Having set my heart on a career in medicine, I was devastated when I fell short of the grades I needed for the offer I held at Bart’s and the London Medical school. I soon realised that if my dream of going to medical school was to become a reality, I needed to keep at it and resit some of my A levels. After hearing about Rochester Independent College from a friend, I organised a visit. It was immediately apparent to me that this was the place I needed to be. The staff are friendly, extremely knowledgeable and had all the advice I needed. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and encouraging community that want to see every student fulfil their potential. As well as resitting my existing A levels (Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics) I also completed 2 additional A levels (Sociology and Statistics) to enhance my UCAS application. I would never have considered taking Sociology A level before Rochester suggested it but I am so glad that I have done it. It was completely different to all of the other subjects I was taking and I learnt a lot from completing it and It was definitely worth taking on the extra work. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at RIC and despite the hours of work that you have to do, I made some great friends. The small class sizes mean that you get to know people very quickly and I always felt well supported by my peers. The staff are so dedicated and passionate about their subjects and students, that they make the A levels as easy and enjoyable as possible. I cannot thank them enough for their unconditional support and encouragement. This year has only better prepared me for university and I now feel fully equipped to take on the new challenge of medicine. With the fantastic help and support of Rochester Independent college, I was over the moon to achieve two offers for medicine this year. I can’t say that taking 5 A levels in 8 months was the easiest task but here I am at the other end with A*AAAA, excited and ready to start at Exeter Medical school in September 2016. Thank you for all your help and support. Abi Wong
Rochester Independent College has been helping prepare students for medical school entry since 1984. Many of our early students are now successful practitioners who won their places after retaking their A levels. Students aiming for UK medical schools and considering retaking their A levels today though need to be aware that successfully following this route is now very hard.
With that made clear, we are though happy to report that four RIC students, including three A level retake students and one who had to retake his GCSEs alongside sitting his A levels for the first time, have won places at medical school for entry in September 2015.
Charlie Bicknell who joined RIC from Hertfordshire on a two year A level course as a boarding student has an unconditional offer from the prestigious UCL Medical School.
Tom Kerr from Sir Roger Manwood’s School who combined A level retakes with one year courses in Sociology and Statistics at Rochester has an unconditional offer from Peninsula School of Medicine.
Florence Wallace who transferred to RIC after taking her A levels first time round at Cranbrook School has a conditional offer from the University of Bristol Medical School, despite needing to retake Chemistry A level.
“Anyone thinking of applying for medicine keep going at it. You will get people along the way who will tell you it’s too hard but at the end of the day you have to go for what you want.”
Vinitha Soundararajan had four top A level grades- including an A* in Biology and As in Chemistry and Maths but rejections from all the medical schools she applied to. Refusing to give up on her dreams of becoming a doctor she opted to take a year out at Rochester Independent College, take an extra A level to improve her profile and reapply. Vinitha started her MBBS Medicine course at the University of East Anglia in October 2012.
At RIC we now see more prospective medics who transfer into our Year 13 after disappointing AS results elsewhere who need to maximise their chances of securing the required entry grades of AAA within the crucial standard two years of sixth form. Obviously students with weak AS module marks need to concentrate on securing their grades in their year 13 and are often not in a position to apply to medical school. Students in this position are encouraged to make a post results application. Interestingly both Keele and Manchester say that students applying with known A level grades achieved in a two year period that meet their standard offer will be considered even if their GCSE grades do not reach the required standard.
“RIC’s use of testing and reflection mirrors a lot of what I use at medical school and I am particularly thankful that I learnt these techniques when sitting my A levels. Passionate and engaging tutors encouraged me to take a mature approach to learning that not only made A levels, dare I say it, enjoyable, but also equipped me with the skills set to tackle the challenges I have faced in my first year at Newcastle. Dr Rachel Woolley at RIC also offered me constant, personalised and quality advice, guidance and support when applying for medical school, ensuring my personal statement and interview preparation was the best it could be. For this I am very grateful. Moving from Gravesend Grammar to RIC was a fantastic decision and one I’m very happy I made.” Conor McManaman, RIC Class of 2014
July 2013: Special congratulations to aspiring doctor Lydia Sohdi who has just accepted a place to study Medicine at Keele University. There were over 2,000 applications for 130 places. Lydia joined RIC from Rochester Grammar School for her year 13 and as well as finishing off her A levels in the Sciences picked up an A* in English Literature from scratch in a year. Only a small number of UK medical schools today will consider an application from a student needing to resit their A levels or those who have taken more than two years to complete them. A few will consider applicants if there were serious extenuating circumstances or if a student only narrowly missed an offer they were holding.
