How to get accepted into Medicine at Cambridge?

September 3, 2020

If you want to get accepted into Medicine at Cambridge, you’ll face a particularly challenging task when it comes to earning an offer. This course routinely ranks within the top five Medicine degrees worldwide.

The best way to begin preparing your application for undergraduate Medicine at Cambridge is to be aware of all the aspects of the application process. This article will break down each step of this process and will give some handy advice on making the most of the interview section of your application.

Get Accepted Into Medicine at Cambridge: The Grades

Your final-year grades are arguably the most important thing about applying to any Medicine course, particularly a highly competitive one like the degree at Cambridge.

Medicine degrees are incredibly intensive, and the university needs to know that you have the right background knowledge and time management ability to keep on track with your studies.

Understandably, the most prestigious institutions are trying to ensure that the quality of graduating doctors is second-to-none. Currently, the minimum required grades in a conditional offer for Medicine at Cambridge are A*A*A in A-level and 40-42 points at IB (with a 776 spread across your Higher Level IB subjects).

However, medical courses like the one at Cambridge are particularly competitive. Therefore, if you want to distinguish yourself as an exceptional candidate you should look to earn predicted grades of A*A*A* or the IB equivalent (probably around 42-44 points with a 777 spread in your Higher Level subjects).

In terms of your A-level choices, Cambridge requires that you take Chemistry alongside one of Mathematics, Physics, and Biology. Check out our article on The Best A-Level Subject Combinations for more in-depth advice on what top universities are looking for from your A-level set.  

There are two factors to bear in mind when you’re choosing your A-levels. The first is that, realistically, virtually all successful applicants will have taken three or more Maths or Science subjects. Many applicants will take three sciences. The Cambridge website states:

Please note that in the past three admissions rounds, 95% of applicants for Medicine (A100) offered three or more science/mathematics A Levels and, of these, 23% were successful in obtaining a place. Of the 4% of applicants who offered only two science/mathematics A Levels, just 3% were successful in gaining a place.

Given this knowledge, you should aim to choose at least three of these subjects, with four being preferable.

The second factor to bear in mind is that, on top of university-wide requirements, some colleges will state an additional set of requirements for admission. Make sure you’re aware of what your preferred college is looking for when it comes to the application process.

The Colleges

Cambridge is a collegiate university. This means that it is composed of 31 constituent colleges, each with a hall of residence, a number of teaching staff, and a selection of facilities including a library and student bar. Only 18 of these colleges offer Medicine as a degree to undergraduates.

You’ll find that each and every college is very different when it comes to factors like size, architecture, and general atmosphere. For instance, some colleges are only for mature students and some are women-only.

When you apply for Medicine at Cambridge via UCAS, you will have to decide whether or not you would like to make an application to a specific college and, if so, which one you wish to nominate as a preference.

You may find that, for whatever reason, you do not want to select a particular college. This is called an open application. If you select this option, then you will be placed in a college by the university.

Some people mistakenly opt for making an open application in the hopes that it will increase their chances of getting a place. However, this is an ineffective strategy as the university is happy to displace a candidate from their nominated college if that college is oversubscribed and move this candidate to another college which doesn’t have applicants of that student’s quality.

One way to begin deciding which college you would like to apply to is to take a look at the University of Cambridge website, which should have links to any individual college’s homepage.

You can also look at Cambridge student forums to get a sense of the atmosphere of each college. Remember to take these posts with a grain of salt: a disgruntled student may not be the best indicator of whether you’ll enjoy your experience at a particular college.

The best way to make an informed decision is to visit the college in person. Cambridge holds open days in July. These days provide an excellent opportunity to visit colleges, as well as to find out additional information about your course from potential tutors.

Get Accepted Into Medicine at Cambridge: UCAS

Once you have decided whether you want to apply to a specific college or make an open application, it’s time to log on to UCAS and begin your university application.

Remember that you need to submit your application to Oxford or Cambridge by the 15th of October in the academic year preceding the one in which you wish to start your course.

