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Teachers’ Guide: Early GCSE Preparation

For aspiring medical students, early preparation is vital – and as a teacher, you’ll play a key role in this. This page will give some top tips on the importance of early GCSE preparation. Please note that these tips reflect the views of individual teachers and not necessarily those of The Medic Portal.


The competition for places at UK medical schools, and also at those on mainland Europe, has increased considerably over recent years.  It is therefore essential that any applicant to Medical Schools fully understands the selection procedures of the institutions that they intend to apply to.

School advisors should also make sure that the many component parts of the medical schools’ selection procedures are brought to the attention of possible applicants from a reasonably early age. For example, by at least Year 11 students should have been made fully aware of the range of ‘scoring systems’ used by the medical schools for GCSE results.

This will hopefully ensure that the students strive hard in their revision and preparations so that they achieve the highest possible grades in their GCSE courses.

The overall number of GCSEs, combined with the grades achieved, will feature in the selection process, although this will differ between medical schools. There is no need for excessive numbers of GCSEs, and many institutions only take into consideration, for example, the ‘best eight’ GCSEs: therefore the grades do count strongly.

Sciences at Double Award are totally acceptable, but although often a C grade is quoted as the base line, A grades are a realistic minimum. Maths is seen as very important, and once again an A grade minimum is more realistic than the often quoted B grade.

Most importantly the English Language grade can cause problems. For UK residents an A grade is once again a good safety net, with a B grade a weakness in the application. For international students a B grade may suffice, but an A grade is definitely preferable. Therefore, a back- up exam mark of 7 across the board in IELTS is advisable, taken in the GCSE year, not as a hurried after thought.

As you can see, the process all begins at GCSE level, or before, but beware that the medical schools update their procedures nearly every year in some small way, usually in what is the summer holidays for those finishing school.

How can I help my students with early preparation?

Encourage them to start thinking about studying Medicine

Help your students to consider if studying Medicine is right for them. Do they particularly enjoy Biology or Chemistry? Are they passionate about helping people? If they show an early interest in Medicine at GCSE level, help them to think about how they can pursue this. You could point them to our page on Deciding On Medicine to help them think about what it means to become a doctor.

Support them to get medical work experience

If a student expresses an interest in studying Medicine, work experience is a great way to figure out if being a doctor is right for them.

Your school may have a Work Experience week at GCSE level – if so, encourage your students interested in Medicine to speak to your school’s Careers Service about GP placements. Most GP practices require that students are at least 16 before they can observe appointments, so this may be easier to secure at GCSE level than a hospital placement, as some departments have a minimum age of 18. You could also direct students to our Work Experience page to find out more.

If this isn’t possible, help them to think about their other options which will help demonstrate an interest in healthcare. Could they spend an evening during the week at a care home? Or could they volunteer at a charity shop on the weekends? All of these are great ways to get experience in a medical or care-giving environment – perfect for discovering if this is the right path for them, and if so, excellent for their later Medical School applications.


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