Can I become a nurse even though I failed maths? | learndirect

Can I become a nurse even though I failed maths?

Posted on 23/04/2020
Can I become a nurse even though I failed maths?

Nurses provide a vital role to so many in a variety of professional capacities. They are required to give care, advice, emotional support and more.

They are trained to do everything from taking blood to supervise medication and post-surgery recovery. They can help people battle addiction, overcome mental health issues and improve their standard of living.

Choosing to become a nurse is making a commitment to care for others, no matter what. And to live by a defining set of principles.

Making a career change at any stage in your life is a big decision as it can often mean retraining. Becoming a nurse is no exception.

There are a few different routes you can take into nursing to suite your circumstances and background.

But what if you want to become a nurse but you’re concerned you lack the required qualifications?

Minimum requirements

To become a nurse or in the United Kingdom you need to have a degree. Entry requirements vary depending on the university but as a minimum you should have the following:

  • Demonstrate evidence of literacy and numeracy
  • Complete a health questionnaire and identify any special needs related to a disability
  • Declare any past criminal convictions
  • Allow the university to check whether you have a police record. You will not automatically be barred if you have a criminal conviction or caution. The university will consider the circumstances and will treat any information in the strictest of confidence.
  • Required qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales include:
    • Five GCSEs including English, maths and a science (usually biology or human biology)
    • Two A-levels or equivalent.
  • In Scotland, one of the following is required:
    • 3-5 SQA Highers plus 2 standard grades/National 5’s – this should include English and maths
    • Completion of a relevant HNC/HND including English plus maths at Standard Grade/National 5 level
    • Completion of an appropriate Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Access to Nursing and SWAP programmes have been specifically developed for adults who have no or few qualifications and have been out of education for some time.

So, if you don’t have a GCSE in Maths that could pose a bit of a problem.

However, some universities are willing to forego the GCSE requirement providing:

  • You have completed a relevant qualification – such as an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Nursing
  • You have two or more years experience in health or care.

There are only a handful though – the most common being University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, King’s College London, University of Leeds and University of Liverpool.

Regardless, always check with your chosen place of study to find out what their entry requirements are. And whether there are any circumstances under which they would make exceptions.

Learndirect | Can I Become a Nurse Even Though I Failed Maths | Minimum RequirementsGetting the Qualifications you Need

Regardless of whether you need a maths GCSE, you will need A Levels or equivalent to enrol. A Levels are widely recognised and accepted. However, studying two or more A Levels is highly time consuming.

Access to HE Diploma (Nursing)

The Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) prepares students for study as an undergraduate in nursing at university. The diploma is designed for anyone who wants to study a degree but lacks the relevant qualifications.

They are recognised by over 140 universities across the UK including the universities listed above. So, if you don’t have a GCSE in maths, the Access to HE Diplomas will get you in. Providing you’ve met the other entry requirements/conditions also.

The advantage of an Access to HE Diploma is the content centres specifically around your desired area of study. That means your learning is highly focused, so you’ll have the knowledge to prepare you for university level study.

The Access to Higher Educations Diplomas in nursing covers everything you need to know, including

  • cell biology
  • human nutrition
  • the digestive system
  • growth and development
  • the human musculo-skeletal system
  • approaches to health
  • human disease and prevention and
  • the nervous system.

You will also get an introduction to psychology, social factors in health care, inequalities in health and illness, poverty and health and equality and diversity within health care.

Learndirect | Can I Become a Nurse Even Though I Failed Maths | Getting the Qualifications you NeedGCSE Maths

The other option is – in addition to an Access to HE Diploma – to retake your GCSE Maths.

Thanks to distance learning you are no longer forced to study in a draughty old learning annexe. Or a college with students half your age.

You can study at your own pace, in an environment that suits you. Be that the spare bedroom, the dining room or your favourite coffee shop.

Equally you are free to take the course as quickly as you’d like, so you can complete the course in parallel with your diploma. That could mean you’re ready to apply to university in under a year. Although that would be a very demanding study schedule.

Studying a GCSE in this way is no different that in a school setting. You will still cover algebra, geometry, probability and statistics etc. The difference is you will have a dedicated tutor to help you with your understanding. And you don’t take the exam until your ready, rather than when the school says you are.

Alternative Routes into Nursing

There are a couple of other ways to go into nursing if you don’t have the right qualifications although the route can differ in terms of length and demand.

Post-Graduate Diploma

If you have already completed a degree in a related subject, then you may be eligible for a post-graduate diploma. The related subject could be a BSc or a BA.

The diploma takes 2 years but at the end of the course you will be a qualified, registered nurse.

Returning to Practice

Any nurses wishing to return to practice may do so but they are required to take refresher course. Depending on how long it has been since you last practiced, it could take between 3 and 12 months.

Nursing Degree Apprenticeships

Nursing Degree Apprenticeships offer a flexible route into nursing. The course takes 4 years and requires you to complete a nursing degree while learning on the job.

You will still need at least a level 3 qualification as you will be studying a degree level. So if you lack A Level qualifications (or equivalent) then an Access to Higher Education Diploma is your best bet.

The only real challenge is finding someone willing to take you on as an apprentice.


Whichever route you choose to go down, learndirect can support you in your studies. All you need to do is get in touch or sign up online. There are flexible payment terms available to help you spread the cost.

You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your study experience.

Click below to sign up to learndirect’s leading Access to HE Diploma in nursing, to give you the foundation you need to go on to achieve at university. To learn more about studying your qualification in Maths, visit our GCSE Maths page.

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