The Cambridge MedSoc Guide to Applying to Medical School

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The Cambridge MedSoc Guide to Applying to Medical School

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Note from the 2018/19 Access Officer Welcome to the Cambridge MedSoc Guide to Applying to Medicine! If you’re searching for answers to the questions on the right, then you’ve come to the right place. Studying medicine is incredibly rewarding, however the application process can feel daunting, especially if you’re from a school that has little experience of students applying to study the subject, or to university in general. Having been through the process myself, I have put together this guide with the aim of making information and guidance on the process accessible to everyone. Although this is a publication by Cambridge MedSoc and includes some Oxbridge specific advice, the guide is primarily about applying to UK medical schools in general. It is mainly aimed at those applying for undergraduate medicine, however much of the advice can be utilised by hopeful graduate medics too. Don’t worry about completing every suggestion: that’s simply not possible and remember you need the grades to meet any offer you do receive! Use the ideas in each section as pointers, but please remember to look after yourself during what can be a very tiring process. Also, don’t take this guide as gospel as following it doesn’t guarantee an offer, but the advice will be very helpful in your application preparation. Finally, good luck!

I want to become a doctor, but where do I start? preparation… How can I get the experience I need?

How can I make my application stand out?

How do I write a personal statement?

What are interviews like?

Which medical schools should I apply to?

MedSoc love, Catherine xx

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019




Qualities looked for in applicants


Work experience:




Additional ways to show enthusiasm 1.


Choosing where to apply


Personal statement: general


Personal statement: Oxbridge


Entrance exams


Interviews: general

20-26, 30

Interviews: Oxbridge


Summer schools


Other access initiatives


Widening participation schemes for undergraduate study 32 Financial information


Outcome of your application


References and useful links


Cambridge MedSoc Committee Members 2018/19

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Timeline for Applying Year 12 or equivalent: Across the year:

Volunteering, work experience

July – October:

Personal statement writing

July – September:


Year 13 or equivalent: September or late August: BMAT (first sitting) October 15th:

Application deadline


BMAT (second sitting)

November – February:


December – March:



Results/clearing Please note, the exact dates will change each year and will vary for different universities. The dates shown are a rough guide and you should check with individual universities for more accurate dates. Months are correct as of January 2019. © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Qualities looked for in applicants Right from the start, it’s important to get into the mindset of a future doctor in order to prove that YOU are what admissions staff are looking for. During the application process you should be looking to develop your communication, listening and leadership skills, as well as gaining an understanding of empathy and what it means to work in a team. Specific university medical schools might have their own list of attributes they look for (e.g. Birmingham Core values and attitudes): you could bear these in mind when preparing for interview. Additionally, the Principles that Guide the NHS and the NHS Values provide great general frameworks around which to view everything you do in preparation for applying. You should look out for scenarios in which the values were demonstrated during work experience and volunteering, and paraphrase them in your personal statement and interview, to show that you Here are some examples: understand what is required of a doctor working in the NHS. Working together for patients

Improving lives Respect and dignity

Commitment to quality of care


The NHS works across organisational boundaries and in partnership with other organisations in the interest of patients

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Work experience: Applying Arranging work experience can seem very difficult, especially if you and your relatives lack contacts working in healthcare. If you do have contacts, try to arrange something through them. However, if this isn’t the case fear not… here are some tips: • Different UK medical schools might differ in the various kinds of work experience they look for, so if you have an idea of where you want to apply (see page 10 for advice on how to choose), you can tailor your applications accordingly. • Speak to your school or sixth-form/college careers co-ordinator or a teacher – they might be able to help you with arranging placements. • Contact lots of people and be persistent yet patient. If you can, speak over the phone or face to face: emails can be easy to ignore. • Apply early! The earlier you do, the more likely you are to: o be able to chase up any contacts who don’t reply the first time o have a good choice of placements and varied experiences • Apply to as broad a range of work as possible as this gives great insight into the multidisciplinary team, which is useful to talk about in your personal statement and interviews. For example, as well as time with a doctor at a GP surgery and within a hospital, consider a placement shadowing a physiotherapist or pharmacist. • Contact your local medical school: they may have more direct routes to shadowing and have vast networks of contacts. • When contacting GP surgeries, be aware that your own practice may not allow you to shadow for confidentiality reasons, so contact others in your area. • If you can’t get a hospital placement don’t worry, lessons learned from experiences in other care settings and volunteering (see page 8) hold the same value. • If you are struggling to secure a placement, you could prepare some questions and arrange to speak to a doctor about their career, your school may be able to organise this.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Work experience: Attending Make sure to dress smartly and acknowledge the importance of patient confidentiality: you might have to sign an agreement on arrival, and some patients may not be comfortable with you being present. Enjoy the experience, ask lots of questions, and keep a daily diary noting what you’ve seen and learnt. The important thing is not how many placements you complete, but what you learn from each. Here are some things to look out for, that will be useful for personal statement writing and interviews: • Examples of when you have witnessed doctors and other healthcare professionals display the various NHS values • Evidence of different healthcare professionals working together within the multidisciplinary team • Interactions with patients that might have taught you about empathy • The importance of good communication between healthcare providers and patients, examples of how this was achieved and when it was vital. You might also think about any potential barriers to effective communication and how they were overcome • Times you observed doctors acting as team leaders, as well as times they acted as members of a team, listening to others • How health care providers reflect on the service they provide, and how they acknowledge feedback and criticism • Any qualities or skills you yourself used when interacting with patients, and your reflection on these • Doctors exemplifying their commitment to life-long learning • Note down any realities of a career in medicine that may be challenging, and reflect on how you would cope with these • REFLECT REFLECT REFLECT

