, I would want to look into the situation if I knew a student was getting 8s and 9s in physics and chemistry but doing Foundation tier maths. There might not be much crossover in content between those subjects, but there is in the skills required, and while every student has their strengths and weaknesses it's quite unusual to see such a sizeable and very specific disparity unless there are extenuating circumstances. In my experience, those are usually a specific learning difficulty, patchy teaching in the affected subject (e.g. the pupil has moved schools frequently, or their school relies heavily on supply teachers), an inaccurate assessment of the pupil's level when setting them, or some combination of the three. It's not uncommon for academically able pupils with specific learning difficulties to be put into a lower set than they should be, and unfortunately some schools do have a tendency to treat sets as if they're fixed in stone and no one can ever be moved up. It's frustrating. But to get off my teaching soapbox and to return to your question, this shouldn't cause you any problems as far as medicine is concerned. If you approach local sixth-form colleges with a predicted 5 in maths and 8s and 9s in everything else, including biology and chemistry, I'd be extremely surprised if any of them refused to enrol you in subjects where you were expecting a top GCSE grade. If you do end up with a string of 9s, you might even find your current school is suddenly quite eager to make an exception to the A-level enrolment policy for you! They tend not to like their high achievers going elsewhere for sixth form.

Regarding the maths grade itself, there are several medical schools for whom a 5 is absolutely fine. Remember you can only apply to a maximum of four medical schools anyway, and with a good set of A-levels and a solid UCAT score you will have many more options open to you than that. So don't waste your time and energy on doing higher maths when you could be concentrating on your A-levels and building up relevant work experience. (If it's also that you quite enjoy maths and you'd like to stretch yourself more, there are free short online courses on platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn that will let you do this in your own time, without putting you under extra unnecessary pressure.) Best of luck with it all! 🙂

Thank you for your advice, unfortunately i take combined science, but i am predicted to get an 8-8 in it, would that be okay? I also take Spanish, (7) but predicted an 8 RE (9) and Health and Social (Distinction) Eng lit (9) Eng lang (9) History (9) I was in set 2 for year 9 but my school was hit with a flood right at the beginning of the year so our timetable was hugely messed up and some days throughout the week we were off so i wasn’t able to stand my ground and ended up being moved to set 3. Also, my year 10 maths was constantly affected by strike days and right before my most recent year 11 mocks my teacher was absent for the 2 weeks leading up to them. I’ll do anything at this point to just study biology and chemistry. There is only one collage close to me who offer biology and chemistry, there is one that allows entry with a 5 in maths but it’s 2 hours away.
Congratulations on achieving such good predicted grades. You'll comfortably meet the minimum GCSE science requirements of pretty much every med school in the UK with double award science at 8-8. As things stand at the moment, if you achieve these predictions you've cleared the GCSE eligibility hurdle for least eight universities: Cambridge, Exeter, Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Plymouth, QUB, and St Andrew's. If you meet Brighton's widening participating criteria you could also apply to them. Of course, entry requirements can change, but it's unlikely you'll be left without options providing you do well in your A-levels and UCAT.

As it does sound as if you have extenuating circumstances that tripped you up with maths, it would be worth asking colleges if they could waive the enrolment requirement. Shy bairns get nowt, as they say round here! Something like, "I'm interested in joining your college to study biology, chemistry, and [whatever else you're planning to do]. I plan to apply for medicine at university. My predicted GCSE grades in my chosen A-level subjects are 8, 8, and [whatever it is]. My other predictions are all 8s and 9s, with a 5 in maths. As I've been entered for Foundation tier, I'm working at the grade ceiling. Being entered for Foundation instead of Higher was a recent decision that I believe is a reflection of my situation rather than my ability; our class was affected by disruptive extenuating circumstances that I'm happy to discuss in detail if necessary. I've identified eight medical schools that I will be eligible to apply for with these GCSE results, providing I continue to get good results in the sciences at A-level. Would I be able to study biology and chemistry at [college name]?"
Reply 10
Original post by TheMedicOwl
Congratulations on achieving such good predicted grades. You'll comfortably meet the minimum GCSE science requirements of pretty much every med school in the UK with double award science at 8-8. As things stand at the moment, if you achieve these predictions you've cleared the GCSE eligibility hurdle for least eight universities: Cambridge, Exeter, Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Plymouth, QUB, and St Andrew's. If you meet Brighton's widening participating criteria you could also apply to them. Of course, entry requirements can change, but it's unlikely you'll be left without options providing you do well in your A-levels and UCAT.

