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Cambridge University Interview Questions

About Cambridge Medical School (2023 Edition)

The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world.

As one of the most prestigious in the UK and notable alumni, teaching places a heavy emphasis on biomedical research with the hope that graduates will become world-leaders and embrace scientific advancement throughout their careers.

Studying at Cambridge is a unique experience based on tradition and the traditional experiences. Patient-centred learning remains at the heart of modern medical education.

Cambridge University Interview Information

🔍 How does Cambridge select candidates for interviews?

Cambridge interview in the region of 75-80% of the students who apply. Applications are compared against the other ones that are received that year and they aim to interview all applicants with a serious chance of being accepted onto the course. The decision as to who progresses to interview takes into consideration the applicant’s personal statement, reference, achieved and predicted grades (GCSE/ A level), and BMAT score.

Personal statement and reference

  • With regard to the personal statement, Cambridge are looking for candidates who demonstrate a keen interest in the sciences beyond their A level studies; those who actively read scientific papers and are starting to form opinions on current issues in the medical field. Such a personal statement better replicates an academic essay than a personal biography: this is your chance to demonstrate your interest in the medical field through wider reading on areas of interest, as well as to express your motivation for studying medicine specifically at Cambridge. As such, showing your awareness of the course style - traditional preclinical/clinical split, scientific theory emphasis, research opportunities - will be beneficial. Furthermore, a reference which provides evidence of your enthusiasm for science and curiosity for exploring subjects deeper than the syllabus will be preferred in this stage of applicant screening.

GCSE grades

  • Having excellent GCSE grades will significantly improve your chance of receiving an interview from Cambridge. Candidates are ranked based on the proportion of grade 8 and 9 (equivalent to A*) GCSEs achieved and the top fraction are taken.

A level grades

  • The current offer is A*A*A at A2 level or equivalent, but note that a higher proportion of applicants with these grades in three scientific or mathematical subjects are invited for interview. Doing a fourth A level will not necessarily increase your chances at getting and Cambridge advice against doing so if it will jeopardise your three other A levels - they take three grades only. Although it is worth bearing in mind that, for example, doing physics as well as biology, chemistry and maths, may give you an advantage over other candidates when it comes to solving problems in the interview.

University admissions test

  • The BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) is one of the scientific aptitude tests required for medicine at Cambridge. For this, there is no specific cut-off score however doing well will boost your chance at securing an interview – for example, in 2021 the average BMAT score for candidates was 6.5 S1, 6.5 S2, 3.5 A in the writing section.

🧬 What is the interview format?

Panel interviews

  • Interviews for medicine at Cambridge are conducted in as a panel interview format – this means that you will be interviewed by a medical practitioner and an admissions tutor for 20-45 minutes. This format may vary slightly depending on which college you are invited to interview at. Applicants typically have 2 of these panel interviews (one with a college and one with the faculty), which are designed such that they are as close to a ‘supervision’ as possible.

Supervision style

  • ‘Supervisions’ are one of the most significant differences with regard to the teaching style at Cambridge compared to other medical schools – supervisions being small group or individual teaching sessions, often with an essay set beforehand, designed to explore a topic in-depth with a field expert.

📆 When will you get interview invitations?

Invitations to interview are sent out mid- to late November.

👩‍🏫 When are the interviews usually held?

Interviews are held in the first three weeks of December.

📝 What are the main topics I will be asked at the interview?

In a typical interview, the interviewer will introduce a scientific problem and will expect you to talk them through your thought process as you attempt to establish the answer. All examiners are usually really friendly. The Cambridge interviewers asked lots of follow-up questions based on the answers that you gave them in order to get a more in-depth answer from you. There was no generic, predetermined list. With the aim of mimicking a supervision as close as possible – which is a significant way in which the teaching at Cambridge is done, their design is to test your ability not only to do well on the course but to be a doctor – as such they are looking to assess both your scientific knowledge as well as your professional and skills-based aptitude. Therefore you can expect to be asked on the one hand to be able to solve scientific problems, for example questions about a figure from a scientific paper, and on the other hand to debate controversial ethical, social and legal issues within the medical field.

☑️ How will my interview be marked?

Interviewees are marked on a scale from 1 to 10. Three and below is likely unacceptable, six and above being worth an offer.

🏠How many applicants are there per interview (Home)?

For the 2021 admissions cycle, there were 2022 home applicants for 284 offers.

🌎 How many applicants are there per interview (International)?

Around 20 of the roughly 270 places assigned per year are available for international fee paying applicants.

✨How likely is it that I will be given an offer after an interview?

Typically 1 in 6 applicants receive an offer after interview. (1 in 5.9 success rate for the 2020-21 cohort).

  • The interviewers care less about difficult scientific concepts; they are far more interested in the basic concepts that you learn at GCSE, and how you can apply them. Know the basics.

