Application to the University of Cambridge in 2020/21

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 White Asian woman and they went to a comprehensive school that doesn’t regularly send students to medical school.

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?
In late year 12: I was initially unsure between medicine and maths (as I liked maths/chem/bio in school) but exploring the careers + speaking to people who had done the two + work experience (tag: insiders)lead me to choose medicine.

How did you choose which universities to apply to?
Chose via the course: I was a fan of the more traditional-esque courses as they better mimicked the learning methods I had developed already in school. I didn’t choose a 5th option

Completing work experience

What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Customer service role (voluntary)

How much work experience did you do?
I did two week-long placements in two hospitals: in the summer of year 11 and just before COVID in year 12. This involved shadowing doctors and watching their interactions with patients. Sometimes I was given a few opportunities to speak with patients too!

Retrospectively, I did not need this much experience for my application: it is much more important that you reflect on what you saw, making the most of fewer experiences, rather than seeing lots of stuff! I also volunteered for a frontline community care service, which helped develop my interpersonal skills and gave me a better understanding of healthcare. If there is an opportunity for this in your area, I would highly recommend. Ultimately the experiences both helped me be sure of my degree/career choice and gave me grounding from which I built the rest of my application!

How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through asking someone I knew to take me on

During the application process…

Admissions tests

What admissions test did you sit?
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT):

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?
The Medic Portal online course for UCAT: didn’t find it that useful, think there are better courses available
Used BMAT Ninja for BMAT : would highly recommend alongside the official BMAT past papers

*paid-for courses are not necessary for you to do well; there’s no evidence that they give you an advantage!

How did you prepare for your admissions test?
UCAT: worked through the online course and tried all the past papers. About 1.5 months prep

BMAT: initially went through and learnt all the expected section 2 content from GCSE Bio/CHem/Phys/Maths. Then used BMAT Ninja course (tag: paid for resources) to learn techniques for the sections, and tried practice questions. Finally used BMAT past papers online to test myself doing full mocks. About 1.5 months prep


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?
Read up and knew the course inside out; prepared to be able to talk extensively about my personal statement; revised all A-Level biology and some A-Level chemistry content; practised interviews with my parents and friends.
Used the Medic Portal to read up on current affairs; practised discussing ethical scenarios with my parents and friends.

What happened during your interview?
I had two interviews. The first was more relaxed: talked through some graphs about public health programmes and what the trends might mean. Then delved into the related scientific mechanisms, before discussing and hypothesising potential treatment options. This first interview made me feel quite comfortable, helped with my lateral thinking / hypothesising skills and uncovered some quite interesting points around the wider effects of medicine (rather than just the biochemistry!) on patients.

Second was very intense, consisting of two interviewers asking lots of very scientific questions: strong test of A-Level biology and chemistry. It was very scary, however the interviewers helped me when I was stuck and this allowed me to reach the answers; voicing my thinking out loud helped them help me.


Traditional teaching: a traditional approach to teaching is different from PBL and integrated in that it is ‘split’. Firstly, you will be taught the scientific and academic knowledge in a pre-clinical phase, and then you will learn the clinical skills in a clinical phase. Traditional teaching is now only used at a few universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge. 

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.

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.

The 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. 

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. 

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