Unlocking the Value of A-Levels


Many people see A-Levels merely as a stepping stone to university. In fact, I don’t think it’s farfetched to say many students disregard a lot of what they learn in their A-Levels at university. In this article I am going to try and convince you that your A-Levels are highly relevant at University. In particular I am going to offer my own experience using my A-Levels; Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology in my Medicine Degree at the University Of Oxford. I will also explain how even in cases where subject matter is largely irrelevant to the course you study – there is a lot of value to be gained from using the soft skills picked up in your time at Sixth Form in your University career.

If you’d like to find out how to choose the right university, make sure to take a look at our article on How To Apply Tactically To UK Medical School.

If you are a medic then the subjects you are studying at A-Level will almost certainly prepare you for your degree at university. Most medical schools in the UK tend to focus on the preclinical sciences in the first year or so. Even if you end up in an integrated course, which is to say a course that imparts clinical experience from its offset, there will be some preclinical study. In these cases, chemistry (a subject mandated by nearly all medical schools) and biology (a subject taken by most medic hopefuls) will be useful. Biology will be relevant across subject matter in medical school – whether this is biochemistry, the physiology of the body or even the pharmacology of certain drugs. Chemistry will be relevant broadly as well. Students will be expected to have a base understanding of chemical properties of organic material. A competent understanding of chemistry will no doubt give you the edge in university – allowing you to grasp the content you study on a more intimate level which will serve to deepen your understanding. An example of this are amino acids, molecules that have wide ranging implications in the body from metabolism to cellular structure. If you are able to understand the properties of these chemicals based on your understanding of how functional groups behave – you will no doubt find yourself excelling in medical school.

Even for the less directly relevant subjects, which in my case were physics and mathematics, the ability to manipulate data and number sets effectively has been directly useful both in the medical statistics module I studied and in some quantitative biomedical exam questions. This links quite nicely to the concept of soft skills. Soft skills are secondary skills picked up during the studying of a subject that apply broadly to your subject matter. For example, whilst you may study a subject like english – you may pick up the soft skill of essay writing that will be relevant not only in university but in any career you decide to pursue later down the line. In the aforementioned case, the ability to convey your information effectively and concisely will help in a myriad of situations. A clinical example for the medics reading this may be using these skills to communicate to patients more easily. In university you will likely be expected to work in groups on projects, create presentations and work with statistics and data sets. These are all skills that you will likely pick up during your time at school so it’s vital that you try your best to understand these skills. The better you are at them now the easier you will find the jump from your A-levels to University.

University can also be a lot more hectic than A-Levels. Not only is the content much more challenging but there is a much greater emphasis on independent learning. As such it is really important to understand what tools help you learn the best. Choose the best aspects of your A-level preparation and carry it forward. If you find you work best taking digital notes on your Ipad for example make sure to set up and organize your folders on notability, goodnotes or whatever application you use – when in university. If you find that you do best when you make lots of flash cards – do so at university. When I was studying my A-levels I discovered the application Notion. I ended up doing the bulk of my note taking on this app which really helped men to stay organized and keep all my work in one place. This is something I applied to my studies at university.

To summarize, yes… your A-levels do matter – and that’s good! All the hard work you are putting in during your time at school will pay its dividends in university which is all the more reason to try your best!

If you want help getting into your dream university then also be sure to check out our Elite Coaching Programme. As part of this programme, you will get in-depth help with the entire application process from whatever stage you join at till you get into the medical school of your choice. This is done through 1-on-1 mentoring and the founder of the course, Dr Ashley Hilton is always available for any questions. You can find out more about the Elite Programme here.

Written by Inesh Sood

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