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 South Asian woman who went to a fee paying 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?
This was a decision I technically don’t ever remember making- becoming a doctor was something I always wanted to do and I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to do Medicine. However, when I looked into the course properly, I realised I really like how multi-disciplinary the degree was- there were all aspects of science involved, alongside things like ethics and communication skills. On top of that, I wanted a job that didn’t involve me sitting at a desk 9-5, and had more variation. Interacting with people and helping them when they’re at their most vulnerable is another major win for medicine!
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I wanted a traditional course (Cambridge) and integrated courses that mainly taught through lectures/more traditional style, rather than PBL (UCL, Sheffield, Leicester). Other considerations: – full body cadaveric dissections – located in more ‘green’, quieter, non-London type areas (excluding UCL, I liked the course too much to not apply here purely because of the location) – my UCAT unis I applied to based on my UCAT score. As my BMAT unis were quite aspirational, I applied to UCAT unis where my UCAT score was higher than the average applicant UCAT scores, to play it safe.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, GP surgery, Care work (e.g. in residential care), Online work experience, My hospital and care-work experiences were through volunteering. Other volunteering things I did were related to teaching- eg: local language school, clubs for younger students at school.
How much work experience did you do?
I did 5 days of GP work experience and 6 days of online work experience.
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?
Paid online resources, Free admissions test prep course, Paid admissions test prep course, Practice papers from test website
UCAT- Medify (paid) and the official UCAT mocks BMAT- BMAT Ninja (paid) and the official BMAT guides on the website I’d highly recommend all of these resources I also attended paid courses, through school, with The Medic Portal for both tests. These were a day long each and, whilst they were helpful, I think they had the least impact on my scores.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
UCAT: I allocated myself a month to prepare for the test. I think choosing the right time frame is absolutely essential to get the best UCAT score possible. You want to give yourself enough time, but also don’t want to be working too hard and then missing your ‘peak’ because you sat your exam too late. The average recommendation in 6-8 weeks. I gave myself about 4.5 weeks because I knew that I generally learned new things quickly but will also as easily get bored of doing the same thing day in day out. So, figure out the best timeframe for yourself. Another important thing is, you don’t want too many disruptions within the time you’ve allocated for UCAT. Personally, I took off a couple days in the month, but good UCAT preparation heavily relies on a steady pattern of work, because it’s all about building up the very specific skillset needed for this exam. My UCAT preparation itself started off with me watching all the UCAT videos on Medify and making notes of the key points. This took me about a week. I then did practise questions to try and figure out what methods I wanted to use. About 3 weeks before my exam, I started doing full UCAT mocks everyday (normally 1 a day) in the morning and then going over mistakes in the afternoon/evening and also doing some of the ‘mini-mocks’ on the topics I struggled with. There are 4 official UCAT mocks- these are very valuable as this is the closest and most accurate mocks you have access to. Online resources often tend to have some deviations from the style and difficulty of the actual mock. So, I did one of the official mocks a few days into doing the Medify UCAT mocks to see where I was standing. And then, I did the rest towards the end of my revision.
BMAT: BMAT was sat in November when I did it, so the timeframe is slightly different. Essentially, you need to make sure you give yourself enough time to slowly learn the science content, because this is done alongside your A-Levels, meaning you can’t focus solely on BMAT preparation, like you did for UCAT. Again, you need to do a lot of practise to figure out exactly what technique you want to use for the questions and get used to question style. The wording can be quite tricky at times so, getting used to reading and processing the information under timed conditions is key! I followed a fairly similar revision structure for BMAT and UCAT, primarily working through the content and then the exam questions. Obviously, because there’s relatively a lot more content for BMAT, I had to overlap this with exam questions. I generally used the older past papers first and then worked my way down to the newer ones. The past papers are all free on the BMAT website but I paid for the BMAT Ninja package as the answers had explanations, which made revision a lot easier. A key distinction between the 2 exams is that UCAT preparation is very repetitive and, to an extent, relies on doing questions after questions. BMAT involves a lot more critical thinking of your answers and going over your mistakes to learn from them. For both exams, the best tip I have is to keep a notebook of all your mistakes and go over these before every mock you do. I also wrote out every single abstract reasoning pattern I ever came across, for UCAT, and this helped me improve massively- students in years above me and my year did the same thing, and we all saw a massive improvement! 2 days before each exam, I went through these mistakes and compiled a much shorter list of the key things I had to remember, to read the morning of the exam – you’re always going to remember what you already know, it’s the things you struggle with that you need to refresh in your mind.
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?
The main preparation I did for my Cambridge interview was to briefly go over the content for the topics in biology and chemistry that I had put down for my SAQ. (Quick side note: my other A-levels were Maths and Further Maths, so I didn’t spend time going over these subjects as I didn’t think they would be as relevant, and also because they were my best subjects. Also, the SAQ is a short questionnaire you have to fill out when applying to Cambridge. It involves some factual information, like class size, topics covered, and a mini personal statement.) The key thing when going over the science content was to pick out the basic principles of the science- for example, “we need enzymes because they catalyse reactions that, otherwise, wouldn’t happen in our cells as the conditions needed for the reaction are not sustainable for the cell”, as opposed to knowing niche facts about exactly which enzymes are used for which reactions. Oxbridge medicine interviews are notoriously known for giving completely new scientific scenarios and problems we need to work out by the application of these fundamental principles of science. Another bit of preparation I did was to analyse and break down my personal statement, by asking myself what questions the interviewers may ask from it. This was very important as it refreshed my memory of what I had written about- I did this for all my interviews but, when preparing for my Cambridge, I especially focussed on the academic portions of my personal statement (such as the bit on my extended research project, which I then went and re-read ahead of my interview).
What happened during your interview?
Medicine interviews at Cambridge really vary across the colleges. I have 2 interviews scheduled and each of these interviews was split into 2 smaller interviews. The four interviews I had were all quite different and the topics were: data analysis, anatomy, experimental practices and a bit of maths, which was then applied to a clinical setting. There wasn’t much in the interview I could have specifically prepared for, it was more of an accumulation of the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout 6th form in science lessons. For example, in my anatomy interview, I had to explain the anatomy of a body part I’d never studied in my life. So, the key thing to remember is to always think out loud and use the prompts the interviewers give you.
Integrated learning: Most universities use an ‘integrated’ style of teaching where they teach the scientific topic alongside the clinical skills. This means when you learn about a specific aspect of the body, they will teach you all the science, and the clinical skills to go with it, rather than teaching you all the science first, and then giving you the opportunity to learn the clinical skills at a later date (traditional teaching).
Problem Based Learning: PBL is a teaching style that many universities use to teach their medical students. Usually, you will work to solve a problem, and this is how you learn about the solution, rather than being taught the solution first and then applying it.
Dissection / Full Body Dissection: Some universities use full-body dissection as a teaching method. This is when you personally get to dissect and be involved in the removal and looking at certain aspects of the body. Some students like the idea of this, while others don’t. This might inform where you choose to apply to medical school, so check out the universities you’re considering to see whether this is part of their teaching style.
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#/.
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.
Opinion: This is just one student’s opinion or experience. There is no guarantee that this will reflect your own experience