If you are considering Oxbridge, you may also wish to make a note of the conditions you found most interesting… - Pick up leaflets and other information from clinics to serve as a reference for the future - Use these points of interest developed at work experience to guide future reading around the subject, ask the person you are shadowing to recommend what you should read © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Volunteering Long term volunteering (for at least 6 months) is a vital component of any application to study Medicine. If you have been unsuccessful in arranging work experience, don’t be deterred from applying: you can learn and reflect on the same things listed on the previous page whilst volunteering. In particular, care homes and hospices can give you good insight into clinical environments. However, even if you have completed weeks of work experience, you still need to volunteer. Keeping a diary is again useful here. Medical schools are more likely to view applicants who have volunteered over a long period as committed: a necessity for those pursuing a career that requires completion of a 5/6-year degree as well as life-long learning. Volunteering also helps you develop your own personal skills (which medical schools will look for and ask about at interview), such as communication and empathy, as well as the ability to listen, lead a team or act as a valuable team player. Also, long-term volunteering allows you to talk to and build rapport with patients you see on a regular basis, which is a valuable experience to talk about in interviews and your personal statement. If you know where you are applying, check if individual medial schools have specific volunteering requirements.

Guides, Brownies, Rainbows, Beavers, Cubs or Scouts

St Johns Ambulance Charity shops

Care Homes, Hospices Hospital ward work e.g. tea round, feeding patients

Clubs for younger students at school, mentoring

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Additional ways to show enthusiasm In order for your application to stand out to those assessing it, you may want to consider some of the below suggestions to further your knowledge, demonstrate commitment and showcase just how enthusiastic about studying medicine you are! Attend a summer school

Write an EPQ/individual project

Apply and attend a free Medicine summer school, or if applying to Oxbridge you may wish to attend a Chemistry and/or Biology one.

An EPQ is not necessary, however I would recommend taking this opportunity if your school does offer it. A medicine or even ethics related EPQ demonstrates your enthusiasm to study the subject in your own time, which will really impress admissions staff. It can be an efficient way to do extra reading or learn more about ethics ahead of interview, whilst gaining a qualification.

As well as national schemes, your local medical school may run one as part of their outreach programme. Summer school programmes can include a taster of the subjects studied at medical school, ethics workshops, admissions advice and the invaluable opportunity to ask current students questions. Take notes during the course, as these will be a useful reference at later stages. Afterwards do further reading around subjects you found interesting. See page 31 for a list of some of the summer schools on offer.

Start a Medical Society at school Gather all the students in your year who are applying for medicine and set up a society. Meet weekly to discuss anything you have read, discuss ethical dilemmas doctors face, practice interviewing each other (including role play), and even debate the sugar tax. Assigning articles for members to read and later summarise to the group decreases work load dramatically and enables you to practise talking about the subjects you will be asked about at interview.

However, if you school does not offer this, or you decide not to write one, an alternative is to research your own short project and present it to your teachers and other pupils, for example on the subject of a recent medical discovery.

Keep a Medicine Blog Use a free website to write about everything you have read, heard about or discussed related to medicine and healthcare. Even better than just summarising, reflect on the content and discuss what it has led you to think about and read next. Sources may be BBC Health articles, the Student BMJ, the New Scientist, as well as radio or television programmes. Not only is this a fantastic way to showcase your enthusiasm; it will help you keep a clear set of notes for anything you read, which you will be very grateful for when it comes to interviews and writing your personal statement.