The information below is taken from medical school websites in July 2013 but is not exhaustive and you should always check with universities directly for the most up to date information.
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Manchester
“We consider re-sit applications from students who achieved AAB in their previous A2 examinations with exams taken at the same sitting after no more than 2 years of study. The A2 subjects previously achieved at AAB should include Chemistry and a second science. In order to ensure a level playing field for all applicants, re-sit applicants will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Re-sit applicants must acknowledge and reflect on the need to re-sit in their personal statement, as this forms a key part of the assessment process for re-sit applicants. Information on any extenuating circumstances with supporting evidence from school/college/GP should be provided. Re-sit applicants will also be required to re-take UKCAT and shortlisted candidates will be required to attend an interview. We would normally require re-sit applicants to achieve A*AA in their final aggregated results with A* achieved in the subject re-taken.”
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Liverpool
“The University of Liverpool accepts applications from resit candidates and it would be expected that individuals who had failed to meet their offer but could present valid evidence of mitigating circumstances would take advantage of this. However there can be no guarantee of the success of any future application. Applicants who are retaking their examinations may apply for programmes within the School of Medicine . They usually must have achieved a minimum of CCC, AS (B) at first sitting. Resit applicants are usually expected to complete their A2 studies within three years. Applicants who are resitting must include a reflection of this in their personal statement and should mention any extenuating circumstances. Applicants who have applied to the University of Liverpool and been rejected in a previous UCAS cycle may make only one further consecutive application to the same programme. The applicant will be expected to demonstrate that additional evidence of potential has been obtained in the intervening period. It is therefore expected that any individual in this situation will not submit an identical personal statement to that submitted previously.”
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Keele
Any applicant taking more than two years to complete three A-levels, or equivalent, will only be considered when they have achieved the required grades at Advanced Level of A*AB/AAA.
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Norwich Medical School
“Applicants with less than ABB at first sitting will not be considered. Applicants who are repeating all or part of any A level (or who have taken their A levels over more than 2 years) are expected to achieve A* in at least one of the subjects as follows: · Candidates who are wishing to re-sit one subject will be required to have predicted A* · Candidates re-sitting two A-Level subjects are required to have predicted grades of A*A · Candidates re-sitting three A-Level subjects are required to have predicted grades of A*AA Please note: for any subject repeated, the result should be at least one grade higher than that originally achieved. Applicants resitting A levels must also have a fourth AS or A-Level at Grade B.”
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Exeter
The University does not discriminate against applicants who have re-taken part or all of a qualification and will treat an achieved or predicted qualification grade in the same way irrespective of whether or not re-takes are involved.
A Level Retakes for Medicine- Lancaster
Applications from candidates resitting A-level examinations may be considered if the applicant otherwise meets the GCSE criteria. Applicants must acknowledge and reflect on their need to retake in their personal statement.
Alternatives routes to medicine
With so few UK universities welcoming A level retake students it is more usual for students determined to study medicine at undergraduate level to consider overseas options such as those available in Spain, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. These courses however also require good A level grades and convincing work experience. Also growing in popularity are graduate routes into medicine and undergraduate courses that allow students the opportunity to transfer to medicine such as at Exeter where the Medical School allows up to ten per cent of Medical Sciences students to transfer to the first year of the BMBS Medicine programme after completion of their first year. Such transfers are also competitive- the Exeter option is for students with AAB at A level who achieve high average scores of 1st or 2:1 level. These students will be invited to attend a selection interview but no UKCAT scores will be required. At RIC we offer intensive one year A level Science and Maths courses that have been successfully taken by mature students and graduates changing direction.
There are also some emerging private options for aspiring doctors but only those with deep pockets as well as top A level results need apply. The private University of Buckingham has launched a new medical school with fees for UK, EU and Overseas students set at £35,525 per year while London’s well established Queen Mary University are charging £25,500 per year for their new private medical training venture on the Maltese island of Gozo.
