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Dr Philippa Thorpe

My school told me I would never be a doctor. I took my A levels at RIC and proved them totally wrong. I am now a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Liverpool University Hospital. I can think of no better recommendation for the College that gave me the confidence and grades to succeed.

Dr Philippa Thorpe

Empowering The Doctors of Tomorrow To Find A Place To Study Today

Getting into Medical School is not a quick and easy process and students approach it in many different ways. For the lucky few, an impeccable background of academic success leads faultlessly to acceptance at Medical School. For many, life just isn’t that straightforward.

Rochester Independent College has been helping prepare students for medical school entry since 1984. Many of our early students are now successful practitioners who won their places after retaking their A levels. Students aiming for UK medical schools and considering retaking their A levels today though need to be aware that successfully following this route is now very hard and that even when grades are achieved places are not guaranteed.

With that made clear, we are though happy to report that RIC students who need to retake demonstrate every year that it can be achieved. In 2020 six of our A level retake students secured places at UK medical schools including Sheffield, Southampton, Exeter and Sunderland.

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Daisy, Class of 2020, Destination: Medicine at Sheffield

I joined RIC in 2019 to resit my A levels. I remember the stress of not getting into university and trying to plan what to do next, and all I can say is that I am so relieved I made the decision I did. The teachers here are so different to any others from my previous schools, they are inspiring. It’s a whole different experience being taught by people who are so passionate about their subjects. I came to RIC with B C D grades in Maths Biology and Chemistry, and left after only one year with A* A* A respectively. I am so grateful for the welcoming and safe environment the school provided me with, and I can say with completely confidence that it was solely due to the teachers and staff at RIC that I was able to do as well as I did, and I thank them for helping me to reach my full potential. I knew from reading the website myself before I joined that resit students at RIC often come out with a huge improvement but it seemed unbelievable that I could achieve the same. I can tell you honestly that this school has changed my life, not only academically, and I am only sorry to be leaving so soon.

Daisy, Class of 2020, Destination: Medicine at Sheffield

Through our partners at The Medic Portal, like RIC part of Dukes Education, our retake students have access to some of the best specialist university applications advice available as well as UCAT and BMAT preparation courses. RIC is the Kent centre for courses run by The Medic Portal including their MMI circuit training.


At RIC we run a dedicated medical entry course alongside A level retakes with expert help and guidance from Dr Yang Ooi who teaches Biology at the College and is also a practicing GP. Extensive support is given with strategic choice of medical schools and interview preparation. Dr Ooi teaches A level Biology at RIC and assists aspiring Rochester medics with their university applications. Dr Ooi has previously worked at leading schools such as Magdalen College School, Oxford and Winchester and says: "I encourage students to think critically, guiding them to become self-sufficient and questioning scientists. I do move outside the syllabus when appropriate but am ever mindful of the need for my students to achieve the best possible grades, many of whom having done so over the years. I am very keen for them to perform laboratory work and to understand how this is the foundation of scientific research as published in the literature." Dr Ooi introduced himself to Rochester students last year by hosting a virtual university lecture on our RIC Without Walls online platform. His lecture, ‘Faints, Fits and Funny Turns’ explored the causes of blackouts and dizziness, how to diagnose and treat them. The lecture included role play by second year medical students currently at King's College London Medical School.

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Bolu Alade, Destination 2017: Medicine at Liverpool

I've just seen track and shortly after my grades! I just wanted to thank you for all the encouragement and support I received the college! I didn't know if coming to RIC and taking an extra year would be worthwhile, I felt it was a massive risk considering how medschools aren't particularly fond of resits. But with my place confirmed I know it was all worthwhile! So thank you once again for allowing me to realise a dream that I at times didn't think was possible!

Bolu Alade, Destination 2017: Medicine at Liverpool

Can I resit my A levels and still get a place at medical school?

Yes you can!

For 2021 entry, a small number of medical schools said that sitting exams after you’d been given centre assessed grades wouldn’t be considered a resit – but they also stressed that their usual resit policy would resume for 2022 entry.