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Choosing which Universities to apply to An excellent resource when deciding which medical schools to apply to is: (Correct for 2019 entry, check website in future for later entry). For each medical school, this publication lists details of course requirements (grades, entrance exams, personal statement), number of applicants per interview and per place, interview method and work experience requirement. They also detail information relating to widening participation: make sure to look at this as some courses give out offers with lower grade requirements if you fulfil certain criteria (see page 32). It includes information for all pathways into Medicine: standard entry, graduate entry, medicine with a preliminary/foundation year and medicine with a gateway year. Use this information to first rule out any courses you may not have the correct grade and subject requirements for. To narrow down your options to the 4 choices permitted on UCAS, for each medical school you may want to consider: Type of course Weightings Open Day impression

Access schemes (See page 32)

Extracurricular opportunities

Source: Access2Medicine Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Type of course While these that get the (e.g. there courses lectures, they thecan use endvary to seminars, goalquite is thebed-side asame lot. Similar forteaching) all medical teaching butschools, the methods emphasis thewill style placed be of used teaching onforeach all of of Whilst the end goal is the same for all medical schools, the style of teaching that they use to get there can vary quite considerably. Similar teaching methods will be used for all the courses (e.g. lectures, seminars, bed-side teaching), but the emphasis placed on each of these different styles and the timing of them in the course will vary. In general, there are four main types of course: - Traditional - Problem-based learning (PBL) - Integrated - Case-based learning (CBL) The best place to find out which method a medical school uses is its website or prospectus. Deciding which style of course is for you may seem like a daunting task, especially when it can be hard to visualise what studying at University will be like. However, one way of determining which might suit you best is to read the following descriptions of each, whilst at the same time considering any school lessons you’ve had which have followed a similar format, thinking about which style you have enjoyed most. Traditional Purely science-based lectures will make up the bulk of your first 2/3 years of study. Instead of focusing on individual cases, you will mainly be learning about the scientific theory of medicine, taught in distinct scientific fields such as Physiology, Biochemistry and Anatomy. For the rest of your course you will learn how to apply this knowledge in clinical settings, including ward rounds and GP placements. There may still be some lectures and tutorials at this stage, but they will be complementary to your clinical learning. A traditional course gives you a strong grounding in the sciences that underpin medical practice. If you like learning about scientific facts, then you might like a traditional course.

Integrated Most universities now use this method, in which scientific knowledge is delivered alongside clinical training, giving the opportunity for early clinical exposure whilst still offering the support structure of lectures and seminars. Whilst traditional courses teach through distinct disciplines, integrated learning covers material by looking at body systems or topics. For example, when learning about the digestive system, you would learn all the physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, clinical skills etc. relevant to that system. Integrated courses may involve a fair amount of PBL or none at all. Integrated courses are often seen as a compromise for those who aren’t sure about either problem-based learning (PBL) or traditional courses.

Take the quiz at https://www.the quizzes/would-ibe-better-suitedintegratedtraditional-pblcourse-quiz/ to give you an indication

PBL and CBL PBL: In this case-by-case, self-directed problem-solving course, you will have supplementary lectures, but these will not be the focus of your studies. In small groups, you are presented with a clinical case/problem, and need to decide what you’ll need to learn in order to solve the problem at hand. You then go away and gather all of the information you need, usually in the form of private study and reading. You later present your findings to your group and teacher, comparing notes. CBL: shares the common principals of PBL, but instead focuses on learning within a clinical setting. Clinical cases stimulate interest in a specific area of the curriculum, and there is a concluding session once all the activities have been carried out.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Other aspects to consider - Other elements of the teaching (consider your preference for each): o Is there an option to intercalate if you want to? Is this compulsory or competitive? Will you get a BSc out of it? o Is the course based around systems, topics or disciplines? o How much patient contact is involved and how early on? o How is anatomy taught? Dry, prosection or dissection? o Do they offer an opportunity to do a PhD or study abroad? - What weighting is given to each of the elements of the application? o Watch out for entrance exam cut off scores o Think about what aspect of your application is particularly strong, if you are stuck between two universities you think you’d enjoy equally, you might want to go for the one you think you have a better chance of getting into. o That being said, it’s good to be realistic but don’t apply to medical schools solely due to the weightings they use and their application : offer ratios. Apply to medical schools which offer the type of course you want to study, and most importantly where you think you will be happy. - Student experience o The best way to find out what its like to be a student at a particular University is to attend an open day: see how you feel there, what the facilities are like and take the opportunity to speak to current students! Note that most require you to book beforehand (free) o Research if there are societies that appeal to you, are there MedSoc specific e.g. sports teams which train around your timetable? Remember that a large part of time will be spent outside your course! o Do your teachers know any past pupils who went there to contact? Note: see page 32 about access schemes if you are struggling to afford travel to open days. © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Writing a personal statement

Note: the below table will also be invaluable when it comes to interview preparation!

