This student applied in the 2016/17 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 Pakistani woman who went to a selective state school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: Online panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
I can’t remember!
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I applied to Cambridge because my friends and teachers encouraged me to, and KCL, UCL and Imperial because they are all in London near home. My 5th choice was QMUL, which I applied to because it was also in London.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care)
How much work experience did you do?
I shadowed for 1 day at a GP surgery and volunteered for about 6 months at a care home. It wasn’t important at all that I hadn’t done a hospital placement, so don’t worry if you haven’t done one.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement, self-hunting via internet
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, Paid admissions test prep course, Practice papers from test website
I used Medify to prepare for the UCAT. It was a paid resource but it was really worth it.
I went to the BMAT Ninja course for the BMAT, which I also found helpful.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I tried to do as many past paper questions as possible. For both exams, I saved the practice papers on the official websites for last. For the UCAT, I used Medify which is an online question bank, and for the BMAT, I went to the BMAT Ninja course and used the resources they gave me.
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 read through everything I had been sent by the university in advance of the interview so there would be no surprises. I also looked up my interviewers in advance to find out more about them, and I read through as many pages as I could find on The Student Room to see what other students from previous years advised.
I read everything in the news related to medicine, focusing on the BBC and The Guardian. My school also subscribed to a few science magazines written for A-level students so I read all the issues they had in the library. I think some public libraries subscribe to similar magazines if your school library doesn’t.
I also started reading books related to medicine and the biological sciences. I think the best thing to do is read about something you’re interested in so you can talk about it with enthusiasm. I know a lot of people read Henry Marsh’s “Do No Harm” and Adam Kay’s “This is Going to Hurt”, but the Cambridge interview didn’t focus very much on the practice of being a doctor as much as on my interest in biology.
Finally, I did mock interviews with my biology teacher and a teacher who wasn’t in the science department. I recommend this because it’s best to be asked as wide a range of questions as possible ahead of the interview so you’re not surprised.
What happened during your interview?
My interview was like a teaching session, probably to gauge how teachable I would be as their student. They asked me questions about basic science and ethics that you might expect an A-level student to be able to work out but not already know the answers to.
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.
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: https://www.ncvo.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering/want-to-volunteer/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwyLGjBhDKARIsAFRNgW-o9NsatwGEYMfXowTD–D6S3CYjcUbP2LqkMiCU0dCL31NURMPKkkaAqiiEALw_wcB#/.
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.
Paid-for courses: Some students choose to pay for courses either online or in person to help them prepare for admissions tests and interviews. There is no evidence that they give you an advantage. There are good, free alternatives for preparation for admissions tests and interviews, and some offer bursaries and discounts to students who come from low income families. Check out our guides and uni websites for more details.
Medify: Medify is a popular website which provides resources for helping you prepare your medicine application. Medify has some free resources online but some are paid-for. There are good, free alternatives for preparation available online, so check out our subject guides and the university websites for details.
Multiple Mini Interview (MMI): This type of interview usually includes several short interviews or ‘stations’ which may involve different types of questions and scenarios. This is different compared to a panel interview, which may cover the same scenarios/types of questions but be a more ‘traditional’ sit-down interview.
Looking up interviewers: While some people like to look up the individuals who will be interviewing them, not every student will do this. It might make you more nervous, or make you feel better, but be cautious about bringing up their research unless you’re very confident that you understand it!
Online forums: Online forums can be great spaces to find advice and first-hand knowledge, but remember that it may not always be the most trustworthy source of information. Take what you read with a pinch of salt.
Mock interview: Don’t worry if you didn’t have this opportunity. Interviews are designed to take into account that not everyone has the same level of preparation. See our guides and blogs on interviews to find out more about free online resources.