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 Bangladeshi man who went to a selective state school.
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?
It was always in the back of my mind I could not see myself doing anything else tbh.
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
Strategy based on my grades and admission test confidence- I knew I would do better in BMAT so I applied 3 BMAT and got interviews from just those ones. The one UCAT uni I applied to did not offer me an interview but I chose it as it didn’t hold UCAT highly and took into considerations GCSEs more. My BioMed options was just picking a lower quality university that has a high acceptance rate.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Customer service role (voluntary), Online work experience
How much work experience did you do?
I was applying during the heat of the pandemic so I undertook any opportunity that was available to me regarding online workshops (SAMDA, Eventbrite). In year ten I volunteered at my local hospital so I had contacts from that as soon as the pandemic quietened I was able to get actually hospital shadowing work experience. For Oxbridge I don’t think it was useful but for most other unis I was asked a lot about this experience. It was a week long and it was alarmingly close to personal statement deadlines. Try and get as much work experience as possible but do not worry too much as unis understand that it can be hard.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
We got to do a day through a local university scheme which invited local schools
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?
Free online resources, Paid online resources, Practice papers from test website
6med, Medic Mind, Medify. All have free sections and bursaries available.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I paid for some online resources, but I will be honest they are not as helpful as they make themselves out to be, especially for UCAT. I would say stick to one website, and do the practise papers on the official UCAT and BMAT website as they were actually made by the examiners of these tests. I did not do well enough in UCAT so they only thing I can advice is start as early as possible, I’d say as soon as your end of year tests are done in early June and sit the exam end August/early September. Ideally if you can start doing light practise a few months before that will make it much easier but sometimes this isn’t possible so have a good 2 months of decent practise. I did much better in BMAT which is why unis I got offers from were BMAT, my advice would be to use the official site past papers, do ALL of them (there aren’t that many tbh).
Also use a biology teacher to read through any practise essays you do and if you struggle on the science. You can use any GSCE textbooks you have from the past to revise for the science section especially for physics.
Don’t worry if you don’t get a hugely high mark, most universities look at it holistically. Still aim for a high grade as that can boost your application but do not set unrealistic standards and burn out (this is only worth a part of the unis decision to admit you).
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?
Cambridge and Oxford interviews are slightly more tricky to prepare for as they do not follow a specific format and are more science-based than other universities.
The best thing to do is to know most of the A level syllabus for biology and chemistry very well, you will fill out an SAQ questionnaire so they know how much of the course you have covered. Make sure you understand your a level content VERY well, as you will be using it to form the basis of your answers.
Depending on the interview, they may ask personal statement questions, in which case it is obvious that you know everything you wrote and have actually done what you wrote. Watch some mock interviews online which are provided by the university or past students as they can give you a feel for the question style.
You do not need to know university level knowledge – they are looking for people who are flexible and can derive information from clues. The interview is meant to push you, the harder you find it, the more likely it is that you have done well.
I wouldn’t recommend you purchase Oxbridge medical interview packs as they are a waste of money, if you have the resources try and get a medical student from Oxbridge or even a teacher to give you a mock interview/s. But if you cannot, search up Oxbridge interview questions, it’s more about how you answer it and their follow-up questions that make a candidate stand out. It is important you think out loud!
What happened during your interview?
I had two interviews, the first was more clinical medicine, but a lot of that was based on a project and reading I did in my personal statement, and the second was a scientific interview. It was good as it gave variation to my interview, I thought I didn’t do very well in my first one. I further explained certain things in my personal statement, which is why you need to know it so well. Because my project was ethical based, ethics questions arose but they were specific to my project as my interviewer read the case studies I mentioned. Then I was asked clinical quick-fire questions about current events in the NHS and COVID.
I got a break before my second interview. This was a scientific interview and was centred around the speciality of my interviewer, however it did start with a random experiment which was asked to many candidates to infer information from the results of the experiment.
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.
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.
Paid-for courses: 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.
My Cambridge Application / SAQ: The My Cambridge Application form is a short form you complete after you send your application off to the University of Cambridge. The form has replaced the Supplementary Application Questionnaire in the last couple of years. In this form, you are asked to provide more information about the specific topics you have covered in your A-levels and some further information about you, to guide the selection process.
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.