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!
Course: Standard undergraduate
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Success doesn’t define your worth!
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
Around 11 years old since in primary school, normally, I did not like science class. However, when we learnt more about human biology, I enjoyed it more and wanted to take my interest further. Learning first aid was also fun in primary school, from there I knew I liked the practical applications of science.
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I went to open days and depending on the environment and course, that determined my choices. I also didn’t want to live too far away from home so location was another factor. My 5th choice was picked since it was related to medicine and I was interested in the topic which I partly touched on in my personal statement anyway.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care)
How much work experience did you do?
I did hospital shadowing for 2 weeks and GP shadowing for 1 week. I was fortunate to have contacts from classmates’ parents.
I also did volunteering at a care home for a year, this was very easy to organise and involved 1 hour of commitment a week.
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?
BMAT past papers and UCAT simulations – which did not have very many UCAT mocks but were helpful in setting expectations on how the test is formatted.
Medify was the best resource in my opinion for both BMAT and UCAT since they provided questions, answers and explanations to the answers. It is paid, but it was very helpful.
If you want more difficult questions, use the 700 BMAT question book – although, I did not use it much and it was not a must.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I did 4-5 hours a day for about 1.5 months for the UCAT using Medify and the UCAT simulations – I took breaks here and there. I split it evenly amongst the sections – which is an option on Medify. When I felt more prepared, I did the mock tests.
BMAT involved more extensive preparation. For section 1, I did past papers under timed conditions – this was helpful in building up speed.
For section 2, I downloaded the BMAT specification of topics they could include and checked what I had learnt already. I also filled in any gaps that I did not know as they were not covered by my GCSE specifications and annotated the guide. This was very useful since a lot of the specification is bullet points that state what you need to know anyway (eg. know this formula: D = ST), so very rarely you will need to know any specifics. For more broad points (eg. know the four Xs), I annotated the guide with the four Xs, so all the info I needed to know was in the guide. This was also great in eliminating what I did not need to revise – which could save you a lot of time!
For section 3, I practiced writing in timed conditions and read sample answers from various sources online. Writing under time-pressure can be stressful, so it is good to practice this so you can stay calm during the exam.
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 went over Biology A level and Chemistry A level content so I could be a bit more prepared for whatever the interviewers could ask me. While the interviewers want to see how you think, rather than what you know, I felt a bit more secure knowing I had a solid foundation of knowledge to base my answers on.
I also used The Medic Portal and Blackstone Tutors websites which have loads of sample interview questions and how to answer them – they are also free. I kept a list of these questions and bullet points underneath of possible answers.
On top of that I went on YouTube and watched videos from previous applicants to hear about their experiences so I knew what to expect.
To get more medical interview practice, I had a couple mock interviews with teachers at school and attended an event run by PotMed at Imperial about 3 months before my interview. The event involved current medical students checking your personal statement, giving you mock interviews (MMI and Panel), as well as providing feedback. At the time, I paid £5 to attend and some students could go free – it was so worth it, it really helped my confidence.
What happened during your interview?
I had three interviews – all roughly 20-30 minutes long.
For my first, we discussed topics that I had not yet covered in A level – so I was really go off of little/no knowledge. This threw me off at first, but I mentioned this to my interviewer and they knew to give me more facts and guidance. If you do not know something and it is completely unfamiliar to you – do not stay silent! Tell the interviewer so they can help you to figure out the answer – they want to see your thinking process.
I was given some diagrams and asked to interpret them, which led to further discussion. I was also asked to draw more diagrams based off my predictions on what we had just discussed. This was quite nerve-wracking but I never stopped asking for clarification when I was confused, which I think helped me come up with something logical to say. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to rephrase things – it is so much better than pretending you know something when you don’t. If you are really stuck, just say you don’t understand the question and the interviewers might phrase the question better, or give you some clues 🙂
For my second, we discussed my personal statement and I was given ethical dilemmas. This was a lot more comfortable since I was more familiar with the content.
For my third, I was also given diagrams and asked to interpret them. This time, it was a topic that I had studied at A level, and so, the prior preparation I did came in handy! I felt very relieved when I could answer some questions, but it is also important to explain your answers too as once again, the interviewer wants to understand how you got to the answer.
Do you have any further advice?
Please don’t burn out 🙂 remember that your academic success does not determine your worth.
Don’t be over-critical of yourself – especially when it comes to interview practice as it ends up becoming a deterrent. Let yourself make mistakes and try again.
Try to make friends with other students applying to medicine too as the support network is comforting. Plus it’s nice to relate to someone going through the same process as you. Compared to other courses, the medical application process can be exhausting so you are already so tough for embarking on this journey 🙂
Just remember to keep the goal in sight and believe in yourself
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#/ (click the link!)
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.
Medify: Medify is a popular website which provides resources for helping you prepare your medicine application. Medify has some free resources online but some are paid-for. There are good, free alternatives for preparation available online, so check out our subject guides and the university websites for details.
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.
YouTube: There are many current and recent medical students who create videos on YouTube about their experience and advice about applying. Remember that their experience is personal and individual, and may not reflect yours. They might provide some useful advice but remember that they might be advertising paid for services. Take their advice as part of a more holistic approach alongside moderated advice such as ours, and official advice from universities and test providers.
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.