Beginning to write your personal statement can at first seem like an impossible task, but hopefully these tips will help you on your way! I wouldn’t recommend trying to start actually writing it straight away: creating a plan is an easier way of ensuring you’re covering what they want to see. 1) First, it is a good idea to find out, on the course websites, if the medical schools you are applying look for anything specific in personal statements. However, due to recommendations by the GMC there is almost universally adopted selection criteria, and when constructing your personal statement, it is vital that you base everything (from work experience to extra-curricular activities) around these. Admissions staff are not looking for a list of what you’ve done, but instead a reflection of what you’ve learnt. Under each of the categories in the table below, fill in specific examples of what you have witnessed at work experience and volunteering, and what you have done yourself (such as a particular extra-curricular role), which involves that particular trait. By doing this you will make sure that right from the start of the writing process you are demonstrating that through your experiences you have come to realise the importance of these traits in a doctor, and additionally that you possess these abilities yourself. If you have looked out for these things during your experiences as previously suggested, looking back at your diary should make this task fairly easy! Empathy Communication Team work

Problem solving

Understanding of a career in medicine (Realities)

Leadership Ethical awareness

Capacity for sustained and intense work

Attitudes Motivation Intellectual Individual curiosity strengths e.g. honesty, integrity

(Awareness e.g. of current sporting scientific and interests medical affairs)

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

- If you are unsure what any of these words mean, research their definitions: it is vital you understand the qualities of a doctor in order to be considered for a place. Make a note of these definitions now, for future revision before potential interviews. - Alongside these traits, it’s a good idea to align some of the examples you have included in your table with the principles and values of the NHS. Your appreciation of these values must be clear in your personal statement (and at interview), a task which should again be fairly easy if you have been thinking in terms of them from the start of the process, as advised at the beginning of the guide. - Of course, you won’t be able to fit all this into the limit (4000 characters), but you should cover as much of it as possible by being succinct when it comes to writing your personal statement.

2) Structure You need to make sure you have a clear and logical framework, as this is one way of displaying that you possess good communication skills, one of the key selection criteria to medical school. This is a matter of personal preference, and the below structure is only a guide, you may find that your writing flows better within a different framework.

Why I want to be a doctor (motivation) Work experience (examples and reflection) Volunteering (examples and reflection) Wider Reading and study (examples) Extracurricular (demonstrate your suitability) Conclusion (motivation)

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Why I want to be a doctor This first section of your personal statement should give your writing context and focus on your motivation to arrange work experience and find out more about a career as a doctor. It can be hard to write, and you may want to start with another section first, for example work experience or volunteering, as you have already reflected on experiences and what they taught you. However, when you do come to write this part, it’s important to consider how the reasons you wish to study medicine come across to admissions tutors. Avoid generic reasons: admissions tutors go through thousands of personal statements and originality will stand out. Also avoid personal experiences such as illness in your family, as tutors may be cautious to grant a place on the basis of such motivation. You may find it easier to write this section last, as a reason that fits in well with the rest of your personal statement may become apparent during the writing process. Work experience This section should flow well from the above, as you are continuing by saying that for the reasons you have mentioned, you were keen to find out more about a career in medicine, and so arranged work experience. Pick out specific examples of what you witnessed during work experience that made you realise the importance of particular qualities in a doctor. If you have filled in the table, it should be easy to construct sentences by linking the example you witnessed to the quality and perhaps an NHS value. To avoid exceeding the character limit, think about if one specific example could be used to demonstrate more than one quality of a doctor, or NHS value. It is also a good idea, after an example and the reflection, to link to a new placement by saying “I further appreciated the importance of this quality when I…” (next example). This translation across experiences shows a deeper level of understanding. Although most applicants will be aware of including the selection criteria in this paragraph, you can show originality through your specific example, and showcase your own empathy through reflecting on the needs of that particular patient in that particular circumstance. Although I am encouraging the use particular buzzwords to show the admissions tutors that you are thinking like a future doctor, you need to avoid sounding robotic and generic. Make sure that your examples sound personal to your own experience, and make sure that they flow easily onto your reflection. © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Volunteering Similarly, talk about your time volunteering in relation to what you have learnt, such as the importance of particular traits, but in this paragraph you can shift the focus onto how you yourself demonstrated them. Even better, you could lead on from work experience by explaining how you reflected on what you saw here and implemented these lessons into interactions at volunteering. However, it is important to substantiate every claim you make, so follow this through with specific examples. Additionally, avoid saying that your experience makes you “like a doctor”, instead, emphasise that the experience helped you develop that particular trait. How you describe volunteering experiences helping vulnerable individuals, even if just by listening to them, is an excellent way to display your empathetic nature. Include the time frame you have been volunteering for to demonstrate commitment (if you have volunteered for at least 6 months). If you have managed to arrange a lot of work experience you should also include the number of days. However, do not lie or exaggerate the time you have spent doing something, many medical schools will ask you to provide evidence if they select you for interview. Attributes that admissions staff look for in applicants include honesty and integrity, so stick to the truth. Wider reading and study: demonstrate your enthusiasm! Use this paragraph to prove how you stay up to date with recent medical and scientific advancements, as well as healthcare related news. Here you can mention anything you’ve included in the intellectual curiosity part of the table, such as the Student BMJ and BBC Health. If you have been keeping a blog, have written an EPQ or attended a summer school, now is the chance to drop that in and mention something interesting about them. Additionally, you can mention a relevant book or two you have read. To demonstrate that you didn’t forget about your work experience as soon as it was over, link a placement to further reading. For example, work experience on a particular ward might have led you to read a book about e.g. gene editing and how this could be applied to the future treatment of the diseases you saw. Alternatively, show awareness of the ethical dilemma’s doctors face by linking an experience to finding out more about medical ethics.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Extracurricular In this section you should aim to get across two things: not only are you suitable for medicine, but you are a well-rounded candidate too. A career in healthcare is highly social, so use activities to demonstrate that you are already social, proactive and that you have a range of strengths. Additionally, being a doctor can be very stressful, so demonstrate that you have ways of relaxing and managing this, as well as organising your time effectively. As always, avoid just listing extra-curricular activities. Instead, use them to display your strengths, for example leadership. You may be able to save characters by combining an interest with volunteering, for example activities such as crafts you run at a Brownies group can be used to demonstrate your love of art. Conclusion This is your final opportunity to persuade the admissions staff assessing your personal statement that you are the right candidate to study medicine and that you will be a great doctor, so make it count! Due to the word limit this section might only be one sentence long: briefly sum up your aspects of your personality, and even go as far as telling them that these factors mean you will make a great future doctor.