Click below for the most up to date information about university medical schools admissions policies for students retaking A levels from our Dukes Education partner at The Medic Portal:

Not every medical school will consider resit students and you need to audit carefully which ones do each year as it does change. there are still a wide range of universities who do. Some Medical Schools simply won’t accept applications from students who resit their A-Levels unless there are serious mitigating circumstances or you have a recognised disability under the equality act. To give you examples Bristol, Sheffield, Southampton and Exeter currently all consider retakes, others will do but only if you achieve certain grades first time around, so for example Manchester and Hull & York welcome applications as long as you have BBB already, Leicester if you have ABB. Some universities will consider your application but raise the bar for retakers- Newcastle and Liverpool for example asking for A*s rather than As in subjects resat whereas at Keele you have to secure your retake grades first and then reapply- you can’t apply on the basis of predicted grades in your retake year. In all these cases you have to watch the GCSE requirements as you would do first time around and if anything UCAT and BMAT performance is even more crucial when applying second time around.

How can I prepare for reapplication to medical school?

Dr Ooi who runs the medical programme at RIC says: "Students attending my medical prep sessions are advised about all aspects of the application process such as the need for work experience, voluntary work, reading, hobbies, the aptitude tests i.e. the UCAT and BMAT and university choices. They also cover relevant topics such as medical ethics and good medical practice or its equivalent. Those sitting the BMAT exam will also write practice essays for group discussion and this is followed by intensive interview practice for all the students.” All RIC students have access to support from our Dukes Education partners The Medic Portal who use RIC as their Kent campus for BMAT, MMI and interview prep courses.

Click here for an article from one of RIC's successful medics about his journey to medical school at UCL.

What alternatives are there to medicine?

Georgina Winney, a former RIC student who now works in our admissions team, discusses the attraction of medicine as a career option and explores some of the related alternatives.

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Dillon, Class of 2020, Destination: Medicine at Sunderland

"I came to Rochester with CDD grades, but I still had a desire to do medicine. My tutor was supportive and helped me through the entire application process including medical interview practice. My teachers were patient and thorough, ensuring I had regained my confidence to reach my full potential to do the best I possibly could. From taking this year, I've learned the value of hard work and dedication, something that I wouldn't have otherwise known. I came to this college because they are known for turning grades like mine around, and sure enough they did. I highly recommend this college.”

Dillon, Class of 2020, Destination: Medicine at Sunderland
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Having set my heart on medicine, I was devastated when I fell short of the grades I needed for the offer I held at Barts. I soon realised that if my dream was to become a reality, I needed to keep at it and resit. This year has better prepared me for university and I now feel fully equipped to take on the new challenge. With the help of RIC, I was over the moon to achieve two offers for medicine. Small class sizes mean you get to know people very quickly, and I always felt well supported. The staff are so dedicated and passionate, they make A-levels as easy and enjoyable as possible. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and encouraging community. As well as resitting my existing A-levels (biology, chemistry and mathematics), I completed two additional subjects (sociology and statistics) to enhance my Ucas application. I can’t say that taking five A-levels in eight months was the easiest task, but here I am at the other end, excited and ready to start at Exeter medical school in September 2016.


Natasha Alford joined RIC to retake from The Judd School.
Destination: Bristol University Medical School

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Rochester specialises in helping students achieve their desired grades. For the first time I felt as though my dream of doing medicine could be possible because I was surrounded by people whose advice I trusted. It felt great to be taught in such a safe place where asking questions or saying you don't understand didn't seem like a weakness. The teachers were more than willing to help during the lesson time or outside. I'm so incredibly happy I had to retake my A levels because attending Rochester taught me the ability to learn and more importantly understand what I'm learning. But also to face failure and learn it's not the end of the world and you can always try again. Although I attended Rochester to gain good A levels what I actually gained during my time there was so much more.


Awais and Thanish, who retook Science A levels, decided not to apply to British Medical Schools and instead have opted for the increasingly popular option of Medical Schools in the Czech republic. Thanish, who joined RIC from Rochester Maths and improved his BCC science grades to AAA says: “The subject teachers provide 100% support to each individual student and are always willing to help their students to achieve their maximum potential.

