Which A levels should you do?
As a baby Doctor I am often asked 'Which A levels do you need to get into Birmingham Medical School 1. Of course the answer is simple, chemistry, plus one other science at A level, and Biology is needed at least until AS level.
Looking back, which are actually the most useful A levels for medicine?
When I applied this was compulsary for every medical school in the UK; as far as I know it remains the case. Not that I could see why whilst I was doing it. How was memorising the reactions of benzene with vairous agents possibly going to help me be a doctor.
Admittedly most of the facts I learnt in the upper sixth haven't been much use to me. Indeed a quick skim through my brothers revision guides proved that I have forgotten nearly all of it.
Some of it was has been essential though, understanding chemical reactions such as the ones bettween Oxygen and heamoglobin, not to mention the buffering properties of bicarbonate, which are essential to understand unless you want to kill your seriously ill patients.
Chemistry is also important in order to understand the way that drugs are broken down in the body, and the way that the kidneys work.
Take A level maths if you possibly can, it's useful beyond belief. Not that you will ever be asked to factorise a quadratic equation, but you will be asked to do statistics; try to take maths with Statistics, if you want take futher maths as well.
One of the biggest watchwords at the moment is 'Evidence Based Medicine' which means making decisions on how to treat your patients based on scientific evidence; to understand the results of the scientific experiments you need statistics. They will try to teach you this at medical school in the first year, but you won't listen because it doesn't seem as much fun as learning anatomy and there's a pub nearby. The teaching is also aimed at those who have got A levels maths, so it's quite difficult if you don't have it.
You also need to do research as part of your degree; last night at quater to one in the morning, I was struggling to remember how to do a T test.
Apparently this isn't compulsary, the first six weeks of most medical school courses are spent skimming over A level biology; yes that's two years work in six weeks. Those that have got A Level biology can spend the time discovering the bars in the student union, whilst those that don't have to work hard. It's difficlt enough trying to get used to the speed of learning at university without having to try and do an A level in six weeks.
If you find A level Biology dull you will find medicine indescribably dull; you might want to re think your career choice. Of course I'm refering to the bits about humans rather than plants - ignore them.
I can't think of a day when I didn't use a concept I learnt in A level biology. Well apart from those days I spent in bed with a nasty hangover.
There's times when I regret dropping A level Physics when I'm trying to understand the difference between an MRI and a CT scan for instance. Or some of the more obscure theories of how lungs work.
Most of them time I don't regret it though, it seemed to be mostly about electronics which doesn't help.
I do regret getting talked into trying physics instead of Medievel History, it would have helped my essay writing skills which are, admittedly appalling; I can't make an argument to save my life. I always get Cs no matter how much work I put in. Also it would have been my last chance to read about history and not feel that I should be working.
Admissions tutors always like to see that you've got more interests than science as well, so it is worth pursuing that A level in an arts subject that interests you.