• The Aspiring Medics

Choosing between Oxford and Cambridge Medicine

What teaching style does Oxbridge Medicine use?

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities are top academic institutions which consistently perform highly in global league tables generally and specifically for Medicine. The course is very similar at both universities, with both adopting a traditional approach that emphasises the science underpinning medicine in the first few years. Teaching is delivered similarly at both medical schools.


Choose based on personal preferences

Students’ personal preferences - i.e. the local amenities, city size and distance from home - often influence their decision on where to apply. Visiting the cities, even if virtually on Google Maps, is probably the best way to get a feel for where you would feel happiest for the next 6 years (or more!), but most students are very happy wherever they eventually end up.



Both offer a range of subjects to intercalate in

One unique selling point of the Oxford course is the Final Honours School (FHS) component which allows students to conduct a lab project and potentially contribute to current scientific knowledge. Conversely, at Cambridge there is a much greater range of subjects available in the third year. Indeed many students choose to intercalate in something non-medical and greatly benefit from it.


Here are the main factors you may wish to consider before applying.

Factor

Similarities

Cambridge

Oxford

Medical School Size

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The medical school at Cambridge is almost twice as big as in Oxford at around 300; there are more medics in your year group

The medical school year size is more around 150 which means the cohort is more tight-knit whereas at Cambridge there are more students to meet

Lectures

Students are introduced to the major systems of the body and study all aspects of their structure and function

Biochemistry and physiology lectures are shared with vets in the first year. In second year, pathology lectures are shared with natural scientists

Oxford medics share some lectures with biomedics and biochemists in the first 2 years

Interview Shortlisting

Both medical schools require the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and have a very competitive shortlisting process

Cambridge interview a greater proportion of student at around 80% of applicants

Oxford interview a far smaller proportion of applicants (about 20-40%), this makes it far less competitive once you make it to the interview stage

Interview Process

Both medical schools use a 'pooling' system to ensure that your chance of success is as fair as possible regardless of college choice

At Cambridge, you'll only be interviewed at one college, expect 2/3 interviews on the same day

Oxford interviews are usually conducted at two of more colleges and will comprise of at least 2 interviews each over 2/3 days

Colleges

Both have a collegiate system allowing you to meet students from other subjects

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Anatomy Teaching

Both universities utilise e-learning as part of their anatomy teaching

Cambridge offer dissections in 1st year and prosections in 2nd year

Oxford use prosections where demonstrators present pre-prepared specimens

Tutorials & Supervisions

These are academic discussions with expert tutors going over essay feedback, crystallise core knowledge and challenge you with extra reading

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Location

The colleges and central teaching are all within walking distance (30 minutes) of each other

Cambridge, while technically a city, is more of a compact town

Oxford is more of a city and therefore is slightly larger than Cambridge. The colleges are also more spread out

Intercalated Degree Choice

Both Oxford and Cambridge emphasise research skills, there is a great opportunity to work with world-leading researchers and use their facilities

Cambridge has a wider variety of options available in the 3rd year; it doesn't even have to be a biological science. Examples include: English, Philosophy, Engineering, Law, Linguistics and Astrophysics

Oxford only offers the Medical Science degree as an intercalation but within this there's huge breadth and depth to choose your lectures and modules e.g. Cancer, COVID-19, Neuroscience, Psychology, Immunology and Metabolism

Tradition

Both are very prestigious and renowned universities with a world-class reputation

The Cambridge degree is informally known as the Tripos whereas Oxford calls it Final Honours

Oxford students are required to wear sub fusc (a uniform of black suit, white shirt and a black robe) to exams unlike Cambridge