Examples: There are many examples of personal statements on the internet, and additionally your teachers or careers advisors at school or college may give you some examples from past pupils to look at. Whilst these are helpful, Universities run personal statements through plagiarism software, meaning that if you copy anything you could be in big trouble, so don’t be tempted. Instead, use examples as sources of inspiration and to give you an idea of the structure and how succinct you need to be. You may also find it helpful to read the views of successful applicants on writing a good personal statement at, as well as those held by widening participation applicants:

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Further tips: o It may be possible to outline why a certain type of medicine course you’re apply for would suit you in your personal statement. For example, if you are applying to PBL courses place emphasis in working in groups and time management and give evidence towards these areas. Don’t tailor your personal statement towards just one University’s requirements though, you may need to strike a balance to appeal to all of your choices. o View your personal statement as a persuasive piece of writing, but don’t come across as if you are bragging. o It is impossible to include evidence that you realise the importance of all of the skills of a good doctor, and display these yourself, within the word limit, so think about which experiences are most suitable and are conducive to a piece of writing that flows more than others. For example, including a placement that led to further reading saves introducing a further experience. o Be aware that you will have to spend a long time cutting down and re-drafting multiple times. o Give your personal statement to a few teachers to read, or even current medical students if you know any. It is important to understand how others view your personal statement, however when receiving advice be aware that different individuals may give contrasting feedback, and ultimately how you edit it is up to you. Don’t be afraid to disagree with them if you feel strongly about a particular sentence. The personal statement is a reflection of you, and the more individual it is to your experiences the better. o If you think you have a unique hobby or interest, share it, you are more likely to stand out! o Ensure that you have perfect grammar, a clear flowing structure, and a professional yet friendly writing style. You could even ask an English teacher to give it a read through to help with this. o Overall be honest, be yourself, and use the opportunity to put into words how much you want to study medicine and provide support that you are up to this demanding task. o Remember to submit the final version with your completed UCAS application by the deadline of 15th October!

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Personal statements and Oxbridge If you have chosen Oxford or Cambridge as one of your four options, you might be wondering how to tailor your personal statement to make it more academic. However, it is very important to remember that you are also applying to three other medical schools, who are much more interested in seeing evidence of motivation, work experience, voluntary and extra-curricular activities, and your reflection on these, than academic references. Therefore, you need to focus on meeting these requirements and appealing to the majority of medical schools. Oxbridge admissions tutors are very aware of this and understand. That being said, you may want to write a sentence or two more in the wider reading and study section than you would otherwise and give these a stronger scientific focus. In this short space, they want to see passion for the subject. Tutors here want to teach students who genuinely enjoy the subject and will have discussions with them. Show them that is you! This can be displayed through further reading, but with a more scientific grounding whilst still having a medical application. The New Scientist, as well as countless books, can be used to showcase your love for the scientific basis of medicine.

It is particularly important to convey an impression of engagement and intellectual curiosity when talking about any experience or placement. Link something you saw, such as a procedure or disease, to an article or book this stimulated you to read.

Mention any research you have done yourself such as an EPQ or mini project, any science residentials or lectures you have attended, what about these you found most interesting and how you followed up this new-found interest

Read the verdict on a personal statement submitted to Oxford here: Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Entrance Exams For information regarding entrance exams, please refer to the separate Cambridge ClinSoc and MedSoc Guide to Entrance Exams, found at e-f8_6NZCN2x_C29GmcvsFW1iDM-22P9mauySF19VLcf-ees2k

Interviews: Preparing Hopefully all your commitment and hard work will pay off and you will be called to one or more interviews: congratulations for reaching this stage! Interviews are generally held between November and February. They can be nerve wracking, however with some general and medical-school-specific preparation under your belt this doesn’t need to be the case. Interview Formats There are 3 distinct categories of medical school interview: Traditional, MMI and Oxbridge (for Oxbridge advice see page 27). The few differences between traditional and MMI interviews are listed below, however you should prepare for both in mostly the same way. Traditional More straight/general questions

