If you’ve made it this far into the application process to study medicine at Oxford or Cambridge — congratulations! Interviewing is the very last stage of applying to these prestigious universities, just short of receiving the grades that will get you through the door.
But make no mistake — like any interview for a coveted job, school or other opportunity, undergraduate medical interviews are designed to be challenging. And at two of the finest educational institutions in the world, you’ll need to work hard to impress.
However, there are certain things that you can do to prepare and stand out against other students with high A-level and BMAT performance. Here are our top three tips for preparing for a medical interview at Oxford or Cambridge.
Practise your interview skills
Oxford and Cambridge boast some of the highest-achieving medical students that the world has to offer, and it goes without saying that if you are an interview candidate, you yourself must be a bright spark. However, in order to succeed, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between demonstrating both your knowledge and theoretical application skills. Interviewers will be assessing your understanding, but also want to see that you have the confidence, intuition, and reasoning abilities to respond methodically to unfamiliar questions.
Thankfully, admissions interview questions are designed for pupils to demonstrate both types of skill. To get a taste of the kinds of questions you can expect, and the panel interview setting, we recommend attending practice interview workshops dedicated to medicine. For example, 6med offers day courses that are “designed by knowledgeable medics who have undergone the interview experience themselves. They understand what universities look for in a candidate, and can provide you with the best strategies for success.”
Candidates often receive tutoring to improve their medical knowledge — but a successful interview presentation could make up half of the mark, so it makes sense to receive professional guidance for this too.
Revise course content
What sets Oxbridge admissions interviews apart from other schools’ is the emphasis on scientific and medical knowledge. Interviewers will be looking to rigorously assess your understanding of key concepts across the A-level Biology and Chemistry syllabuses as well as broader issues and debates in healthcare. As a result, you’ll need to ensure that you are highly familiar with all content found in the exam board specification, and have conducted some wider reading to supplement your studies.
At this stage, you’ll be familiar with the revision techniques that work for you — but you may also
benefit from content-focused study groups with your peers to discuss complicated concepts. Not only are these a great way to consolidate knowledge, but they will prepare you for the dynamics of the unique Oxbridge interview process.
The admissions teams have been known to split candidates into small groups for observed sessions that mimic university seminars. Here, you can expect to be prompted with a dataset or clinical study, and asked open-ended questions that go beyond simple fact relay. Online mock interviews can give you a taste of these discussions, but it also helps to role-play these scenarios when revising so you can demonstrate your aptitude for Oxbridge teaching styles on the day.
Go over your personal statement
Oxbridge interviews rarely take a one-size fits all approach. Typically, each applicant will be seen by different panels of interviewers. But no matter the interviewer, they all know why you’re there — because of your passion to study medicine. This means that you may not be asked as many questions about your personal statement as you might expect, but you should still review it one last time before getting in the room.
A good personal statement will list experiences for you to draw upon in interviews to demonstrate your interest. If there’s anything you’ve done since writing it, such as further reading or an EPQ, consider discussing these on the day. According to Uni Compare, the EPQ is looked upon particularly favourably at Oxbridge as it “improves people’s independent study and can broaden their skillset” in preparation for study. So, go over your statement to make sure you’ve not missed anything that could help your case.
Including personal anecdotes about your achievements, extended studies or views on a topic can help you to stand out. For example, if you’re asked an open-ended question about how the lungs work, this may present an opportunity to discuss medical articles about respiratory illnesses that you’ve read in light of Covid-19, or a tissue dissection experience that interested you during your studies.
Always remember, you’ll be interviewed by like-minded individuals with an enthusiasm for medicine. So, once you’re in the hot seat, try to view the process simply as an opportunity to demonstrate this same passion that you share. We wish you the best of luck.