This student applied in the 2021/22 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 British man who went to a fee-paying school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: Online panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT; BMAT
Top tip: Do research into some diseases which interest you for your statement/interview.
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
Around year 10.
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I chose the universities I wanted to apply to after I had received my UCAT score. For my medical universities, I chose 2 UCAT-based universities and 2 BMAT-based universities. I looked at previous UCAT cut-offs for many of the UCAT universities and made sure my UCAT was good enough to guarantee an interview, with one of the universities having a lower UCAT cutoff than the other as a safety. For my BMAT universities, I chose 2 universities I really wanted to attend which were aspirational choices.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Other healthcare setting e.g pharmacy, physiotherapy, Online work experience
How much work experience did you do?
A week (or maybe slightly less) at a cancer care charity called Maggie’s. I also wrote a piece for the BMA comments section, which I thought was useful work experience from an application point of view.
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?
Medic Portal, Medify (would recommend for UCAT, less so for BMAT). Was recommended these resources by my school.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
For UCAT I attended a 1-day course by Medic Portal. I then did all the UCAT past papers on the Medify platform over the course of a month. Your UCAT score can be greatly improved through more practice, so I practised every day for a month.
For the BMAT, I did all of the past papers released by BMAT, as well as some of the Medify produced practice papers (although these weren’t that useful and often produced an overestimated score).
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?
Initially, I read up about the interview format and watched Youtube videos on tips for it e.g. Ali Abdaal and a mock interview released by Pembroke College. I then found someone I knew who was a first-year medic at Cambridge at the time (an insider) and asked them about their interview and any tips they would give. I then did 3 1-1 paid mock interviews with the Medic Portal which were very useful, especially in boosting my confidence. He gave me a tip to research and compare two diseases, so I researched Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which also gave me some background knowledge for the interview to draw upon.
What happened during your interview?
There was very little talk on my personal statement or anything mentioned on it. This might have just been my college, so I’d still recommend preparing it. The interview was broken up into 4 questions. 2 of the topics were on cellular biology, 1 was on physiology and 1 was on interpreting results from a study.
Do you have any further advice?
Don’t spend your time reading in-depth books (apart from the 1 or 2 you put on your personal statement). There is no way you can cover the depth you get from a book in a short interview. Instead, research a number of diseases (especially ones focused on cellular biology), as these will prove much more useful.
*this is just one student’s opinion on how to prepare. If you want to read books, go for it!
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.
Online work experience: Some providers are now offering online work experience, such as the Brighton and Sussex Medical School online work experience, or the Observe GP experience by the Royal College of General Practitioners.
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#/.
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.
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.
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.
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.