Application to the University of Cambridge in 2020/1

This student applied in the 2020/1 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 comprehensive school which does not regularly send students to study medicine.

Our Summary
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?
Summer between year 11 and year 12.

How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I really wasn’t sure about applying for Cambridge- never even considered it before as I thought I’d never get in for medicine. But I looked into it and was encouraged by peers, my family and my teachers to give it a try since I really wanted to! Read up about the different universities and course structure and attend open days for those you fancy. I did not put down as 5th choice as I decided if I didn’t get any offers I would reapply the following year (and resit my A-levels if needed).

Completing work experience

What types of work experience did you do?
GP surgery, Online work experience

How much work experience did you do?
I did a week work experience in a GP surgery. I also did a free online work experience. In addition, I volunteered at the over 65s flu clinic for the GP surgery, directing patients. As I applied during covid when there was very little ability to do in person work experience, interviewers and universities were understanding of this. You don’t need massive amounts of work experience but please do some. It is really important that you have personal experiences and insights from your experience and a lot of interviewers will ask you to talk about what you learnt from yours.

How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through asking someone I knew to take me on, I did apply for formal schemes (in hospital) but due to covid it was cancelled

During the application process…

Admissions tests

What admissions test did you sit?
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT):; 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:

What resources did you use?
Free online resources, Practice papers from test website, Bought the official BMAT book guide

Official BMAT book guide was useful as it explained how the answers to questions were reached. Similarly with a UKCAT example questions book. Past papers with an actual mark scheme were more useful than those without (although most don’t explain the answer).

How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I went through all the resources in my own time. Do as many practice questions as you can. To start with do not worry about how long it takes to reach the answer. Then worry about timing after you are familiar with how to approach the questions. Note which sections are your weaker ones- devote more time to practising these. For the BMAT essays get someone else – a teacher or family member – to read them and give you feedback.


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?
Researched the course at the university and intercalation (which is compulsory at Cambridge). Looked into medical ethics and the 4 pillars. Discussed possible interview questions with family members and my biology teacher. Read the NHS guide to good medical practice on the website. Thought and organised ideas about why I wanted to do medicine and why that particular uni. Found example interview questions online and practised answering them. Read through my personal statement again to re-familiarise myself with it.

What happened during your interview?

I had two panel interviews, both around 20 minutes long. I believe that Cambridge interviews will vary by the college you apply for but they have similar themes across the board. The interviewers are friendly and work with you to go through a series of questions, based loosely on science/medical concepts you already know and expanding into something you won’t have come across before. They don’t mind if you get things wrong- the questions are meant to be hard! They want to see how you approach problems so it’s really important to communicate your ideas and thoughts. The interviewers then discuss some ethical dilemmas, asking for your thoughts. They may also comment on parts of your personal statement. They may also bring up current medical/scientific issues.


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. 

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. 

Volunteering: Lots of students do volunteering to help them prepare for their medicine application. This doesn’t need to be volunteering in a medical setting, but might be a caring volunteer position. Lots of students might do this during their Duke of Edinburgh Award, but there are plenty of other opportunities to become a volunteer – ask your school if they know anywhere that might be asking for volunteers, or the NCVO might be able to direct you to somewhere via their Volunteer Centres:–D6S3CYjcUbP2LqkMiCU0dCL31NURMPKkkaAqiiEALw_wcB#/.

Books: Don’t worry if you’ve not been able to find this particular book or afford to pay for it. You might be able to find secondhand copies online which are usually much cheaper, or at your local library (sometimes, libraries will order in books that you’ve requested, so check out this as a possibility too!). Bear in mind that some books may become out of date, so make sure you check when they were published, and if any changes to the relevant admissions tests/interviews have been made since then. 

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.

Intercalation: Intercalation happens when a medical student takes a year away from their medical degree studies to study for a related degree. For example, some students complete Research Degrees (e.g. MRes) in a topic of their choice, or undertake a Bachelor’s degree (usually a BSc) in a specific medical interest. Not all universities permit this, so if you think you might want to intercalate, this might affect where you choose to apply. 

Four Pillars of Medical Ethics: These four pillars guide ideas about medical ethics. Knowing and understanding them can help you prepare for your interview and how you answer questions. Four Pillars link.

GMC Guidelines for Good Medical Practice: These guidelines describe what it means to be a good doctor. These can help guide you during your preparation for your application and how you answer questions in interviews. GMC Good Practice link

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