What GCSE grades do you need to be a doctor?

Feb 26, 2020

What GCSE grades do I need to be a doctor?

In short, you need to aim for grade 7+ in the core subjects of Science and the individual science disciplines, Maths and English Language, and aim to get a total of at least five GCSEs with top results in total, in order to be a doctor. 

It is important to understand further what GCSE grades you need to have to become a doctor so let's go into more detail. 

There comes a time in English secondary school when you must make choices for your GCSE options. This can seem like a daunting task, but it's all about having the right perspective.

This is your first opportunity to take control of your education and make sure you're laying a strong foundation for your future.

If your end goal is to work in a medical environment as a hospital doctor, you need to start thinking about the GCSEs you need to take, and the grades you need to achieve. It's a science-based field, and there is plenty of information about medical school entry requirements, and your school careers adviser can be helpful.

We have created this article to help give you an idea of what you need to do at GCSE level to get on the right track to becoming a doctor.

Getting the best results

"What GCSE grades do you need to be a doctor?" is actually one of the most frequently asked questions about GCSEs. Often, the simplest advice is to just get the best results you possibly can in every single subject, especially science.

This answer isn't entirely wrong - there is a lot of truth in it. You will want to do well in a range of subjects to maximise your chances of success. However, there are certain subjects that are more important, and there are some other factors to take into account as well. Let's delve a little deeper into the GCSE grades for medicine.

What do English medical schools require?

The GCSE requirements posited by universities tend to vary. Some universities will simply calculate an overall score from the top 8 GCSE grades you achieve, with an emphasis on science, while others will take the approach of looking at them all and focusing on your performance in at least five GCSEs, including certain core subjects.

These subjects tend to be the core academic subjects, including English Language and Maths, as well as Science subjects. There are medical schools that will consider your application even if you have grade B in the core subjects, while others will not even progress you to the interview stage with anything less than an 7.

Universities consider GCSE results differently, using your UKCAT performance and A level results to provide extra context. To put it simply, there is variation in the requirements from different universities. The only thing that can be said for certain is that you will need to perform very well in your GCSEs, particularly science and science-based disciplines.

Minimum requirements

As a general rule of thumb, we would recommend that students and parents target a minimum of 8 grade 8 or 9s, with those core subjects taking particular importance - particularly science. In the number system of the new English GCSE currency, this would equate to grades 8-9 in a minimum of 8 GCSEs.

Don't be too disheartened if you get a grade 6 in something, you will still find a path to follow.

What are the best subjects to choose?

The core subjects we touched on above are quite universal in terms of requirements for taking a medical degree across the UK. To be more precise, those core subjects are:

  • Maths
  • English literature
  • English language
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Dual science subjects (in some cases)

No 'one-size-fits-all' solution

There is little wiggle room here, so scoring the top grades in these subjects is the best way to maximise your chances. Don't neglect English Language, because this is just as important as anything else at this stage. In terms of other subjects to make up those 8+ Grade 8 or 9 results, our advice is to consider those that you feel are your main strengths. In other words, choose subjects that you enjoyed through years 7 to 9.

Enjoyment of the study is very important because this increases your chances of engaging well with them and thus achieving the necessary results to meet medical school entry requirements. An enjoyment of science is, therefore, a great strength to have.

A huge commitment

It's also important to know that, when you move on to doing A levels and studying at university, everything you do will be heavily Maths- and Science-based.

With this in mind, you may want to consider your GCSEs to be an opportunity to build your knowledge of some more diverse subjects, because the path to being a hospital doctor, or anything else in the medical field, is highly focused on science disciplines.

It's a highly specialised field, so there won't be much time to pursue any other interests you have until you are qualified and joining the world of work. If English Language and Literature are an interest, this will be a real bonus at GCSE level.

Medicine - a diverse field of study

When you begin your journey towards working in the medical profession, one thing to take into account is that there are many types of doctor.

At GCSE level, the subjects you can take are relatively broad, and as such the core subjects we have mentioned are absolutely essential. But as you progress through your education, you will need to consider what type of doctor you want to be.

Possible medical careers

You could become a General Practitioner (GP) and work in a community surgery helping people with a wide range of ailments and injuries.

With so many patients, this is where that English Language skill really helps. Alternatively, you could aim to be more specialised in your science expertise and work as a hospital doctor, where there are many types of role, including:

  • Surgeons, who care for patients before, during and after operations
  • Paediatricians, who manage the health of babies, children and young people
  • Psychiatrists, who work with people experiencing mental health problems
  • Oncologists, who treat patients with cancer

These are just a few of the many roles that hospital doctors and other medical professionals can have, and the skillsets are highly specialised.

Depending on the chosen role, you may also lead a team of staff, manage a department, provide training and education to trainees and write formal reports regarding the diagnosis and care of patients. It can pay to get work experience that develops these types of skills and your English Language to enhance your communication.

An important line of work

The work of hospital doctors and GPs is incredibly important, with a huge amount of responsibility. This, and the level of education it requires, is why being a doctor usually pays a good salary. If you're asking "What grades do you need in GCSE to be a doctor?" you must understand that, if you get the necessary results in your GCSEs and A levels, you will need to complete:

  • A 5-year degree in medicine
  • A 2-year foundation training course
  • 2-3 years of core medical training, including hands-on work experience
  • Between 4 and 7 years of training in your chosen specialism

It's a long road to completing your training, and achieving the necessary GCSE results is the foundation that sets you on that path.


So there you have it, the answer to "What grades do you need to be a doctor at GCSE?"

You need to aim for a 8 or 9 or level 7+ in the core subjects of Science and the individual science disciplines, Maths and English Language, and aim to get a total of at least five GCSEs with top results in total.

Different medical schools will have slightly different requirements, so a grade 6 is not the end of the world.

And if you aren't attending an English medical school, then the requirements could vary even more. But achieving the best results you can, with a particular strength in science, will stand you in good stead for most medical schools.