Jun 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Think low entrance scores are an indication of future poor performance in medical school? Think again -- at least as it pertains to disadvantaged students. In fact, according to research from the University of York as reported by Science Daily, students with low A Level results from some of the UK’s worst performing secondary schools do just as well in medical school as their counterparts from better performing schools.

A Levels and Med School Performance

Not only did the researchers determine that lower A Level grades were not necessarily a predictor of medical school achievement, but they also discovered that disadvantaged students who did well on their A Levels actually out-performed their advantaged peers.

A Call for Change

These findings are particularly noteworthy given the fierce competition to get into medical school in the UK, and the fact that while only 5.3 percent of UK students attend private school, they account for a full half of medical degree places.

The takeaway, according to the paper’s lead author, Lazaro Mwandigha? “This study suggests that relaxing A Level grade entry requirements for students from the worst performing secondary schools is beneficial. Although there are important further questions about how to fairly classify schools, the study demonstrates that these students are, on average, just as able to keep up with the pace of a medical degree.”

Echoes Supervising author Dr. Paul Tiffin, “This study is the first robust evidence that grade discounting for pupils from underperforming schools is justified. At the moment around 20% of UK schools are providing 80% of our medical students so A Level achievement should be viewed in terms of the context in which a pupil learns in order to help increase fairness and widen participation in medicine."

Toward Equal Access

According to research team member Lewis Paton, meanwhile, the study also represents a positive step in the direction of equal access to medical school.

“Bright pupils from less well performing schools sometimes don't apply to medical school because they or their teachers don't think they'll make the grades required to get in. If medical schools started to contextualize A Level results, it could make access to studying medicine appear more achievable,” Paton insists.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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