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Pathways to Medicine

A medical degree is an academically rigorous and challenging experience. Medical undergraduates are under a lot of pressure to complete studies in multiple different disciplines within the medical sciences, with fast turnaround times and high levels of accuracy and understanding. The end of year exams demand the highest standards so that those gaining their medical degree can be trusted to be knowledgeable across all aspects of medicine, as you would rightly expect.

For this reason, university medical courses have high thresholds for applicants to meet. Including a range of minimum GCSE grades, minimum predicted A Level or IB grades and minimum UCAT scores and often specifying that students should achieves these grades in their first sitting or only over two years of the sixth form. Should the applicant pass this "sifting" process, then further scoring systems are applied to the remainder of the application process should they be invited to interview. These vary hugely from one university course to another.

It therefore remains the best advice to those in Year 10 and Year 11 to give their very best across all subjects they are studying at GCSE in order to give themselves the chance of meeting this particular sifting criterion.

Academic Grades

What if you don't have the academic profile that you need to apply and meet these sifting criteria?

One option is to spend Year 13 focussing on your school work and bank a set of top grades.

You could then apply to read medicine at the start of a (well planned) gap year if you have been able to demonstrate the necessary level.

If you wanted to keep your options open, you could also run a UCAS application alongside this plan, which could be for Biomedical Sciences or possibly an allied health profession which your personal statement would also need to support. In the eventuality that you did not achieve your hoped AAA/A*AA grades you might then have another option to be able to continue your studies without the gap year delay.

What about if you still don't have the final A Level grades that you wanted but there are reasons why you didn't achieve them?

You could consider retaking Year 13; however not all universities will accept a retake - you need to do your research first.


Clearing is the system through UCAS by which students are able to apply for places which have not been filled, on results day. Clearing Plus is available to students who have exceeded their grades. Medical places are not usually available during clearing because part of your interview process will also have included a background check and suitability to practice medicine which is not possible to achieve easily over the phone. However, we know that in the past students have been able to ring up the universities that they previously applied to (perhaps they were interviewed but didn't quite make the short list) and in some cases they have been able to secure a place. In another case, a student rang around many universities and was offered a deferred place for the next year, thereby saving himself the process of going through another UCAS cycle. It is always worth making a phone call.

Gap Year

If you are deciding to take some time to reapply, you may think about how to spend a gap year.

There are lots of opportunities available on island where you can earn money whilst working in a medical content.

Such as working as a Health Care Assistant at the PEH; working with St John's Ambulance; working in a nursing or care home; a temp job in one of the healthcare employers on island - such as the one year position advertised by the MSG.

These would all develop your skills within the medical professions.

If you have worked on island in this way and can recommended where you worked, please contact us at

Related Degrees

Sometimes, especially if you are struggling to put together a competitive application for medicine, it is important to reflect carefully on why you want to be a doctor. For some people, being a doctor is the only way they could envisage working in healthcare - but after reflection and work experience they realise that other allied healthcare roles would be equally rewarding/interesting and sometimes more suitable for them. Perhaps that's because they've realised the nature of another role in healthcare aligns more with their interests, or perhaps they realise that their application would perfectly suit this alternative role. If that's the case, perhaps consider whether a related degree to medicine would be of interest? If so, seek out relevant work experience. You could consider applying to read this subject instead at university and then go on to a fulfilling and rewarding career - just perhaps not as a doctor. For some people, this route can actually end up leading to becoming a doctor in the future when their first degree leads on to then study medicine as a second degree. However you would need to consider the cost and time involved in doing two degrees before planning to take this route.

Transfer Year

Another great alternative route into medicine is a transfer course. You can start a degree in a related subject and then transfer to medicine after a year. The degree that you do your first year in, will usually have lower grade requirements than medicine, which means you’re more likely to get into that. 

All universities will have slightly different requirements but generally you’ll have to perform consistently high in all assessments in the first year of your original degree. These courses are extremely competitive with only a handful of places up for grabs. Some of these are called Clinical or Medical Sciences for example. You need to look at the small print in these cases.

There is no such thing as a foundation year where you can go to university with poor science grades and spend a year improving your knowledge and then go into medicine.

Allied Health

The Allied Health Professions include so many careers which allow you to link togehter a love for helping others, along with a genuine interest in how the body works and how medicine can improve someone's quality of life. You could study nursing and become a dispensing nurse, study pharmacy and work in a hospital or in the community, become a paramedic working at the highest level... There are so many wonderful careers to consider.

Access Course

Access to Medicine courses are like foundation years for students with A and A* grades in non science subjects. They spend a year studying science in order to then apply with the correct subjects for a medical school. Some access courses restrict their places to students over a certain age or who left school a certain time ago. A Guernsey student recently attended the Access to Medicine course at East Sussex College. This particular course also guarantees those who are on their course to have an interview with Brighton and Sussex Medical School during their application to university.  

Gateway Courses

If you are from what is called a lower socio-economic background you could consider asking for a contextual offer which is asking a med school to offer As and Bs. You would have to have had a poor schooling and come from a deprived area. ( This would not be relevant if you are at a paying school). This would be difficult to do from Guernsey because the school you attend is also taken into account and the sixth form provision on Guernsey is very good. 

You can also apply for a gateway course. This widening participation strategy is designed for high achieving students who have had barriers to their education as a result of socioeconomic or educational circumstances. Some of the criteria are:

  • Neither of your parents have attended university ; 
  • Having been in care ; 
  • Household income lower than a specified amount
  • Attending a state school, or specifically aspiring state schools. (We do not have aspiring state schools here for post 16 education as the provision is very good)
  • Attending a summer school held by the university


There are so many ways to become a doctor and even more ways to work in a fulfilling and rewarding career in healthcare. Seek out work experience, ask for help, work hard at school and keep finding out more - and you will get there.

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