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 White British 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 chose 2 more aspirational choices – the Universities that were known as ‘harder’ to get into. I made sure these suited my style of learning + their focuses were on what I prioritised in my Medical Degree (such as regarding research, hospital-based teaching, and other opportunities like intercalation etc).
The other 2 medical choices were similarly chosen, though I made sure I had a very good chance of getting an interview at these Universities – googling their selection process and seeing where my strengths were in my application.
My advice would be to think critically about the Universities – will you like it? Are you likely to get an interview + suit their style of selection and later teaching? Other questions I considered were the locations (how far from home), the reviews from others, and just how I truly felt about studying there.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Hospital shadowing, Online work experience, Nursery
How much work experience did you do?
3 days in a hospital, and 3 days in a nursery. The online work experience was about a week or so.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement, I emailed my GP and a local residential home if they would take me, I didn’t know anyone there
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
UCAT (not for Cambridge – sat for other Universities) – Medify (paid) – very, very useful – there are so many Qs, which represent the true UCAT perfectly! Also, the official UCAT website (free) has some mock tests – these are great for slightly more pressured mock tests, as they fully simulate what the exam is like. GMC ‘Good Medical Practice’ (free) helped with situational judgement quite a lot.
BMAT – BMAT on Physics & Maths Tutor (free) – this goes through the content needed for the BMAT and was wonderful. The official BMAT website (free) has a specification and practice papers, which were really good. Also, I found the UCAT revision definitely helped with my section 1. For the essay, the BMAT website is what I mainly used, i.e. practising planning essays, though I did also attend an online session run by the Imperial College Union (approx £5), which also offered good advice for the essay, as well as the other sections.
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
UCAT – Prepared for 6 weeks in the Summer, around 4hrs a day for the first 2 weeks, decreasing to 3hrs for weeks 3&4, and just mock exams after this. I made sure to still take days off! The main thing is to just practise – especially for abstract reasoning; after a while you just start recognising the patterns – Medify was the best resource I used. I made sure to simulate the environment of the real UCAT exam – i.e. only an online calculator, and through the mock exams, which I used throughout, but especially towards the end, I could identify my weaknesses and target them.
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 read the information provided by the University and what I found online (Medic Portal is very useful and is free for interview Qs etc!), utilising resources on Youtube (e.g. interview experiences, Mock interviews – just type in Cambridge Mock interviews Medicine or Cambridge Medicine interview experiences and you’ll find lots of videos!). I made sure to read through my personal statement (particularly the scientific aspects I mentioned I was interested in + books), ensured I had an idea about current topics and research (New Scientist has brilliant articles, as does the BBC), and brushed up some key A-Level topics which could come up in interview. The overall tip I would give is practise – practise going through random scientific research articles and explaining them, even if you’re not fully sure what’s going on (just try to make sense of it, by talking through your thought process, bringing in your A-level knowledge – this is what the interviewers want!!!), and going through practise Qs or A-Level content with family, friends, teachers(tag: support networks). If you can arrange a mock interview with a teacher at school or beyond, it can be useful to calm your nerves, even if it doesn’t fully represent what the interview is like (I know my mock interview was pretty different from the real thing, but the practise still helped with confidence :)). Colleges may run practise interviews or information days, so look out for them in emails and online – e.g. I attended some Online with Jesus College.
What happened during your interview?
We had 2 Interviews at Jesus College, though the number and type of interviews may vary between colleges. One interview was mainly based on the personal aspects of medicine, which allowed me to bring in my reasons for studying medicine and reflections on work experience. The other was more scientific, and focused on interpreting graphs and talking through unfamiliar scientific scenarios. This interview (though the first one did at times) linked with my A-Level content a lot, and required talking through my though process and applying my existing knowledge. The interview resembles a ‘supervision‘ quite well, where you talk through tricky topics with someone who is an expert, though the practicalities are a bit different to a supervision. Each interview at Jesus when online included 2 interviewers with 1 interviewee, with one interviewer having their camera off and the other asking questions for half of the interview. For the other half, the interviewer who just asked Qs turns their camera off, and the other interviewer turns their camera on and asks Qs. The atmosphere is very calm, and although each interview was meant to be 20-25ish mins, my interview lasted around 10 mins longer. The interviewers were very encouraging, and ultimately just want to discuss your thoughts with you – taking a bit of time to think through things (ideally out loud, though it’s okay if some of it is in your head!) is fully wanted, and the interviewers can guide you through things if you’re unsure. Ultimately, making mistakes is okay – and the main that is desired is you clearly stating your thought process.
Do you have any further advice?
If you want to be a doctor, you will be a doctor regardless of the medical school you go to, or whether you get in first time.
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.
Paid-for resources: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Supervision/tutorial: These form the basis of the teaching style at Oxford and Cambridge and usually take the form of a small, 1-hr long class. There will be one academic (e.g. a professor) and 1-4 students in the tutorial or supervision, in which students usually discuss work they have already prepared such as an essay or a set of questions, and the academic will provide guidance and encourage lively discussion.