MMI Role play more likely More than one opportunity to make a good impression

Just you and a panel Role play less likely

Move through a circuit of stations, answering questions to different interviewers under a certain time limit

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Medical school specific interview prep For each medical school you have been called to interview at, first of all make a to-do list of preparation to complete. Please remember that as with everything included in this guide, you don’t have to do everything! Below are some ideas of what you should find out about the specific medical school, in order to demonstrate that you have done your research and really want to study at that particular university. This information can be found on their course website or prospectus. Which hospitals clinical teaching is conducted in Why you want to study there in particular

Details about the course such as type of teaching, how anatomy is taught, how much patient contact, systems-based teaching or otherwise?

To do list Any societies at the University that particularly interest you An example of recent research they have conducted, and latest news on their website

Format of the interview including any details about stations if MMI, recap things they look for at these/in applicants

General Interview Prep There is a seemingly infinite amount of interview preparation you could do; however, you don’t want to exhaust yourself before the day so make sure rest is a priority. -




Set BBC Health as your computer homepage and read the top stories everyday so that you are up to date The Medic Portal have a great section on NHS Hot Topics: familiarise yourself with these Re-read notes you’ve made from anything you’ve read, watched and discussed, which you may have recorded on a blog Don’t feel like you need to know every article in detail: pick the few you find most interesting and make sure you know these to the extent that you could talk about them for a few minutes © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

To stand out, obtain a basic understanding of:

Career structure after medical school


CCGs Working in the NHS or abroad

European Working Time Directive

The 4 pillars of ethics

Knowledge of…


Less Than Full Time Training

Basic values for pulse, respiratory rate, blood pressure, O2 stats, temperature etc.

Consent and when it can be over-ridden


Tomorrow’s Doctors: a must-read!

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Interviews: Practicing Practicing interviews is a great way to make sure that you feel more at ease going into any medical school interviews you do get… Check with your local medical school if they are hosting any practice sessions, or ask your school to invite some doctors in to help. In particular, get someone who doesn’t know you and all the great things you’ve done to act as the interviewer, for example a teacher who has never taught you at school, as this experience is more representative of the real thing: having to sell yourself as a great candidate to a stranger. You could provide a set of questions and ask them to pick randomly from these. However, it is important that you don’t over practice your answers: sounding rehearsed and robotic will not come across well. To prevent this, when thinking about how you would answer the standard questions, make a bullet point list of relevant points instead of writing sentences. For example, if the answer is “When have you shown leadership?”, only briefly list roles or experiences in which you have displayed this skill. This way you will remember the main points, whilst saying these in a way that sounds fresh and like you’ve responded to being put on the spot very well. Broad Interview Question Topics In addition to the points suggested to stand out, practice the main topics likely to come up: you will find the table you constructed when planning your personal statement (see page 13) very helpful here! Background and motivation for medicine



Knowledge of the medical school and teaching methods Depth and breadth of interest Work experience Team work Personal insight

Understanding of the role of medicine in society

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Explanations of what each of these topics means, as well as examples of interview questions falling under these categories, are listed below. However, more extensive lists can be found online, for example:

Background and motivation for medicine Questions based on why it is you want to study medicine: - Why do you want to be a doctor, rather than another profession that is caring or intellectually challenging? - What do you want to achieve in medicine?

Knowledge of the medical school and teaching methods Questions based on what you know about the medical schools teaching, and why you want to study medicine there: - What interested you in the course here? - Are you aware of the main method of teaching at this medical school?

Depth and breadth of interest Questions covering your interest in medicine and how you have demonstrated this: - Tell us about a significant medical story in the media at the moment. - Do you read any medical publications?

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Understanding of the role of medicine in society This may cover NHS hot topics and your general understanding of healthcare: - What do you understand by the term ‘holistic medicine’, and does it fall within the remit of the NHS? - How should the health service achieve a balance between promoting good health, and treating illness?

Work experience Questions covering what you have learnt from your work experience: - Think of a difficult situation you dealt with at work experience, what did you learn from it? - Can you think of a situation in which good communication saved the day, and tell me why?

Empathy Questions testing your understanding of empathy, and how you’ve demonstrated it: - What does empathy mean to you? How does it differ from sympathy? - Give an example of how you have helped a friend in a difficult situation, what issues did they face and how did you help them?

Team work Covers the importance of team work and when you have demonstrated this trait: - Tell me about a team situation you have experienced, what did you learn about successful team-working? - Do teams need leaders?

Further tip: MMI interviews often feature a role play station, where you may be required to showcase empathy and good communication. © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Personal insight Questions covering your insights about yourself and suitability for medicine: - Medical training is long and can be stressful, what makes you think you’ll stick to it? - How have you developed your communication skills?

