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How do I prepare for a Cambridge interview?

Oxbridge Application Specialists

Interview Format

You should thoroughly research the college that you are applying to, and the manner in which it is likely to conduct its interviews. Remember that a Cambridge interview is not a standard Medicine interview. It is not an MMI (multiple mini interview). Instead, you should expect multiple ‘traditional’ or ‘semi-structured’ panel interviews, with either one assessor or a pair of assessors.

Looking at some of the most famous colleges, you should expect either two interviews (Magdalene, King’s) or three (Gonville & Caius). 

Of the two interviews, you should expect one to be focused on medicine, and the other on core sciences. If there are three interviews, expect one on medicine, one on chemistry, and one on biology.

Don’t be surprised if the interviews don’t have this structure – you might get one interview on Medicine and biochemistry, and one on physics and chemistry, for example.

You may also find that at least one interview does tend more toward personality questions and motivation for Medicine. Whilst previously Cambridge would have almost entirely avoided this genre of questioning, they are now more interested in the person and their human side.

Expect each interview to last anywhere from 25 minutes to 40 minutes.

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You should ensure that you know your A Level science textbooks inside out, and make efforts to move beyond the core knowledge into more advanced knowledge that is outside the syllabus as well. It might be beneficial to look through past papers and textbooks from other courses, as some courses will better highlight some of the more ‘medical’ components than others. The Cambridge SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire) should permit interviewers to find out what topics you have covered at A Level before your interview, but in practice having an all-round knowledge of human biology topics covered across the different exam boards is likely to be very useful.

Read through your personal statement thoroughly and reflect on it, and make notes on any part that could be used at interview. In particular, ensure that you are knowledgeable on any scientific references or diseases that you mention, and that you feel confident having a discussion on them.

Remember that the BMAT and revision for the BMAT will serve you well for the interviews as well as the BMAT – revision for it covers both core science knowledge and problem solving ability, two realms that will be tested in the interview. The BMAT specification should therefore be thoroughly consulted, and you should work through as many practice questions as possible. BlackStone Tutors has an extensive BMAT question bank with worked solutions.

You should read medical journals and BBC health, as well as the science and medicine features in broadsheet newspapers like the Times, Telegraph or Guardian.

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General Tips

Practice with as many mock interviews as you can. Try to organise interviews with both people you know (friends, family, teachers) and others that you don’t. Find a teacher that you don’t know or a local doctor who can give you an additional interview. Replicating the pressure of being interviewed by someone you are unfamiliar with will serve you very well.

Doing an EPQ is very useful, and if you have done one you should reflect on it thoroughly. Interviewers will often be interested in discussing the topic with you, and at Cambridge are often more likely to be impressed by your work on an EPQ than your work experience.

Practice speaking your thought processes out loud. The Cambridge interviews are heavily built around problem solving, and showing an ability to think through things in a clear and logical way is therefore invaluable. You should also practice interacting with your interviewer, involving them in your thought process, and showing that you can be easily and quickly taught or led through complex problems.

You should research the tutors that are likely to be interviewing you as much as is possible. They are likely to have specific interests that you can find, and even if you can only show a basic knowledge of their specific interest, the effort that you have gone to is likely to leave a very positive impression.

Remember that your interviewer is likely to be a Cambridge supervisor. They are essentially looking for someone that they would be eager to meet with every week to tutor in a one-on-one setting. Therefore, show that you are enthusiastic and keen to learn about Medicine – as they are looking for their dream tutee in the same way that you are looking for your dream university.

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