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 British Asian woman who went to a comprehensive school that does regularly send students to medical school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: In-person panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Top tip: Use any experience to your advantage – doesn’t need to be clinical.
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
When I was 15 or 16
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
5th option I just chose somewhere close to home. I chose Cambridge just to see if I could get in. My other med school options were also just universities that were close to home.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Other healthcare setting e.g pharmacy, physiotherapy
How much work experience did you do?
1 week at opticians, 5 days at local hospital, 5 days at pharmacy, around 5 months volunteering at care home
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
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?
I just looked up ‘UCAT/BMAT example questions’ and found loads!
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
For both UCAT and BMAT I just did practice questions everyday for about a month. Also for BMAT I revised some GCSE physics (I took A level chemistry biology and maths so didn’t need to relearn these)
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?
My teachers at school gave me a mock interview and most of my preparation included reading about medical ethics and revising A level biology and looking up example Cambridge interview questions.
What happened during your interview?
i was given a prompt with a calculation question for me to figure out the answer to and the interviewer gave me prompts to help me finish the task if I got stuck. It was quite a relaxed atmosphere really.
Do you have any further advice?
Just use whatever experience you have to your advantage in the personal statement- ie if you didn’t get much work experience then just reflect well on what you did have. I read books written by real doctors and reflected on this (I particularly like Henry Marsh). And try and mention skills that you have gained from other extracurriculars- sports, musical instruments etc- you could demonstrate teamwork, organisation, leadership etc with these.
For me, the personal statement does feel like the most important part. After that, getting invited to interviews and preparing for them went by so quickly I barely remember it. Just try and enjoy and learn from the experience the best you can, and don’t be too disheartened if you feel an interview didn’t go too well, just try your best.
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.
Paid-for resources: 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.
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.
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.
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#/ (click the link!)