If you’re reading this, it probably means you have been given an interview at the University of Cambridge. If so, congratulations!
The academics and admissions tutors at the university have read your application and have concluded that you have what it takes to study at Cambridge and succeed on its Medicine course.
So instead of looking at the interview as another hurdle where people are waiting to see you fail, see it as an opportunity to further impress people who are already impressed by your application. As one Professor told me at an open day, they would not waste time and money interviewing you if they didn’t truly believe you were good enough.
However, after the initial excitement sets in, it’s time to start working towards that interview. So, here are a few of my top tips for a Cambridge medicine interview.
This is a surprising yet invaluable tip. I found that in most of my interviews, the interviewers did not care about the latest impressively difficult scientific concept I had committed to memory; they were far more interested in the basic concepts that I had known since GCSE, and how I could apply them to problems I had never seen before.
It goes without saying that you should be well prepared to answer questions on all the topics you have covered at A-Level and that you have included on your SAQ, however do make sure to spend some time recapping some of the scientific concepts you learnt at GCSE and perhaps haven’t revised recently, particularly if you dropped one of the sciences for A-Level.
One of my interviewers asked me questions which were almost purely physics-based, much to my dismay – as I hadn’t even thought about Physics since GCSE!
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.
This information is often readily available on their website or in the interview schedule they will send you, so ensure you use this information to steer your preparation.
Some colleges have general interviews, whereas others may not have a specific general interview and will only have academic interviews. Some colleges may also ask you to read information beforehand and answer questions on it at interview.
Knowing and practising for the types of interviews you will face will ensure you feel calmer and more confident on the day.
This is the one piece of advice that I was given by just about everyone who knew I had a Cambridge interview; having gone through the experience myself, it could not be more important.
The Cambridge interviews are designed to push you academically until you cannot go further, in order to see how much you are capable of. It is also designed to mimic a supervision type discussion – Cambridge’s name for small group teaching sessions.
You are not supposed to get everything right straight away and you are expected to make educated guesses and go off track at some point.
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. Even if it’s wrong or sounds silly, it will be a lot better than sitting and twiddling your thumbs because you have no clue what to say and are too scared to ask a question.
As with any interview, practice is key. For me, it came to the point when my little sister was giving me mock interviews because it gave me the opportunity to answer questions out loud in front of someone.
Many schools offer practice interviews with teachers and/or ex-pupils, so make use of them! If your school does not, try to ask a teacher yourself for a mock interview. I would particularly recommend asking a Biology teacher to give you an academic interview, as that is the style of medical interview which is unique to Oxbridge.
If this is not possible, ask friends or family members for help or even give yourself mock interviews in the mirror. The point is practice regularly so that at interview, your answers come naturally to you.
My final tip is to enjoy it. The Cambridge interview experience, although plagued by horror stories of crazy professors, is actually one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had. Try to stay over at the college if possible and take in the beauty of the city whilst you are there. And remember, you’ve worked incredibly hard to get this far, so stay calm and enjoy the experience.
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