This student applied in the 2019/20 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 interview
Admissions Test: BMAT
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
When did you decide to apply to medicine?
June before the application
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I just fell in love with Cambridge on a day trip. Plan B was Psychology in University of Vienna
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Care work (e.g. in residential care), Customer service role (voluntary)
How much work experience did you do?
As I decided very late that I wanted to do medicine, I quickly organised a month of work experience in a nursing home. That was it. I suspect was mattered to them as that in the interview I was honest about having had little exposure but seeking exposure the second I decided I wanted to do medicine. You can also sell other experiences as relevant to medicine, without having to do work experience at all: a book you read, a sick relative or friend, your own encounter with the healthcare systems etc.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement
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/
What resources did you use?
Free online resources, Practice papers from test website, the BMAT book
YouTube videos on how to prepare for the BMAT and on some basic concepts if I did not understand them – main point: do all the past papers under time pressure!
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
I started the month before with light revision of maybe 5 pages in the BMAT book a day – between 5min and 30min a day. Then 14 days before the exam I moved into a friend’s apartment, as she had left for a holiday for 10 days and did 3 exams a day. That amounted to 12 hours of studying. That is very extreme and not necessary if you are a native English speaker and are doing your A-levels. I had a lot of English and Science to catch up on as I was in the language department of my school. I do recommend doing all the 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?
My experience might be slightly unusual, as I am from Austria, from a small state school in Vienna where many people did not even know of Cambridge and nobody had applied before. I watched many videos on YouTube on the system and how to approach it best. I ended up getting as many teachers as I could to give me 10min – 1-hour mock interviews on their subject or any subject how they would imagine a Hogwarts (best way to explain Cambridge) interview to be like. Some of them ended up being fairly accurate. The biggest lesson I took was getting comfortable with forming and expressing thoughts on topics I was very unfamiliar with and staying composed, curious, and excited under pressure.
What happened during your interview?
There were 3 separate interviews. The first was split into two phases. Initially, I was asked to explain why I chose medicine, why the university, why the country, and so on, very standard and predictable questions you can well prepare for. Then they threw a maths question at me. I was so nervous I did not make use of the pen and paper that had been put in front of me on the desk. The second interview aimed to test the borders of my knowledge to see how I would handle not knowing the answer to a question and how easily I could be taught. My tip – stay curious, honest, and excited! It is not important to demonstrate your knowledge, but rather your enthusiasm, cool head, and mental flexibility. The third interview started with me having to read a research paper and then discussing the main points, issues, and takeaways. This is coming from somebody who had not read many research papers, especially in English, before that point: do not panic. Memorize the main points as quickly as you can and then use your logic. No prior knowledge is assumed. It will be pushed no matter how much prep work you have done. The only way to prepare is to meet up with friends and discuss research papers, best from different subjects or strange topics, you do not know much about.
Do you have any further advice?
I think have fun. You get to go to a new place, solve riddles and push yourself. You will be nervous but do not be scared. Stay humble and curious. Worst case, you will have learned something. What made the experience very enjoyable for me, were my very low expectations. How would a language department Viennese girl get into medicine? And so I took it as a challenge, a once-in-a-life-time experience and an opportunity to get to know myself better. That allowed me to not take myself – and my mistakes and flaws – to seriously, but be honest and curious. Do not be harsh on yourself but be your best cheerleader. I know this is very cringy but to be honest, at the end of the day its two things: have you studied for the BMAT? Can you think clearly during the interview? You cannot think clearly if you are sleep-deprived and scared :).
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#/.
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.
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 second-hand 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.
YouTube Videos: 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.