As it does sound as if you have extenuating circumstances that tripped you up with maths, it would be worth asking colleges if they could waive the enrolment requirement. Shy bairns get nowt, as they say round here! Something like, "I'm interested in joining your college to study biology, chemistry, and [whatever else you're planning to do]. I plan to apply for medicine at university. My predicted GCSE grades in my chosen A-level subjects are 8, 8, and [whatever it is]. My other predictions are all 8s and 9s, with a 5 in maths. As I've been entered for Foundation tier, I'm working at the grade ceiling. Being entered for Foundation instead of Higher was a recent decision that I believe is a reflection of my situation rather than my ability; our class was affected by disruptive extenuating circumstances that I'm happy to discuss in detail if necessary. I've identified eight medical schools that I will be eligible to apply for with these GCSE results, providing I continue to get good results in the sciences at A-level. Would I be able to study biology and chemistry at [college name]?"

The problem with minimum requirements are that they will not necessarily meet shortlisting requirements.
Oxford and QUB heavily score GCSEs, and QUB score 9s separately to 8s and OP would not meet recent cut offs.
Cambridge would need 2 A* A levels, Exeter would need 3A* A levels and a 7th decile UCAT, Newcastle and St Andrews have needed >2800 UCAT, as have Glasgow for 2 out of the last 3 years. So without a top 10-20% UCAT and top A level grades, that leaves Plymouth (and Imperial), whereas a 6 in maths GCSE opens up many more med schools and allows for AAA at A level and a far lower UCAT and still have a good chance of shortlisting.
Original post by GANFYD
The problem with minimum requirements are that they will not necessarily meet shortlisting requirements.
Oxford and QUB heavily score GCSEs, and QUB score 9s separately to 8s and OP would not meet recent cut offs.
Cambridge would need 2 A* A levels, Exeter would need 3A* A levels and a 7th decile UCAT, Newcastle and St Andrews have needed >2800 UCAT, as have Glasgow for 2 out of the last 3 years. So without a top 10-20% UCAT and top A level grades, that leaves Plymouth (and Imperial), whereas a 6 in maths GCSE opens up many more med schools and allows for AAA at A level and a far lower UCAT and still have a good chance of shortlisting.

I was working on the assumption that as OP is predicted 8s and 9s in everything except maths, they have a good chance of pulling a couple of A*s out of the hat at A-level. A good chance obviously isn't a guarantee, but getting a 6 or better in GCSE maths isn't guaranteed either, especially not if the school's compromise is to make them study for the higher tier paper alongside their A-levels. There's a risk they would be spreading themselves too thin, and that might affect their grades across the board.

I think Oxford stopped scoring GCSEs as of last year. I know they used to be very GCSE-heavy, but their website now says there are no formal GCSE requirements for medicine.
Reply 12
Original post by TheMedicOwl
I was working on the assumption that as OP is predicted 8s and 9s in everything except maths, they have a good chance of pulling a couple of A*s out of the hat at A-level. A good chance obviously isn't a guarantee, but getting a 6 or better in GCSE maths isn't guaranteed either, especially not if the school's compromise is to make them study for the higher tier paper alongside their A-levels. There's a risk they would be spreading themselves too thin, and that might affect their grades across the board.

I think Oxford stopped scoring GCSEs as of last year. I know they used to be very GCSE-heavy, but their website now says there are no formal GCSE requirements for medicine.


Oxford stopped scoring GCSEs during covid as felt TAGs and CAGs were not accurate, but it is back to 50% of their scoring this year.
OP will need to decide if they are more likely to get a 6 in maths GCSE or several A* A levels and a high UCAT
Reply 13
Maths skills are frequently the downfall of students at A level, even in subjects like psychology. Chemistry is very heavy on maths skills.

If you are working at a 5 in maths, you need to figure out why. If you’re bad at working out what numbers/values you need to calculate, bad at working out the maths you need based on the wording of a question, you’re going to struggle in chemistry. So much of chemistry is based on these skills.

My former next door neighbour was a chemistry teacher and when I told him I was studying chemistry, the first question he asked me was, how’s your maths. I checked in with him every now and then when I was doing it and he would often comment that he wasn’t worried about me because my problems were all about the more abstract concepts or the crap about batteries rather than the maths. Poor maths skills would nearly always be the barrier to an A grade, in his experience. People would often try to convince him that they were sure they could do it when they were getting Cs or Ds in maths. He was rarely wrong.

