This student applied in the 2019/20 application cycle and therefore the selection process at Cambridge may have changed since then. You should read all the information a University sends you about the selection process to get the most up to date details!
Remember to check out the glossary at the bottom of the page for our explanations of all the jargon we medical students like to use!
More about this student
Sometimes students share information with us about their demographics, which may help put their application experience into a bit more perspective.
This student identifies as a white British woman who went to a selective state school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: In-person panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
Life long dream!
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I wrote a list of all the medical schools in the UK and their requirements and picked the ones I’d have the best chances of getting into. Visited some and didn’t like them so ended up applying to 2 I’d never visited before. I think applying smart, based on where you’d get interviews for is the best strategy but also mixed with where and what you’d enjoy. 5th choice I chose as it had a pathway to medicine.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Other healthcare setting e.g pharmacy, physiotherapy
How much work experience did you do?
A week in a GP. Some time in a hospital (can’t remember! No more than a week). A school term in a care home every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not how much you have it’s the fact that you’ve got any at all and what you can say you’ve learnt from it.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement, Through asking someone I knew to take me on
During the application process…
What admissions test did you sit?
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT): https://www.ucat.ac.uk/; BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Note: BMAT will no longer be used for medicine applications after 2023. If you are applying in 2023 and sitting the BMAT, you can find out about it here: https://www.admissionstesting.org/for-test-takers/bmat/
What resources did you use?
Free online resources, Paid online resources, Practice papers from test website. I found UCAT ninja and BMAT ninja very helpful I could do however many I wanted and it’s a nice interface. I also liked the official UCAT practice tests to get to know how to use the calculator.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I used UCAT and BMAT Ninja and did these whenever I had free time, I ended up quite enjoying it. I flagged the questions I struggled with and went over them again and again, usually maths based, so I’d know how to do them in the exam. I also identified my weaknesses and strengths so I could spend time on them accordingly.
What type of interview did you do?
Panel: This type of interview is a ‘traditional’ sit down interview where you’ll be interviewed by a group of people, usually academic tutors and doctors. This differs from an MMI interview, which is based around ‘stations’ which have themes or scenarios attached to them.
How did you prepare for your interview?
For Cambridge – I gave my personal statement to friends and family and got them to ask me questions on it as it covered things I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I found practice questions to be the most useful and the best resource to be Blackstone Tutors medical school specific questions (free). Other than what I was already learning and revising for A levels, I didn’t do too much work on the academic side (except where the was academic bits to my personal statement). I focussed more on interview techniques and how to think openly.
The two best bit of advice I got were to pause before you answer if you’re thrown off by a question, to gather your thoughts and make it look like your thinking and to talk out loud while you think because the interviewers aren’t mind readers and if they can see how you think you’re giving them more information about whether you’re right for the university.
What happened during your interview?
I had to interpret sources and answer questions on them, which then led to a scientific angle and having to theorise beyond my a levels based on what I already knew. It was more a case of there’s no wrong answer but they want to see how you answer. Some of the questions were based on my particular interests in medicine, which I could talk about because they’re something I’m actually passionate about (tip: find something you could talk about that shows your passion for medicine, this also helps alleviate nerves as it’s familiar territory). Some of my questions were testing A-level knowledge..
Clinical work experience: Not every student will complete clinical work experience before they apply to medical school. Don’t worry, this is not required to be able to apply. You can use non-clinical work experience (e.g. a caring role, like in a care home) or even reflect on paid work you’ve done (e.g. in customer service) in a productive way.
Free resources: There are plenty of free resources available to help you prepare for admissions tests and interviews online and in person! For example, you might be able to get a free place on a mentoring scheme or session, find free support books at your local library, or search online for free resources to help you. It’s very normal to rely on free resources – not everyone can afford to pay for support, and it’s not proven to give you an advantage.
Insiders: Don’t worry if you don’t know people like this. Most students don’t have friends who have already been through the process or healthcare professionals that they know who might be able to support them. You can meet current medical students to speak to at open days, or via free mentoring schemes, but it’s not a requirement for you to be successful.
Support networks: While not every student will have a support network to help them prepare, there are plenty of other ways to prepare for your admissions tests and interviews, such as through free online resources, like on our website.