If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom, you may be required to submit your application sooner, in which case you should consult the university website.

By the time you begin the application process, you should hopefully have an excellent set of predicted grades and a strong personal statement.

Given the fact that Medicine is a vocational and competitive degree, you’ll need to use your application to display your interest in the subject matter and its peripheral disciplines. You can do this by trying to get work experience in a hospital, or by shadowing a doctor in the summer before your final year at school. You can also opt to volunteer with a medical charity for several months.

Finally, it might be worth seeing if any medical conferences take non-professionals. You could also conduct your own research into a developing area within the medical field so that you have a specialist subject to talk about in your interview.

Pre-Admission Tests

To get accepted into Medicine at Cambridge, you’ll have to take the BioMedical Admissions Test (the BMAT) as part of the application process.

The test was developed by the university itself to help admissions tutors differentiate between students, as many candidates gain identical, perfect, grades.

The BMAT is composed of three parts. Section 1 is a Thinking Skills test, while Section 2 is based on Scientific Knowledge and Applications and Section 3 is a shorter Writing Task.  

The Thinking Skills component is a general test of data analysis, logical inference, and your capacity for comprehending arguments. The Scientific Knowledge section is attempting to see how well you can apply scientific and mathematical knowledge to complex situations. It is the application component that is essential here: the only specific knowledge required is material that you’ll have covered in your GCSE Maths and Science syllabi.

Finally, the Writing Task: this entails choosing one of three questions and developing an answer to it. The aim of this section is to test your ability to produce and organise ideas into compelling, articulate arguments.

It is essential that you register in advance to take the BMAT: you can do this by chatting to the Exam Officer at your school.

You’ll need to sit the BMAT in an accredited testing centre (although often this will be in your school if you are applying from within the UK).

Get Accepted Into Medicine at Cambridge: Interview Advice

After you’ve submitted your application and sat the BMAT, you may receive an invitation to interview at Cambridge. Interviews happen in the first few weeks of December, and you should know whether you have secured an invite by late November.

Cambridge tends to give interviews to a higher proportion of prospective students than Oxford; however, they take a smaller percentage of those students that they interview.

Generally, you’ll find that the interview takes place at your preferred college (the one which you applied to during the application process). If you submitted an open application then you will be assigned a college where the interview will take place.

If you’re an international student, the college might agree to conduct an interview online. It’s also worth noting that in the 2021/2022 admissions cycle, Cambridge will conduct all their admissions interviews online (as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The interview process can seem daunting, and there are lots of colloquial myths and legends about eccentric professors and absurd, off-the-wall questions.  

In reality, Cambridge tutors will use the interview as an excellent opportunity to see how you deal with new information and grapple with interesting, complex questions. Effectively, interviewers want to see whether you’d be a good fit for the tutorial system of teaching at Cambridge. They want to test your intellectual capacity and see how well you can adapt to challenging ideas in real-time.

Some of the brightest students in any subject do not flourish in this tutorial-style environment, so try not to take it too badly if you don’t enjoy the interview process. It’s probably a sign that you wouldn’t enjoy your educational experience at Cambridge as a whole.

If English is your second language, you’ll probably have to take an additional test at or before the interview. Check out the Cambridge website for more information on these English language admissions tests.

Get Accepted Into Medicine at Cambridge: Final Thoughts

You’ll find out whether or not you’ve received an offer by early January.

If you receive an offer, you’ll have to accept it via the UCAS portal. It’s likely that your offer will be conditional on the standard of your final year exam results, so you’ll also need to achieve the required grades.

There’s a chance you may be pooled. A pooled student is one whose position at their college of choice was taken by other candidates, but who is strong enough to challenge weaker applicants to different colleges.

If you are pooled then there is a small chance that you might be asked to sit another interview at a new college; however, this is quite rare. Either way, all applicants should know whether they have a place at Cambridge by the end of January.

If you want further advice on getting into Cambridge to study Medicine as an undergraduate, get in touch with us at A&J Education to book a free consultation today.

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