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 a White woman who went to a comprehensive school.
Course: Standard undergraduate
Interview: In person panel interview
Admissions Tests: UCAT, BMAT
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I was only going to be 17 when starting uni so I applied to Cambridge (for the experience because I had the grade expectations so might as well) and the other 3 were universities which accept you starting at age 17. The only uni I was willing to take a gap year for in order to reach the required minimum age was Cambridge. 5th was Biomedical science because it’s similar to medicine, at Durham because it’s also a good well-established uni with good links and career prospects.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Care work (e.g. in residential care)
How much work experience did you do?
A week in a Care home, wasn’t really medicine as such more just getting insight into the world of care and whether or not I was cut out to help people in that way, be able to cope with quite difficult and emotional situations etc. A few days with a heart surgeon through a summer school. A week on the geriatric ward at a local hospital.
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?
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/
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT): https://www.ucat.ac.uk/
What resources did you use?
Free online resources, Paid admissions test prep course, Practice papers from test website
These were free when I sat the exam (in 2019):
The UCAT website itself!
The Medic Portal – very useful and when I used them they were free, although this may have changed.
UCAT Ninja (6med) – free
Pass UKCAT – free Passmedicine – free
Medify – I paid for this in the final week before my exam and I think it was so worth it. It gets mixed reviews and is quite expensive but it has so many practice questions you’ll never run out! It’s difficult for companies to exactly mirror the UCAT exam but I felt that this was fairly representative of the real thing.
Other sites I’ve heard of which you can check out: Kaplan; Medic Mind; MedEntry; iCanMed; Matrix Education
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
Websites above for UCAT. BMAT past papers.
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 received helpful support though a mentor at Zero Gravity who was a 2nd year Cambridge student at the time. We did mock interviews together and they had written up a list of interview questions which I discussed with my mum (she is helpfully a GP). I made sure I knew about the books and FutureLearn courses I’d put on my personal statement in case they asked about that. And I reminded myself that I applied to Cambridge for the experience, so to enjoy myself in the interview rather than put pressure on that I needed to get an offer.
What happened during your interview?
Questions about motivation for medicine and relevant work experience. Data handling questions such as demographic related graphs with unknown labelled axis and discussion from that
Questions on a topic from A level content but building quite rapidly on what we were taught at school into areas I didn’t know so was just making relevant guesses and thinking out loud.
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.
Free resources: There are plenty of free resources available to help you prepare for admissions tests and interviews online and in person! For example, you might be able to get a free place on a mentoring scheme or session, find free support books at your local library, or search online for free resources to help you. It’s very normal to rely on free resources – not everyone can afford to pay for support, and it’s not proven to give you an advantage.
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.
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.
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.
Mentoring: Not everyone has had mentoring and some mentoring programmes services may have particular criteria for you to join the programme. Don’t worry if you’ve not had this opportunity. There are plenty of free online resources to help you prepare for the application process, like on our website, and not having a mentor will not put you at a disadvantage.
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.
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.