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 woman who went to a comprehensive school that regularly sends students to study medicine.
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?
When I was around 15.
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I struggled with the UCAT, so I thought steering towards either BMAT universities or universities whose admissions weren’t very heavily relation on UCAT performance would be best for me. I did not use my fifth choice.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Customer service role (paid)
How much work experience did you do?
A week at a local GP, 2 days at a hospital, and once a month for 6 months volunteering at a charity for disabled children. I also did once a month overnight volunteering with street pastors, and I had a paid waitressing job.
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, Free admissions test prep course, Practice papers from test website.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I did lots of practice questions over and over and over again.
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?
I did not prepare for my interview in terms of science, as I’d already been revising for my A-levels and was confident my AS level knowledge would allow me to succeed in the interview (note: This is just one student’s opinion or experience. There is no guarantee that this will reflect your own experience.). I made sure I had good answers for questions that are always asked such as “why do you want to do medicine”. Because of the different style of interview questions at Cambridge I did not feel there was much I could do to prepare. This was also re-iterated by the advice given by admissions from the university, after having read their website, it was clear that they were more interested in your ability to think logically and use existing knowledge in new situations rather than recite rehearsed answers. I did however read up on the at the time newly emerging coronavirus in Wuhan.
What happened during your interview?
I had two interviews, one based upon ethical scenarios, a little bit of science, and about me personally. The second was a purely science based interview.
In my first interviews I was asked what I thought about some ethical problems, and how I thought these could be solved. I was also tested on my understanding of science by being asked to communicate complex scientific ideas in a simple way that people with no knowledge could understand. I was asked questions about my character, what motivated me to study medicine, why did I want to do medicine at Cambridge specifically, and challenges I had faced and overcome.
In my second interview it was a problem solving exercise where I had to use a concept I knew from my A-level studies and apply it in a new context. I felt very relaxed throughout as I was aware that getting things wrong was not a problem, they just wanted to see me think it through and even if I was wrong, if I could identify that I was wrong and explain why, then that was equally as impressive. It felt like I was very able to change my mind on my opinion too, as long as I justified it.
All my interviewers were very friendly. Logistically it was planned very well, my interview was early in the morning so I was provided with free accommodation the night before. I was also given a map to direct me to the various locations of my interviews and there were people in the college to help me if necessary. Each interview lasted around 45 minutes. If you were visibly struggling, especially in the scientific interview, there was no problem with asking the interviewer to reframe their question or to give you a clue to help you, which helped us relax.
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.
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.