Medical School Interview · Nov. 26, 2018
Cambridge Medicine Interview Preparation
The University of Cambridge dates back to 1209 and has grown since to be composed of 31 constituent colleges. Medical teaching at Cambridge dates back to 1540, but it wasn't until 1829 that the curriculum was established.
The study of medicine grew significantly during the 1900s, following the founding of the NHS and the building of Addenbrooke's hospital, a world-leading hospital and the location of the University of Cambridge Clinical School. Cambridge is a world-leading institution, particularly in medicine, and thus it is of paramount importance that you know what to expect.
1. About your Cambridge medicine interview
An Oxbridge interview can be quite different compared to other medical schools. Beyond the initial style, the interview questions vary from college to college and are perhaps less focused on personal qualities and more on your level of understanding currently.
Most are very traditional, with multiple panel interviews focusing on key aspects of the application: personal statement and core scientific knowledge. They will ask you to utilise your school teaching so far and apply it to clinical scenarios. An example could be, 'why does heart rate increase when you exercise?', and you are expected to explain the mechanisms behind this, showing your thought process. They may even ask you to draw something.
Don't worry too much about the philosophical questions that supposedly get asked at so many Oxford and Cambridge interviews. The main aim of the Cambridge medicine interview is to find out about what you know already and how adaptable you will be at developing this. The things your interviewer will be looking for include:
- Communication and teamwork
- Good scientific knowledge
- A willingness to learn and further your knowledge
- Appreciation of the role of a doctor (what you gained from your work experience)
- The ethical issues raised in medical practice
Make sure you look up specific details for the college you are applying to when invited to interview as the style of their Cambridge medicine interview will vary. The collegiate system is where you will find some of the best teaching is conducted. Colleges may be transparent about how their admissions work although it may be useful to try and contact a student who has been through the process themselves. Try and find out about how medicine is taught at your college specifically.
You may find your college informs you of your interviewer beforehand. It is crucial that you utilise this information. Look up the field of medicine they are involved with, and any research they might have published recently. Who are they? Do they have a role in teaching at medical schools? Are they an admissions tutor? This can help prepare you for some of the possible interview questions that you might get asked.
2. About the course
At both Oxford and Cambridge, the standard course lasts 6 years, with intercalation being compulsory. The first three years are pre-clinical, with lectures, practicals and supervisions being the main teaching methods. The third year is the intercalated year, where you achieve your initial degree. This can be in a subject of choice but is usually one offered within the Natural Sciences Tripos.
Following on from this are the clinical years, based primarily at Addenbrooke's and surrounding regional hospitals and general practices. Knowledge gained in the earlier years is built on and integrated into the teaching of practical skills required by a doctor.
Cambridge offers a traditional course, with around 300 medical students per year. Teaching is delivered through a variety of platforms: lectures, practicals, seminars, clinical experience and supervisions, which are unique to Cambridge. In a supervision, two to three students will be taught by a leading academic, with the chance to ask questions and find out more beyond the scope of the lecture course. Some say the interview itself is like a supervision, so your interviewer is trying to gauge how well you will fit in with the Cambridge style of learning.
As the course is relatively segregated between pre-clinical and clinical years, the course offers some early clinical experience through the 'Preparing for Patients' module. This has 4 branches, where students meet patients in general practice, a hospital environment and a community-based health organisation (one voluntary, one alternative practice). The fourth component involves shadowing a pregnant woman throughout her pregnancy experience.
After completion of the first degree, students transition to clinical school, where they build on knowledge taught in the first three years. Each clinical year has a particular focus: core clinical practice (4), specialist clinical practice (5) and applied clinical practice (6). These involving rotations at many different hospitals and practices within the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Intercalation and elective opportunities
3. theMSAG tips to prepare for your interview
Tell them why you are special
Know your stuff
Learn, practice and reflect
4. Interview advice from a current Cambridge University student
Get further practice and join our MMI Circuits
We hope that you have found these Cambridge medicine interview tips useful! As always, don't hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com.
Disclaimer: The information used for this blog post has been found on the Cambridge University website. These were accessed in November 2018. Please note that the course structure and interview style is subject to change, and you are advised to confirm before attending.
Miss Pippa Morris
Pippa is a third year medical student at the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the Oncology Society and the vice president of Caius Medical Society She is also a tutor for science, maths, and medical school entrance exams. She writes blogs and is a BMAT Tutor for theMSAG.