  • Unlike other medical schools, the Cambridge interview will focus almost entirely on your scientific aptitude, rather than your personal qualities, extracurricular activities or work experience. Interviewers can ask you anything related to the modules you have completed for A-level; generally, this is one Biology-based question, a Chemistry-based question and a Statistics-based question.

  • In addition to scientific aptitude, the Cambridge will have a few questions regarding your personal statement, BMAT essay and work experience, ensure that you are comfortable talking about these at length and can demonstrate that you have reflected adequately on these.

  • A peculiarity of the Cambridge interview experience is that it varies greatly between colleges, so make sure you research the interview format at your particular college.

  • The interviewer is there to guide you back to the right path, but they can only do this if you let them know what you are thinking so say something even if it’s wrong or sounds silly. Speak your thoughts!

Check out our Medicine Interview Course!

Example interview questions

🔥 Motivation Interview Questions

  • What is something you dislike about the Cambridge Medicine course?

  • Why do you want to study medicine/be a doctor?

  • Why Cambridge?

  • What do you think you could contribute to college life?

⚖️ Medical Ethics Interview Questions

  • What are some of the ethical issues surrounding gene editing?

  • If you have the money to do either 1 heart transplant or 100 hip replacements? Which would you do and why?

  • Are there too many people in the world?

  • Discuss the ethical dilemma of Huntingdon’s disease when one family member knows they have it and don’t want anyone else to know.

  • You are with a nurse who takes blood and makes a labelling mistake on a patient who has needle phobia. What do you do? What do you say to the patient and what do you say to the nurse?

  • How could you justify the legalisation of ecstasy?

  • If a psychologically ill person commits a crime, are they a criminal?

  • If you had to give human rights to one of either chimpanzees, dogs or elephants, which would you choose?

  • If you have the money to do either 1 heart transplant or 100 hip replacements? Which would you do and why?

  • If you had a billion pounds to spend on a specific area of research, what would it be and why?

  • If you were in charge of the nation’s health at the time of an outbreak of an unknown virus, what would you do?

  • In your opinion, what has been most significant medical breakthrough in the last 10 years?

  • Should patients always have complete autonomy?

🤯 Values and skills

  • Is it more important to be competent or compassionate?

  • What makes a good doctor?

  • Do you think that all doctors should have a disability in order to empathise with their patients?

  • How good were your teachers at school?

  • What have you found most difficult at A Level and how did you overcome this?

  • Tell us everything about you in 60 seconds.

  • What are your top three skills?

  • Do you think that all doctors should have a disability in order to empathise with their patients?

  • Is humour a useful skill for a doctor?

📰 NHS Interview Questions

  • Talk about the restricted budget and resources in the NHS

  • How much money should the NHS spend on palliative care?

  • How well can we compare public and private healthcare?

  • What do you think of the state of the NHS? What would you do to improve it?

  • If you were in charge of the nation’s health at the time of an outbreak of an unknown virus, what would you do?

  • What is the current government policy on health and medicine?

  • Why do some people describe the NHS as the ‘jewel in the welfare crown’?

🏥 Work Experience Interview Questions

  • Tell me about something you saw during work experience that confirmed that you wanted to study medicine?

  • Can you tell me about a patient from your work experience?

🛠️ Problem Solving Interview Questions

  • A 13 year old patient comes to see you and asks for the contraceptive pill. What do you do?

  • You are with a nurse who takes blood and makes a labelling mistake on a patient who has needle phobia. What do you do? What do you say to the patient and what do you say to the nurse?

  • If you could meet anybody from history who would it be and why?

  • If you could invite any two people alive or dead to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

  • If you had to choose a new language to learn, which one would it be and how would you go about it?

📨 Personal Statement Interview Questions

  • Tell us everything about you in 60 seconds.

📻 Current Affairs Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a news article you have read recently that you found interesting.

🧫 Biology Interview Questions

  • What is an amino acid and why are there only twenty?

  • What problems do fish face underwater?

  • What evidence is there that humans are still evolving?

  • Why can’t humans live forever?

  • How has the human diet changed in the last three decades and why?

  • What are the problems with the current taxonomy system?

  • How would you poison someone without the police finding out?

  • What causes the common cold and why is there no cure?

  • How does the flu vaccine work?

  • Why do we need ATP, why not just release energy from glucose directly?

  • How much of human behaviour is genetically determined?

  • What techniques could be used to date how long a disease has existed in a population?

  • Why is it a disadvantage for humans to have two legs?

  • Tell us about drowning. Why do you drown faster in saltwater rather than fresh water?

  • Given a skull: what animal is this, describe the teeth and why they are like that etc.

  • Describe what happens when a neuron is excited and an action potential follows.

  • Describe the processes that occur at a synapse.

  • Show what happens to the membrane potential of an animal cell when put in different solutions.

  • How can a specific animal tell the difference between spring and autumn?

