Preparing for a Cambridge Medicine Interview
‘… and then the interviewer set his chair on fire!’
It’s all too easy to believe the horror stories that are bandied around after every Cambridge Medicine interview season. The truth is, though, that a Cambridge Medicine interview isn’t really that different to interviews at most other UK medical schools. That being said, there are a few special features of a Cambridge Medicine interview for which you may want to do a little extra preparation.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
The first major difference between Cambridge Medicine interviews and those at other medical schools is the number of purely Medicine-based questions. At most other interviews, the majority of questions will be about your personal qualities, extracurricular activities or work experience. A Cambridge Medicine interview will focus almost entirely on your scientific aptitude.
They’ll have gleaned all the information about you from your personal statement – now they want to see what you know. When you apply to Cambridge, you’re asked to fill out a ‘Supplementary Application Questionnaire’ in addition to your UCAS form. As part of this, you will have to fill in all the subjects you’re studying for A-level (or equivalent), and for each of these, the modules that you will have completed by December in the year of application.
This is to aid your interviewers – theoretically, they’re allowed to ask you questions based around any of the modules you write on this form, so make sure you revise any particularly tricky parts before coming to interview. The logistics of the interviews themselves vary between colleges. Some students are given one Biology-based and one Statistics-based interview, so don’t forget about non-Science subjects!
Show your enthusiasm
Cambridge is a world-leader in academia, and for that reason, interviewers are most impressed by students who show a genuine enthusiasm for their subject. It’s really worth reading around your A-level subjects in preparation for interview – this could be journals, books or newspaper articles on the latest scientific advances. Your interviewers will try to ‘push’ you – any extra knowledge you have on a subject could be helpful!
Practice talking about Medicine
It may sound silly, but learn to talk about your subject. It might seem awkward at first, but even sitting down with your friends for ten minutes and chatting about something you’ve found really interesting in Biology is a great way to start feeling more comfortable in an interview situation. Some sixth-form colleges also offer a mock Cambridge Medicine interview to anyone applying. Even if yours doesn’t, it may be worth asking one of your teachers whether they’d be willing to ask you a few Cambridge-style interview questions (there are plenty of examples online).
Keep calm and carry on
No matter how much preparation you do, once you’re waiting outside the interview room, nerves are likely to kick in. This is completely normal – don’t believe anyone who says they’re totally calm! What’s important is not to let these nerves get the better of you – you’ve been invited to interview because Cambridge believe you have the potential to be a great student!
Finding it difficult is a good thing
The most valuable piece of advice anyone gave me before my Cambridge Medicine interview was that ‘the interviewers aren’t expecting you to get everything right’. Although they may start by asking an ‘easy’ question, the more questions you answer correctly, the more difficult they will become.
It seems ridiculous, but most people would agree that if you’ve found the interview difficult, you’ve probably done pretty well! Your Cambridge Medicine interview is designed to simulate the style of small-group teaching given in Cambridge, so your interviewer is simply trying to ascertain your ability to work in this kind of environment. They’re absolutely not trying to catch you out!
If you can’t immediately come up with an answer in the interview, don’t panic. Your interviewer will want to see how you tackle a difficult scientific problem, so talk it through with them. Start with the basics, even if they seem obvious. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s something you don’t understand – they don’t want to see you struggling!
Preparing for a Cambridge Medicine Interview – 5 top tips:
- Take your time. Don’t be afraid to take a few moments to consider your answer before launching into an explanation – composure is key at a Cambridge Medicine interview.
- Be yourself. There’s always been a Cambridge stereotype – the problem is, nobody really fits it. Anyone who is offered a place at Cambridge is a ‘typical Cambridge medical student’. The only thing your interviewer will care about is that you have a genuine motivation for Medicine!
- Don’t be distracted. You may meet other students who have already had their interviews and think they’ve gone terribly. Equally, you may meet those who are almost certain that they will be offered a place. In reality, nobody except the interviewer knows how their interviews have gone – don’t let anyone else put you off!
- Take advantage of free accommodation. It’s amazing how imposing Cambridge can seem when you first arrive. If your college offers free accommodation the night before your interview, take them up on it – it’ll give you time to settle in and feel more comfortable in your surroundings.
- Enjoy it (as much as you can)! The Cambridge Medicine interview is designed to simulate Cambridge tuition – think of it as an incredible opportunity to discuss Medicine with some of the leading researchers in the world!