Below is a selection of Medical School interview questions you may be asked in an Oxbridge Medicine interview.
The answer guides have been put together by medics who have successfully navigated an Oxbridge Medicine interview.
Remember, though, that an interview is about an individual, so there are no hard and fast rules. The answer guides are only examples and are not exhaustive. They should be used to stimulate your thinking — not repeated verbatim at your interview.
Oxbridge Medicine Interview: General Advice
The Oxbridge Medicine interview is very different to other medical school interviews. They won’t spend too much time asking you the questions that most other medical schools focus on (for example, ‘Why Oxford/Cambridge?’ or ‘Why Medicine?’). Instead, they are interested in how you think and how you approach problems, and especially how you cope with not knowing the answer immediately. Focus on logical thinking, justifying your thoughts and adapting your ideas based on the discussion in the Oxbridge Medicine interview.
Additionally, the Oxbridge course has a heavy focus on research and an overall aim to produce academic doctors. For that reason, they want people who are interested in learning about science beyond the minimal requirements required to be a doctor.
The best advice for an Oxbridge Medicine Interview is to talk aloud – even if you feel it seems stupid, say it! Never answer ‘I don’t know’ – it completely shuts down discussion and gives the impression that you can’t tackle a problem on the spot. The interview is primarily a time for the tutors interviewing you to see how you would cope with the Oxbridge tutorial system. The interviewers are often those who will be spending an hour or more with you in weekly small group tutorials, so they are looking for people who will engage with and add to the group discussion.
What do you think makes a good doctor?
This is a standard medical school question and one to prepare for any medical school interview. The GMC’s “Good Medical Practice” guidelines (available online) are a useful guide to read.
Say anything sensible and justifiable; for example, you may suggest a good doctor should keep up to date with new research. This is both because of the impact this may have on disease management in the distant future, as well as in day to day practice by helping to manage patients ideas/ expectations about what they have read about in the news pertaining to their own illness.
The difference in answering this question in an Oxbridge Medicine interview is that they will not want to hear a rehearsed response of three or four factors. They may push you to think about other things that you think are important.
Talk to me about an area of medicine or medical research that you find interesting.
Here is your opportunity to show that you have prepared for your Oxbridge Medicine interview. You may have mentioned something in your personal statement, in which case definitely read up on what you’ve mentioned.
You don’t need to know a great deal of detail about your topic of choice. You just need to have read something interesting that you’d be happy to discuss – this could be a research paper or a news article.
For example, you may have an interest in Alzheimer’s disease. A little bit of reading will tell you that there are lots of new ‘drugs’ being tested on animals that have shown some effect in improving memory. This might start a discussion on how one can model a disease like Alzheimer’s in animals or how good animals are as a model of human disease.
Be careful not to pick something too niche or too general- remember, at your Oxbridge Medicine Interview you will be talking to people who undertake research for a living and can see through it immediately if you start talking about something you don’t really understand.
Look at this genetic tree and tell me about it.
This kind of question is common in an Oxbridge Medicine interview because you should have some idea about how to read these from A-Level Biology.
Approaching these questions is really simple. First, state what you see. Is there a specific pattern (e.g. only boys or girls affected)? Have a look over common inheritance patterns- you should be familiar with AD and AR inheritance. Have a brief look at X-linked inheritance as this may be a new concept- but you really don’t have to understand it to do well on a question like this, all you need to do is talk aloud and be logical.
This is picking on something you will likely have some idea about from GCSE/A-Level. If a scientific concept like this is brought up in an Oxbridge Medicine interview, interviewers will often ask if you have learnt about it at school (different syllabuses cover slightly different topics).
Your answer may be that you know vaccines are parts of pathogens that have been made non-pathogenic (for example, won’t cause disease). They react with the immune system allowing immunity to form (by the production of specific antibodies). This means that future infection can be cleared by these antibodies. They may discuss this further using your scientific knowledge: for example, how is it that antibodies can be specific for certain pathogens?
They may delve deeper into the subject and explore other ideas. For example, some students are given a graph of a number of individuals vaccinated on the X axis and incidence of disease on the Y axis and are then asked to discuss it. The graph may show that not everybody needed to be vaccinated to result in zero cases of the disease. This may then resulted in a discussion of herd immunity and its importance, as well as considering who couldn’t be vaccinated (for example, newborn babies, those with very weak immune systems that cannot recognise the non-pathogenic antigen).
Don’t worry if you haven’t learned about vaccines at school. Be honest: it isn’t a problem if you haven’t been taught about it. The interviewers want to know how you approach the problem.
What’s the concentration of water?
The interviewers don’t mind that candidates will struggle with this kind of question in an Oxbridge Medicine interview. They want to discover the way you tackle questions you don’t know the answer to.
The best thing to do is to talk aloud about the things you do know, and they will then guide you toward the answer.
To answer this, you only need to use equations you will know from A-Level Science: mass = density x volume and moles = mass/Mr. Plugging in numbers you should know (density = 1kg/m3, Mr H20=18), you can work out molar concentration= ~55.
Do not jump to an answer straight away without thinking – many people often say ‘1’.
What are the ethical implications of boxing?
Ethical questions are common to all medical school interviews and will definitely feature somewhere in an Oxbridge Medicine interview.
The approach to any ethical question is the same: show you understand both sides. Usually it will be okay to detail both sides and leave it there – but if pushed, you can settle on either side as long as you justify yourself (for example, which factors are more important and why).
In this question one could explore a number of avenues. One idea to discuss may be the following: there is good evidence that boxing causes long term brain damage – this is on a spectrum, but at the worst end, this may result in the possibility of severe physical and mental handicap perhaps requiring specialist hospital input and long term residential care. Should the taxpayer have to pay for this? Boxing isn’t a job for most (unless you are a professional boxer), it is a hobby so could be avoided.
You may also discuss that many people choose other sports as a hobby, and will often have injuries from these. These injuries may be less severe and require less money to treat individuals but are overwhelmingly common (for example, ACL damage in football/rugby). Does that mean that any sporting related injury should have to be paid for by the individual? If so, this could mean people are less likely to play sport, perpetuating population obesity and equally impacting on NHS expenditure in the future.
This is just one avenue of thought – you could pick any idea and explore it further. The best approach is to discuss both sides of the argument and possible wider implications. Interviewers will often latch on to what you say and guide you down an avenue of discussion.
Don’t just state a one-sided argument – make sure you’re aware of both positive and negative implications of an ethical scenario.
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*According to an article in the Journal of Medical Regulation, A Census of Actively Licensed Physicians in the United States, 2016, vol. 103. no 2.