This student applied in the 2020/21 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 woman who went to a comprehensive school that doesn’t regularly send students to medical school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: Online panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Top tip: Read around as much as you can; start preparing early; you deserve a place no matter your background.
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
A bit later than most! I knew I wanted to do science but then in year 11 I thought medicine would be more people oriented so better for me than something lab based.
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I didnt do a 5th choice as I knew that I wanted to do medicine (and would reapply next year if I didn’t get in). I chose unis based on cities I’d be happy living in. I picked Cambridge for its reputation, the city itself, the ability to intercalate in 3rd year and thinking I’d meet lots of like minded people (important to me after going to a comp school where it was considered not cool to be smart!!)
Then I picked Edinburgh for reputation and course content. And it’s a gorgeous place.
Then Exeter as I thought the quality of life looked nice.
And then Birmingham as I liked the campus and course.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Online work experience
How much work experience did you do?
It was very hard for me because it was covid year… and I decided late to do medicine! I did some hospital shadowing (a day in obstetrics) in year 10 before I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I arranged this myself – don’t think you need connections to do work exp. I did an online course and wrote to one of the organisers. She offered to let me shadow her which was so kind.
In year 12 I did the BSMS online work experience course which everyone should do as it’s brilliant and helps you think about if medicine is for you – it’s free!
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 used Medify – have to pay but in my opinion it was worth it. Lots of questions and very representative of the real thing.
But Medify BMAT is not as helpful … don’t spend the money on that, as all the past papers are on the website. Do them all… twice! but for the BMAT essays, spend more time writing plans rather than writing lots of essays (and use any stuff you’ve learned from books/articles/podcasts).
Generally for UCAT and BMAT it is all about practice. Start as early as you can.
And on Instagram go and follow WeAreMedics. Not sure if it’s still active but you’ll be able to download their free ebook which has some brilliant ucat and bmat tips.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
As many past paper questions as possible!!!
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?
Spent time going through personal statement and read new articles etc that followed on from some of the things I said (they did actually ask about my PS so it was helpful!)
Also spent lots of time reading up on medical ethics – pillars, scenarios and court cases, a bit of the legal side etc. Also v relevant for MMIs as there might be an ethics Q.
In Cambridge there is a science interview – but they won’t ask about something you’d not broadly covered at A Level so instead spend time going over what you’ve already covered. The question will be problem solving based rather than content.
Generally taking an interest in current medical news is vital – and listen to some podcasts too for extra little interesting things to say. The purpose of the Cambridge interview is to find people passionate about the subject, who’ve read around, and will engage when asked questions (it’s not about being necessarily correct but about fully engaging and having true interesting in the subject).
What happened during your interview?
I had three interviews (all online due to covid but the tech ran very smoothly!)
First interview was general medicine interview – asked a bit about my personal statement, some ethical questions and some things more broad. My preparation was useful for this one.
Second interview was more about personal skills and qualities – think of times you’ve overcome adversity, shown teamwork etc.
Third was a science interview – went through a problem which is in a similar set up to a Cambridge supervision.
The first few questions I knew from A Level but then it was all unseen. The key is to think out loud even if you don’t know an answer, as that shows that you’re teachable and would learn well in a supervision.
Do you have any further advice?
Don’t let not being from a posh background put you off – it’s harder to get in but it is an even bigger achievement in my opinion!
The best advice is to read around as much as possible for interviews and be enthusiastic. And to start your entrance test prep as soon as you can (I’d suggest March/April year 12) because they are hard but can definitely be conquered with hard work. Don’t panic, you can do it!
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.
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.
Brighton and Sussex Virtual Work Experience: This is a free ‘virtual’ work experience course that explores different roles within the NHS as well as six medical specialties. It also consider some of the challenges and wider issues doctors face. Find out more here.
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.
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
Supervision: These form the basis of the teaching style at Oxford and Cambridge and usually take the form of a small, 1-hr long class. There will be one academic (e.g. a professor) and 1-4 students in the tutorial or supervision, in which students usually discuss work they have already prepared such as an essay or a set of questions, and the academic will provide guidance and encourage lively discussion.