Ethics Challenging questions testing understanding of ethics in medical decision making: - Do you think doctors should ever go on strike? - A man refuses treatment for a potentially life-threatening illness, what are the ethical issues involved?

Further advice on Ethical questions: • Learn what the 4 pillars/principles of medical ethics mean, and practise applying them to clinical ethical challenges o Autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice. • Gain an understanding of informed consent. Think about how, as a doctor, your interaction with a patient might achieve this, as well as about situations in which it might not be possible. • Think about common controversies in medicine, and how the prinicples of medical ethics and informed consent can be applied to help solve them -

Abortion - Physician-assisted suicide Confidentality - Healthcare rationing Stem cell and genetic research - Medical mistakes Relief of suffering at the end of life Conflicts of interest e.g. provider relationships with drug companies • To review cases of medical ethics visit © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Interviews: Oxbridge Although you should prepare answers to standard questions such as “why medicine?” and “why Oxford/Cambridge?”, Oxbridge medical interviews are all about taking your core science and challenging you to think beyond it. In no way is this advice “inside knowledge”: every college is different and there’s no real way to prepare. However, these preparation ideas might be useful:

Research and Revision • Make sure you know your GCSE and A-Level/IB studies well, such as but by no means limited to: o roles of different cell organelles, antibodies and immunity, haemoglobin, DNA, cell division, mutations, Fick’s Law, basic structures of organs such as the lungs. • Look ahead to textbook chapters relating to the remainder of your ALevel textbooks and try to gain a basic understanding of these subjects, such as gene expression. • You may wish to form a superficial understanding of more clinical topics such as cardiology, and areas of study at medical school such as physiology and pathology. For example, for cardiology you might research what an ECG looks like, or for pathology what a thrombus or tumour looks like underneath the microscope. • You could look up definitions of common health problems e.g. thrombosis. • Look up research too, Cambridge’s clinical school have helpfully grouped research into categories e.g. stem cells and regenerative medicine. You could focus on one particular area you are interested in and write bullet point notes on one or two pieces of research within this category.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

• When you are offered an interview, you will probably be told the names of your interviewers. Look them up and find out what field they are particularly interested in e.g. diabetes, transplantation. You may want to use this information to briefly research diseases of the organ they are interested in and risk factors for these, as well as recent advances/setbacks in their field. You could use their interests as a guide for a category to use for the previous point about research, however, be careful as they will know the topic in a lot more detail than you do. • Make sure you know any extra reading you have mentioned in your personal statement well in case you are quizzed about it.

Interview tips and things to practise As with interviews for other medical schools, practising interviews is an invaluable way to familiarise yourself with being put on the spot, and will help increase your confidence going in to the real thing. Ask a science teacher at school/college to interview you, as they know your current level of knowledge and how to challenge you beyond this.

• Practise speaking your thoughts out loud. This is so important: Oxbridge interviewers want to see how you think logically through problems and arrive at an answer, as this tells them how you would cope with the Oxbridge tutorial/supervision system. Talk through your thoughts slowly that you can articulate them well – clarity is proof of a logical mind. Additionally, if the interviewers know your thought process and you get something wrong, they can give you clues to get you back on track: remember that they want to see what you can do, and for you to succeed!

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

• Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer. They will ask you hard questions, and the interviewers primarily want to see how you cope with not knowing an answer immediately and how you work through the problem. However, don’t be afraid to propose an answer even if you are unsure, this again shows them you are capable of thinking about the problem and actively engaging with it. • Answer the question they ask, not one you want to hear. As great as it is to tell them about extra reading you have done, only do so if it is definitely relevant. The interviewers are more interested in seeing how much new knowledge you can take on, and how you apply it. • Don’t be afraid to backtrack. If you realise you have made a mistake and are not getting any closer to a sensible answer, don’t be stubborn: reconsider how you are thinking about the question. Show the interviewers that you are adaptable and resilient. Be receptive and open to learning from them, as often they are trying to help. • Consider taking a pen and piece of paper in with you. It might be helpful to jot down important information you are given, or draw things out such as relevant graphs, to help visualise the problem. • Try and keep calm. Relaxing and not panicking will help you think logically and catch all clues/information given to you. Remember that you can ask for a few seconds to think after you are asked a question: use this time to gather your thoughts. Before the interview, remember that you should be having to do less preparation than for your other medical school interviews, due to the unpredictable nature of an Oxbridge interview. • SHOW ENTHUSIASM! You should find the interview fun. Oxbridge medicine courses are heavily science based, so if applying you need to be passionate about your subject: show them you are! If you find something discussed in the interview particularly interesting, tell them this, and if there’s chance to ask a further question about something related to the question, do so. This engagement will show them that you would be fun to teach! © Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Practise Questions Which organ do you think it would be easiest to transplant? Why? Which would be the most difficult? Why? How could we slow down the rate of atherosclerosis? How could we prevent stents used in operations from being rejected by the body?

