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 was an international applicant.

Our Summary
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?
Year 9.

How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I applied to BMAT universities.

Completing work experience

What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Other healthcare setting e.g pharmacy, physiotherapy, Customer service role (voluntary), research

How much work experience did you do?
I did way too much work experience which I only found out while writing my PS. You only had so much to write! I would recommend to do 1-2 days of hospital work (medicine and surgery) and try to do 1-week GP placement. I found it helpful to do 1-year of any volunteering (I worked in a charity shop in Cardiff) to show your dedication. I also did an A&E volunteer (which was very useful for my medical school applications).

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…

Admissions tests

What admissions test did you sit?
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, Paid online resources, Free admissions test prep course, Paid admissions test prep course, Practice papers from test website

How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I spent the entire summer holiday from end of my AS exams to October to intensively revise for BMAT (just as hard as I revised for A-level). I practised all questions that I can hunt from the internet, books and A-level past papers. For the wrong questions, I spent time to figure out the steps towards the correct answer. I mainly used A-level past papers for science of BMAT, but for the part-1 logic bit I had to use online materials. For essays, I found all potential topics and wrote guides for similar ones. My school also hosted a BMAT preparation class in end of AS, which was useful for my essay (the teacher marked my essays and gave me 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?
I used online resources and interview books to draw up the range of potential questions. I then wrote down answers for each potential questions. I mainly highlighted my work experience, communications skills, teamwork, my scientific research project. There is lots of this information free on the internet. I also managed to get second hand materials from my friends’ tutor lessons; they are useful but not essential. I would recommend that you should attend maximum one tutorial mock if you can.

What happened during your interview?
I had three interviews, all being panel (Cambridge). The first one I was asked to tackle some clinical data about diagnosis and treatment success of a particular disease and give out explanations. It was more data interpretation rather than clinical knowledge. The second one asked about my research project (which I specifically highlighted on my personal statements) and then asked me to design an experimental approach to another new question (similar to university’s practical paper questions). The third one asked me more general questions like “why do I want to do medicine” and “which specialities do you want to do and why” etc.


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:–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. 

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. 

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. 

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