  • How many genes are there in the genome of a rice plant?

  • Draw a diagram of the [organ] and tell us how it is adapted to performing its function.

  • How does blood get back from your feet to your heart?

  • How many litres of blood does your heart pump in your lifetime?

  • What would life be like without enzymes?

  • How true is it to say that the modern meal is the culmination of a long journey away from biology?

  • Why do men often go bald, but women rarely do?

  • What is DNA fingerprinting and why is it used in forensics?

🧪 Chemistry Interview Questions

  • Why are explosions a risk in flour mills? What stops bags of flour exploding in the kitchen?

  • How does a glow-stick work?

  • Why don’t fish freeze?

  • What issues might there be if you wanted to create a metallic oxide that has good conductive properties but is also transparent?

  • What is the concentration of water?

  • Why does iron rust and how can rusting be stopped?

  • How does blood maintain its pH?

  • Discuss the bonding in benzene.

  • How many moles of H2O are there in that cup of water?

  • Calculate what volume of wine can be drunk to reach the legal concentration of alcohol in the blood for driving?

  • How would you differentiate between salt and sugar without tasting them?

  • How do amino acids bond to form a peptide?

👩‍🔬 General-science Interview Questions

  • How would you simulate altitude in your living room?

  • How would you measure the weight of your own head?

  • If you are in a boat in a lake and throw a stone out of the boat, what happens to the level of the water?

  • Why can you not see many stars when you stand on top of a mountain?

  • How would you design an experiment to disprove the existence of god?

  • What leaves you drier if it's raining: running or walking?

  • When is Newtonian law wrong?

🩺 Medical-based Interview Questions

  • What's the greatest medical innovation this century?

  • How would you determine whether leukaemia patients have contracted the disease because of a nearby nuclear power station?

  • At what point is a person "dead"?

  • What is [named disease]?

  • What does the letter b stand for in b-lymphocyte?

  • How do prions actually affect the brain?

  • How does the body try to remove or recognise poison?

  • How would you solve the aids crisis in South Africa/prevent the spread of Ebola?

  • Why are cancer cells more susceptible to destruction by radiation than normal cells?

  • What is the normal level of potassium? What is it used for? How does it move in and out of cells?

  • How can you stand upright and balanced even with your eyes closed?

  • How could you tell how long a disease has been prevalent in an area?

  • Should placebos be used in hospitals? What about in GP-surgeries?

  • What are fluid-balance charts used for?

  • What are QALYs?

  • What are the dangers of an ageing population? Is ageing a disease?

  • What are the effects of cocaine on cerebral and coronary blood flow?

  • What is a clinical trial and why are they so important?

  • What is an ECG and how does it work?

  • What is obesity/the best way to tackle the obesity epidemic?

  • What is the point of cellular compartmentalisation?

  • What will you do if the senior doctor is not at the hospital and you have to perform a life-threatening procedure for the first time to save someone’s life?

  • What has to change from foetus to baby with regards to blood circulation?

Cambridge is a collegiate university so students benefit to membership to one of the 31 colleges. Cambridge takes a traditional approach teaching the medical sciences first before beginning clinical placements from Year 4 onwards. The course offers intercalation in the third year of the course at BA level. Anatomy is taught by full body dissection. Supervisions in the form of small group teaching are truly an amazing opportunity to ask questions and better your understanding of course content. Fully written lecture notes and slides helps save time during the revision process.

Cambridge is a vibrant city in the heart of the countryside in Cambridgeshire. The city is steeped in history and provides students with a beautiful setting to study at one of the world's most prestigious universities. The city is relatively small with most colleges located in the city centre and easy reach of lecture theatres. Each college differs in terms of accommodation, but it is mostly just a short walk from the city centre. Cambridge only has three 8 week terms a year which are intense, therefore, but it means you have plenty of time to explore your other interests outside of term time. The colleges also provide accommodation and other facilities including dining halls, study rooms and libraries.

The university offers a unique social life to its students. The collegiate system provides something like a second, huge, supportive and not-completely-med-student "family" within the university, providing social events through the JCR. This includes weekly formal dinners, music societies and sports teams. The famous May Balls (actually held in June!) take place shortly after exams and are the highlight of the social calendar with everything from circus acts to famous bands in attendance. Cambridge offers a huge amount of societies and extra-curricular activities. Cambridge itself is quite a small city, but this definitely does not stop it from being busy! There are regular high-street stores and restaurants, as well as smaller cafes and shops more targeted at tourists.

Cambridge Medical Society has been in place since 1784 and is one of the largest societies at the university. It gives its members an opportunity to attend talks organised by world-class speakers free of charge. It promises to support any member in academic or financial difficulties through extensive welfare and monetary grants. It provides advice on things like how to get the most out of the first and second year medical courses. Medsoc at Cambridge also offers MedSoc sports teams where you can meet new people.

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