Application to the University of Cambridge in 2021/22

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 Chinese woman and they went to a grammar or selective state 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?
Easter Term of year 12

How did you choose which universities to apply to?
Rankings, teaching style, entry grades, and what I’m interested in

Completing work experience

What types of work experience did you do?
GP surgery

How much work experience did you do?
Very little, but you can stretch out and make the most of your experience and they aren’t expecting you to fill the entire personal statement with your hospital experience as they understand that everyone has varying access!

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?
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/

How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I have to admit, that the BMAT was more intense given that it occurred during the first term of year 13, and the workload at school starts to increase. Your best bet is to plan out when you are going to complete a test paper, and then when you will mark and go through the wrong answers, to ensure that you are both familiar with the layout of the test paper and are actively correcting your mistakes to give you the best chance in the exam. If you can, start early with the BMAT content you ‘need to know’ for section 2, the most important aspect being to test yourself actively to learn what you need!

For UCAT, I’d advise doing it in the summer when you have much more free time than waiting to do it in sync with BMAT. If you can, try out one of the online resources or purchase a book and try to do little and often!

Interviews

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 was lucky enough to have an MMI interview session booked by my careers advisor, and if you can afford to attend just one, I think they are invaluable because they will allow you to start thinking about the types of questions that will be asked in almost every medical school, regardless of the interview style!

If you can arrange a group session where prepared questions are given out, and you are paired with another medic applicant, you can spend even just an hour testing each other during lunch, or after school with some snacks to make it fun! The more you are speaking out loud the better you will do!

Make sure to have some ‘fun facts’ up your sleeve about the universities you are applying to, whether that be extracurricular or supercurricular. In your group medic interview sessions, consider helping each other with these, as often the university doesn’t just want to see your academic prowess, but also your contribution to the university!


What happened during your interview?
I had two interviews, a general interview more focussed on my intentions to apply to my university, and a general problems faced in today’s medical industry, and how in the future these problems might progress.

In the second interview, it was a much greater application of your science knowledge! You don’t have to know everything, and certainly don’t have to get anything right. The most important thing is to display how you think. If you don’t say it out loud, they interviewers have no idea what you’re thinking, so speak up! I definitely got a lot wrong in my interview, so don’t be put off by this!


Glossary

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. 

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.

Books: Don’t worry if you’ve not been able to find this particular book or afford to pay for it. You might be able to find secondhand copies online which are usually much cheaper, or at your local library (sometimes, libraries will order in books that you’ve requested, so check out this as a possibility too!). Bear in mind that some books may become out of date, so make sure you check when they were published, and if any changes to the relevant admissions tests/interviews have been made since then. 

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. 

Supercurricular activities:  These are extra ‘academic’ activities that students pursue to help support their application. Usually, supercurricular activities are referred to during applications to Oxford and Cambridge but any student can do them. They might include reading a non-fiction book about a topic you are interested in, attending a summer school or public lectures, or completing a research project in your free time. 

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