How to apply to medical school There is no secret to how to make a successful medical school application and the universities themselves are increasingly transparent about the process. They tend to point score applicants on each aspect of their application- academic performance to date, work experience, personal statement, UKCAT score and interview performance. With up to 10 applicants per place at UK medical schools it is inevitable that every year there will be students with top grades and good work experience that are left disappointed even when they are not resitting their A levels. At RIC students are guided through every aspect of their UCAS application. We offer guidance for students who need to take additional entrance tests such as the UKCAT. RIC students also have an outstanding track record of securing places on medically related courses such as Pharmacy, Audiology, Optometry and Radiography. Many of the local GPs, surgeons and consultants send their children to us. This gives RIC a real wealth of experience to draw upon when advising students about who to approach when organising their work experience. Our parents also help with the mock interviews we organise for all our applicants aiming for these courses.
Useful background reading for medicine
Roy Porter’s Blood and Guts- A Short History of Medicine Raymond Tallis’s Hippocratic Oaths: Medicine and Its Discontents Roger Taylor’s God Save the NHS Nathan Wolfe’s The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age
International students and uk medical schools
With international students there are additional challenges in preparing applications. The medical schools operate a quota system for overseas applicants so it is particularly important that applications are targeted strategically. Oxford for example has only 14 places for international students on its undergraduate medicine course, Nottingham only 25. It’s important for international students to note that some UK medical schools such as Imperial, Cardiff, UCL, Glasgow and Southampton give preference to those from countries without their own medical schools.
A level subject choice for medicine For medical school entry it is often advisable for students to do an arts or social science subject as their fourth subject to show a degree of breadth. UCL actually state that candidates who do so are at an advantage. Obviously the most important A level subjects for potential medics are Chemistry, Biology and Maths, all subjects that Rochester Independent College has an established track record in. Options chosen in the A levels at RIC are often geared towards medical school entry, for example the Sociology of Health and Medical Physics.
“To all the staff of Rochester Independent College. Thank you so much for helping me achieve my dream of studying medicine and getting into Imperial College, London. The unconditional support, encouragement and motivation meant so much.”
Matt Swain from Leybourne is celebrating winning a place at Hull and York Medical School and 4 top Grade As at A level. His success is even more astounding as he made the decision to switch schools half way through his A levels to maximise his chances of a place at Medical School. He joined the Upper Sixth at Rochester Independent College after six years at Maidstone Grammar School. Matt says: “My previous school said I was a solid grade B student and wouldn’t make the A grades required for Medical School. I was determined to realise my ambition to become a doctor.” Matt’s application was helped not only by a good portfolio of work experience but by taking an additional A level- Sociology- from scratch in a year.
A similar story was Roshni Patel from Gravesend Grammar School who crashed in Year 12 but after transferring to RIC directly into Year 13 won a place to study Medicine at St George’s in 2009. Her parents, Mr and Mrs Patel comment:
“We are extremely happy with Roshni’s results. This is our second daughter to attend Rochester Independent College after disappointing results elsewhere. Our older daughter Sarina is in her final year of Dentistry at Queen Mary.”
Dr Philippa Thorpe, consultant surgeon orthopaedics and trauma, class of 1993: “I think I came to RIC in 1992. I had just received my A Level results and had failed to meet the offer from Liverpool University to study medicine despite it being a very generous one. I made an appointment to see the Principal of RIC. Somehow I agreed to retake 4 A levels. The first thing that struck me when I started at the college was the smell of sausage rolls in the morning. I also remember being told off for “not descending the stairs like a human being”. After three terms of maths, science and general deportment courtesy of Mr Brian Pain, I managed to meet the second offer from Liverpool and also learned to descend the stairs like a lady. A bit. I now live in Liverpool and work as a surgeon having qualified from medical school in 1999. I owe all my success to RIC. I look back on that year with enormous gratitude.”
Dr Amrit Dugala, GP, Royal Arsenal Medical Centre, class of 2001: “To become a doctor has been my lifetime’s ambition so not achieving the necessary A level grades first time round was disheartening. I decided to retake at Rochester Independent College. The teaching style here was a little unorthodox compared to what I was used to at school but one that I settled down to very quickly and one that proved to work. This combined with the friendly atmosphere was a great tonic to my confidence levels. Brian’s constant constructive criticism in Maths helped me to reach my goal and getting entry to Medical School became more and more probable. I was absolutely thrilled when I got my grades in March and I’m now looking forward to starting Medicine in October.”