5 Cambridge Medicine Interview Tips
Tips, Techniques & Essential Information
Unlike other medical schools, Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) medical school interviews are unique in that they are far less standardised, both between candidates and across colleges, and that they place a greater emphasis on medical knowledge over your interest in medicine. Here are a few tips which can help you to succeed in these interviews. Good luck!
When first asked a question, it is okay to start from the basics. If you are given a graph of blood glucose concentration across time to interpret, you may want to start by reading out the axis and defining some of the key terms or give some background information on what blood glucose is, before interpreting the graph. The interviewers want to know how you reached your answer, rather than what your final answer is. Some interviewers may ask “If you were communicating to a layperson/patient, how would you describe …?” which is a clear indication that they would prefer you use simple English, rather than medical terminology or even just A-level biology nomenclature.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes
The whole point of the interview is for the professors to try to “teach” you something in order to simulate real-life supervision. Supervisions are small-group teaching sessions and are a lot like a regular classroom setting, where you can ask questions to your supervisor and vice versa. If the supervisors do choose to correct you, clarify your understanding and use their new information as a premise to continue down a new line of logic. Candidates who try to argue against their supervisors almost always fail to receive a conditional offer. Keep in mind that the supervisors will often test you on their area of expertise eg. an endocrinologist is more likely to ask you questions about hormones than about neurons, so they will know the subject matter very intimately, and definitely more so than you.
Practice with Friends, Practice with Family, Practice with Interview Specialists
As the old adage goes: practise makes perfect. An interview setting is incredibly synthetic. Moreover, it is likely that your Cambridge interview will be the first medical school interview you experience since they are all in December. Be sure to practise discussing past interview questions with your friends who are applying to the same or similar subjects. Additionally, it may be a good idea to have your friends teach you some A-level content of a subject you are not taking and then test you on that knowledge in the same sitting. This will allow you to practise rapidly assimilating new information.
Stay at the college the night before
Many of the colleges will be willing to provide free accommodation (sometimes including breakfast!) the night before the interview, particularly if your interview is earlier in the day or you live outside a certain radius. The porters and staff at the college are always very nice to interviewees: many of them will wish you luck and help calm your nerves just before the interview. You may also get the chance to meet other candidates or students already studying at the college, who may help give you some insight into the interview itself. However, always keep in mind that you are competing against other candidates, so do not allow any tomfoolery to get to you.
Read outside the syllabus, but not excessively
The moment the supervisors catch onto the fact that you are very familiar with a particular subject, oftentimes they will simply enquire you in a different direction. Do not feel disheartened if this does occur as they are simply trying to push you outside of your comfort zone to see how far you can go. As such, while it is good to read medical books outside the syllabus, only discuss the material if it is directly relevant to the question at hand. If you have mentioned a particular book or topic in your personal statement, however, make sure to know the topic very well as interviewers may ask your opinions on the topic and potentially challenge the opinions proposed.
Article Author: Yasmine Kanagalingam (University of Cambridge)
Yasmine was a part of the prestigious Methodist Girls’ school Integrated Programme into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). She received a total of 6 medical offers from across the UK and Ireland, including from University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and University College Dublin.