This student applied in the 2018/9 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 White European woman who went to a comprehensive school that regularly sends students to medical 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?
In my first year of college (year 12).
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
By going to open days, researching about the courses online, looking at entry requirements for universities and playing to my strengths.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Customer service role (paid)
How much work experience did you do?
I applied to various places close to me for clinical work experience (some I rang up, emailed or applied online). I managed to get 2 weeks in a walk-in centre, where I was mostly shadowing. I also did some work experience in a hospital and GP in Germany (2 weeks), local to where my grandparents live, mostly shadowing again but taking on some smaller roles/responsibilities. I also approached/called various local care homes and managed to get a few months volunteering experience once a week, mostly chatting to residents and assisting the workers. I think volunteering experience over a longer period is very helpful, and the kind of thing that universities like to see on your application. Showing commitment and interest in the career, and having some experience in a caring role is really valuable. You don’t necessarily need to shadow in a hospital to have a more competitive application.
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, Practice papers from test website, College guidance/preparation sessions
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I used the books I mentioned above, and probably started mostly UKCAT (now called UCAT) preparation over the summer before applying, trying to do a bit most days. BMAT preparation: I did start doing a bit in summer but left most of it a bit later until a few weeks before the test (in hindsight I would have done more earlier). I also had some help from a teacher in college, who did some preparation sessions with us, going through some example questions. You can always ask teachers for help with questions you might be struggling with, or to mark practise BMAT essays. I also used YouTube to look find some tips, and going through example questions. Closer to the UKCAT exam, I did the timed mock exams you can do on the website and did some BMAT past papers under timed conditions close to the exam. For BMAT, I also used my old GCSE revision guides, and made quizlet cards based on these, making sure to memorise important formulae. I also did practise essay plans/essays.
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 made sure to firstly understand the format of the interview, and get some information/advice from teachers and current students who I had the chance to talk to. I also used resources such as YouTube (which has some mock Cambridge interviews) and websites including Medic Portal which has a lot of useful tips and example interview questions. I then made sure to brush up on the relevant A-level content for interviews, and read my personal statement, thinking about how I can expand further on the things I mentioned in it. MMI preparation is also helpful for panel interviews, as you might get asked some similar questions, in terms of motivation to study medicine and reflecting on work experience, as well as current affairs in medicine/healthcare. I also managed to do a mock interview with a couple of teachers, which was helpful, and in general practising answering potential interview questions/explaining topics out loud is really useful practise. I didn’t pay for any courses, and you don’t need to to do well in the interview!
What happened during your interview?
I had two interviews, each around 20 minutes long. As Cambridge is quite far from home for me, the college I applied to organised for me to stay in the accommodation the night before. This reduced the stress of getting there on time on the day, and there were a lot of helpful current students around to talk to. The first interview was with one interviewer and one observer (observing the interviewer rather than me). I was first asked a couple of questions about my personal statement, mostly about my EPQ that I had mentioned. Then it went into more science content, first starting with things I would know from a-level and then more detailed, requiring me to use my a-level knowledge to work out answers. I was also asked to interpret a graph. I quite enjoyed this interview, and relaxed into it as I went along, feeling quite positive about how it had gone afterwards, and it was also around a topic I was interested in. The second interview had two interviewers who both asked questions, each taking half of the interview. I was also asked a couple of questions about my personal statement, more about my work experience. I found this interview a bit more challenging, and struggled a bit with some of the graphs I was asked to interpret. I didn’t feel it went as well, but was relieved to be done afterwards! Both interviews were a bit more public health/epidemiology focussed. Overall I felt that the interviewers were very friendly and ensured I felt relaxed. Some of the questions were challenging, but were more of an expansion of my current A-level knowledge, and weren’t random, out-of-context questions (like you might hear some people say about Cambridge interviews).
Open days: Every year, universities run ‘Open Days’ where prospective applicants can come and visit the university and meet current students and academics. They are a great opportunity to check out the campus, teaching facilities, and local area, and might help you decide where you’d like to apply to study at.
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.
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.
Medic Portal: The Medic Portal is a popular website that provides resources to help you prepare your medicine application. The Medic Portal has some free resources online but some are paid-for. There are good, free alternatives for preparation available online, so check out our guides and the university websites for details.
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.
Extended Project Qualification (EPQ): This is another qualification that some students sit while completing their A-levels. It usually consists of an extended written up research project about a special interest. Don’t worry if you have not completed an EPQ, it is not a requirement to apply to study medicine.