Application to the University of Cambridge in 2020/21

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 British Chinese woman who went to a comprehensive 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?
Mid-Year 12

How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I chose my medical schools with greatest weight put onto their course structure and location.

Completing work experience

What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Online work experience, Mentoring of GCSE students

How much work experience did you do?
My shadowing experience was 4 days cut short by 1 day because of COVID. I did online work experience (RCGP and BSMS virtual work experiences) and I did some mentoring of GCSE students. However, my year was affected my COVID so the circumstances were different and work experience requirements were more lax.

How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement

During the application process…

Admissions tests

What admissions test did you sit?
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT):

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:

What resources did you use?
Free online resources, Paid online resources, Practice papers from test website

I used Medify for UCAT and BMAT Ninja for the BMAT. I found Medify to be quite useful and certainly better than any UCAT practice book, but it was not perfect as I personally found the Medify mock scores to be inconsistent both between themselves and only somewhat predictive of final UCAT score. BMAT Ninja was very useful for telling one the intuition behind answers to past papers but I did not use it for much beyond this helpful function.

How did you prepare for your admissions test?

For the UCAT, I used Medify and built up a foundation by doing questions from individual sections before starting on mock-papers and meticulously reviewing every question I got wrong. I did not do this personally but I think it would have been good practice to track one’s mock test scores over time using a spreadsheet. Although Medify is far from perfect in how well its mock scores predict one’s final UCAT result, there is some correlation nonetheless.

For the BMAT, I was unfortunately very pushed for time with other things such as finishing off my personal statement, revising for mocks and attending lessons. Therefore, I jumped straight into past papers consulting BMAT Ninja for explanations on questions that I got wrong. Luckily I took physics at A-level so I did not have to review any GCSE content.


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?
In the Cambridge SAQ, you have to fill in a section on which topics they had covered in school which I assume acts to prevent the interviewer asking questions too far out of the scope of A-level content. I simply revised these topics as if I were preparing for an exam. I also arranged several mock-interviews ahead of the actual interview to help myself perfect my online interview technique. I was helped greatly by being able to get into contact with current medical students via an access programme, I also arranged interviews with contacts my school teachers knew. I found the ISC Medical ‘Medical School Interviews’ book very helpful for advice in answering questions about ethics and motivation wherein my school had a copy in the library.

What happened during your interview?

My particular year of application was greatly affected by COVID and so interviews were remotely conducted (via Zoom) for which I sat at my desk with a suit on. The interview lasted around 45 minutes in total and the questions were mostly of a scientific nature although there were a few questions on ethics and personal qualities. I simply tried my best to always think aloud but took my time to think if I needed it. In the process, I made quite a few mistaken suggestions but the interviewer would always kindly direct me back towards the correct answer. I personally found the experience to be very interesting and thought-provoking.

Do you have any further advice?

I found the time around the BMAT probably the most stressful time in my life. If there are mocks around this time, I would ask for a postponement if possible.


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.

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.

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.

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. 

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