All Interviews: General tips for the day Read through your personal statement again, make sure you can talk about everything mentioned in sufficient detail. Reread any instructions for the day that the medical school has given you. For example, check if you need to bring any documents such as your passport: don’t forget it if you do! Greet interviewers with a strong handshake if the opportunity presents and maintain good eye contact throughout the interview/MMI station. Be polite yet confident and enthusiastic! The interviewers want to offer places to students they would enjoy teaching, so show interest and ask questions if they ask if you have any. It is a good idea to think of some generic questions you could ask beforehand. Try not to pay attention to what other interviewees say about the preparation they’ve done, or how the interview went afterwards. Remember that you are a strong candidate, remain calm and focus on selling yourself to your interviewer. Don’t overthink your performance afterwards or compare yourself to others.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Summer schools As mentioned on page 8, attending a summer school is a great way to show how enthusiastic you are to study medicine. Below are a list of a few examples that you could apply to. Note, most of these are free for everyone, however the ones which aren’t may offer bursaries for those in need of them. Note: even if you aren’t successful in your application to their summer school, you may be selected to attend one of their Experience Cambridge medicine days.

Eton College Universities Summer School: Chemistry and Biology course

Sutton Trust Summer Schools: Medicine course

UNIQ: Medical science courses

Check whether your local medical school hosts a summer school or subject day, for example… University of Leeds: Medicine Summer School University of London: A Taste of Medical School course Keele University: … and many more!

Medicine Summer School

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Other Access Initatives o The Social Mobility Foundation Their Aspiring Professionals Programme opens up professions, such as that of a doctor, for those who have the ability to join them in future but might not have the means or networks to get there. They provide students with insight into professions, as well as the skills needed to achieve their aspirations through a mentoring scheme, career workshops, University application support, and they run a Medicine residential. They also organise visits to Universities and help with transport costs, however to apply you need to fulfill certain criteria. For more information see

Widening Participation Schemes for Undergraduate Study See for details of each University’s Medicine course, including their widening participation schemes. Some medical schools give out offers with lower grade requirements to students fulfilling certain criteria, so make sure to check these out before applying. For example, the Birmingham A2B scheme is open to students fulfilling certain criteria from the West Midlands, and provides successful applicants with an alternative offer of ABB rather than the standard A*AA, as well as providing support during the application process such as interview practice. Many other medical schools offer similar programmes of support, such as Keele, Leeds and UCL.

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Cost of Study and Financial Information

Information about tuition fee and maintenance (living cost) loans can be found at: Student Finance England: Student Awards Agency Scotland: Student Finance Wales: Student Finance Northern Ireland:

Useful calculators can provide you with an estimate of how much you are likely to receive, for example

A quick search of thesearch name of applyingyou to followed by to Additionally, a quick of the the University name of theyou Univeristy are applying “financial provide information on about followed bysupport” “financialshould support” will you give with you information additional bursaries (money you don’t have to repay) you are entitled to based on your household income. Furthermore, if applying to Oxford or Cambridge, the College you are applying to may offer additional bursaries to that provided by the University. Please don’t worry about how you will fund your studies if you are from a low income household: Universities provide great support to ensure you can focus on your course.

© Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

Outcome of your application If you receive an offer to one or more of the medical schools you applied to, congratulatiosn! Remember to stay focused on achieveing your grades in order to meet your offer, and good luck for the future! However, if you find yourself without any offers, but you are still keen to pursue a career in medicine, do not give up! Medicine is a highly competitive course to get into and it is not uncommon for students to not receive any offers. There are still options available to you at this point. If you do get a rejection, try to find out why. Feedback is useful in helping you strengthen your application for the following year. Some universities look more favourably upon your application if you reapply after rejection, because this shows commitment to medicine. Not all univerisities feel this way though, so it is always worth checking on their webiste or asking the admissions staff. Take a gap year and use this time to strenghten your application as much as possible, rather than sitting back and doing nothing. Examples of what you could do are: o Get a job. o Do voluntary work at a care home/shop/charity. o Get more work experience in GPs and hospitals: it is often easier to get once you are 18. o Work as a Health Care Assistant (HCA). o Continue to explore the science of medicine as well as its social impact by reading more books and journals, and by watching videos and listening to radio shows. When reapplying, create a new personal statement and prepare for interviews by incorpoating all the new experiences you have had.

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

References and Useful Links o NHS values: o Medicine Courses and details: o Map of UK medical schools: o Choosing a course teaching style quiz: o Personal statement advice: o Cambridge MedSoc and ClinSoc Entrance Exam Guide: 2ge-f8_6NZCN2x_C29GmcvsFW1iDM-22P9mauySF19VLcf-ees2k o Interview questions to practice: o Ethical scenarios: o Widening Participation Programme – The Social Mobility Foundation: o The Medic Portal:

Š Catherine Graham, Cambridge MedSoc Access Officer 2018-19, March 2019

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