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Charlie who joined RIC from Hertfordshire on a two year A level course as a boarding student: UCL Medical School.

Tom from Sir Roger Manwood’s School who combined A level retakes with one year courses in Sociology and Statistics at Rochester: Peninsula School of Medicine.

Florence who transferred to RIC after taking her A levels first time round at Cranbrook School despite needing to retake Chemistry A level: Bristol

George from Simon Langton School, Canterbury who resat Biology and Chemistry alongside one year A level Sociology: Exeter

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Take Extra A levels and Reapply for Medicine

“Anyone thinking of applying for medicine keep going at it. You will get people along the way who will tell you it’s too hard but at the end of the day you have to go for what you want.”

Vinitha had four top A level grades- including an A* in Biology and As in Chemistry and Maths but rejections from all the medical schools she applied to. Refusing to give up on her dreams of becoming a doctor she opted to take a year out at Rochester Independent College, take an extra A level to improve her profile and reapply. Vinitha started her MBBS Medicine course at the University of East Anglia in October 2012.

Transfer to Year 13 for Medical School Success

At RIC we now see more prospective medics who transfer into our Year 13 after disappointing AS results elsewhere who need to maximise their chances of securing the required entry grades of AAA within the crucial standard two years of sixth form. Obviously students with weak AS module marks or uneven performance in internal exams need to concentrate on securing their grades in their year 13 and are often not in a position to apply to medical school. Students in this position are encouraged to make a post results application. Interestingly both Keele and Manchester say that students applying with known A level grades achieved in a two year period that meet their standard offer will be considered even if their GCSE grades do not reach the required standard.

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RIC’s use of testing and reflection mirrors a lot of what I use at medical school and I am particularly thankful that I learnt these techniques when sitting my A levels. Passionate and engaging tutors encouraged me to take a mature approach to learning that not only made A levels, dare I say it, enjoyable, but also equipped me with the skills set to tackle the challenges I have faced in my first year at Newcastle. Dr Rachel Woolley at RIC also offered me constant, personalised and quality advice, guidance and support when applying for medical school, ensuring my personal statement and interview preparation was the best it could be. For this I am very grateful. Moving from Gravesend Grammar to RIC was a fantastic decision and one I’m very happy I made.

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Alternatives routes to medicine

With so few UK universities welcoming A level retake students it is more usual for students determined to study medicine at undergraduate level to consider overseas options such as those available in Spain, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. These courses however also require good A level grades and convincing work experience. Also growing in popularity are graduate routes into medicine and undergraduate courses that allow students the opportunity to transfer to medicine such as at Exeter where the Medical School allows up to ten per cent of Medical Sciences students to transfer to the first year of the BMBS Medicine programme after completion of their first year. Such transfers are also competitive- the Exeter option is for students with AAB at A level who achieve high average scores of 1st or 2:1 level. These students will be invited to attend a selection interview but no UKCAT scores will be required. At RIC we offer intensive one year A level Science and Maths courses that have been successfully taken by mature students and graduates changing direction.

There are also some emerging private options for aspiring doctors but only those with deep pockets as well as top A level results need apply. The private University of Buckingham has launched a new medical school with fees for UK, EU and Overseas students set at £35,525 per year while London’s well established Queen Mary University are charging £25,500 per year for their new private medical training venture on the Maltese island of Gozo.

How to apply to medical school

There is no secret to how to make a successful medical school application and the universities themselves are increasingly transparent about the process. They tend to point score applicants on each aspect of their application- academic performance to date, work experience, personal statement, UCAT score and interview performance. With up to 10 applicants per place at UK medical schools it is inevitable that every year there will be students with top grades and good work experience that are left disappointed even when they are not resitting their A levels. At RIC students are guided through every aspect of their UCAS application. We offer guidance for students who need to take additional entrance tests such as the UCAT. RIC students also have an outstanding track record of securing places on medically related courses such as Pharmacy, Audiology, Optometry and Radiography. Many of the local GPs, surgeons and consultants send their children to us. This gives RIC a real wealth of experience to draw upon when advising students about who to approach when organising their work experience. Our parents also help with the mock interviews we organise for all our applicants aiming for these courses.