If you simply don’t have the experience of maths at grade 6 or above, you’re going to need to get it. If you’re fundamentally just terrible at it, it’s not really a work around for chemistry A level and you’re going to need to get some help now to see if some extra tuition might help. I’m all for a growth mindset, and I encourage you to consider it as a problem that can be addressed and can be solved. But this grade barrier isn’t necessarily an arbitrary one set by colleges. They don’t have time to plug gaps in your learning skills and a grade 5 or less would imply that those gaps exist. And those maths skills will also be recruited in medicine as well, whether people realise it or not.
Original post by GANFYD
Oxford stopped scoring GCSEs during covid as felt TAGs and CAGs were not accurate, but it is back to 50% of their scoring this year.
OP will need to decide if they are more likely to get a 6 in maths GCSE or several A* A levels and a high UCAT

I didn't realise Oxford's change was only temporary. Thanks for clarifying.

If OP doesn't achieve A* at A-level and they don't meet criteria for any widening participation schemes, I'd recommend they take a gap year and do their maths then. Hopefully they won't need to do that, but if they do, it's a safer option than balancing it alongside three A-levels. They could also find a job as a healthcare assistant or something similar, which would help them to pay for a tutor and for exam registration as a private candidate, as well as giving them some valuable experience and letting them demonstrate a pragmatic commitment to studying medicine.

If they didn't have such strong predicted grades across every other subject, I'd be giving different advice. I might also hesitate if they hadn't mentioned they were in a higher maths set until their class experienced a chaotic year, but these two things combined make me think that the issue is almost certainly their situation rather than their aptitude. It's disappointing that their school won't enter them for the higher tier, because with a bit of extra tuition to compensate for the disrupted learning I think they would stand a very good chance of getting that 6. Unfortunately decisions about which exams to enter pupils for aren't always based on the pupils' abilities and what would be in their best interest. They can be unduly influenced by the intense pressure schools are under to maintain their pass rates, especially in core subjects. With pupils who seem at all borderline in a tiered subject, a school might play it safe and enter them for Foundation because they are confident those kids will definitely get 5s when following that syllabus. They won't gamble their pass statistics by letting them attempt the higher tier, even if it means trapping them beneath a grade ceiling that doesn't allow them to explore their full potential and could affect their university prospects.
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 15
Original post by TheMedicOwl
I didn't realise Oxford's change was only temporary. Thanks for clarifying.

If OP doesn't achieve A* at A-level and they don't meet criteria for any widening participation schemes, I'd recommend they take a gap year and do their maths then. Hopefully they won't need to do that, but if they do, it's a safer option than balancing it alongside three A-levels. They could also find a job as a healthcare assistant or something similar, which would help them to pay for a tutor and for exam registration as a private candidate, as well as giving them some valuable experience and letting them demonstrate a pragmatic commitment to studying medicine.

If they didn't have such strong predicted grades across every other subject, I'd be giving different advice. I might also hesitate if they hadn't mentioned they were in a higher maths set until their class experienced a chaotic year, but these two things combined make me think that the issue is almost certainly their situation rather than their aptitude. It's disappointing that their school won't enter them for the higher tier, because with a bit of extra tuition to compensate for the disrupted learning I think they would stand a very good chance of getting that 6. Unfortunately decisions about which exams to enter pupils for aren't always based on the pupils' abilities and what would be in their best interest. They can be unduly influenced by the intense pressure schools are under to maintain their pass rates, especially in core subjects. With pupils who seem at all borderline in a tiered subject, a school might play it safe and enter them for Foundation because they are confident those kids will definitely get 5s when following that syllabus. They won't gamble their pass statistics by letting them attempt the higher tier, even if it means trapping them beneath a grade ceiling that doesn't allow them to explore their full potential and could affect their university prospects.

If it were at all possible, I would be looking at extra tuition and a private sitting of higher maths with the rest of their GCSEs, if school won't play ball. But I would be leaning on them pretty heavily, with parental support, to be entered for higher tier.
There is a slight issue that some med schools only accept GCSEs resat 1 year after the original, and some not at all, but taking a gap year is still an option and doing it then.
If they are capable of 2A* + at A level, then maths GCSE until Nov in Yr 12 would not jeopardise that below AAA, I would have thought? Would mean doing the bulk of the work in the summer holidays between Yr 11 & 12. And would also mean a 200 point lower UCAT score may still lead to 4 interviews. But only OP can know if a resit in Yr 12 will mean they may not achieve AAA at A level, as this is key.
WP flags may well lower GCSE requirements, as well as A level and UCAT, at many med schools, so would be a whole other ballgame.

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