Is Oxford easier than Cambridge?

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At some point, any potential Oxbridge applicant must make a decision between the two universities. For those applying for Medicine, the route in is even tougher than it is for most, with the course being highly competitive at both universities. This article sets out some of the admissions process for both universities, along with an overview of admissions statistics, in order to provide an answer as to which university is ‘easier’ to gain entry to for Medicine.

Firstly, How easy is it to get into Cambridge for Medicine?

Medicine is the third most oversubscribed course at Cambridge, behind only Engineering and Natural Sciences. You must therefore be aware that receiving an offer will be difficult for even the most promising applicant – even if an initial look at the admissions statistics might make the process seem easier than that of Oxford.

In 2019, across the entire University of Cambridge, there were 1584 applications for Medicine. From these 1584 applicants, 323 would receive an offer. These 323 offers led to 284 places being taken up. The interesting aspect of applying to Cambridge versus applying to Oxford is that Cambridge will grant around 80% of its applicants an interview.

However, the applicant pool is almost universally of a very high calibre. BMAT scores are above average, with 5.5 for section 1, 6.1 for section 2 and 3.5 for section 3, and two thirds of students predicted 3A*s at A Level.

The average applicant has 7A*s at GCSE, and the average recipient of an offer will have 9A*s.

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The process at Cambridge will depend on the college, but expect two interviews normally, or three interviews at certain colleges. The interviews are likely to be structured as one ‘Medicine & Personal Qualities’ orientated interview, and another interview focusing on either Biology or Chemistry (or a combination thereof). You might also have one Medicine & Personal Qualities interview, one Chemistry, and one Biology. Having one interview for each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics is not unheard of.

Cambridge might be a good bet for those not as confident in their written BMAT, but very confident in their ability at interview. That’s because Cambridge does not use a BMAT cutoff score, and will take a variety of factors into account when inviting students to interview – and if your GCSEs and personal statement are strong, you stand a good chance of being invited to interview to show your knowledge in person.

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What about applying to Oxford for Medicine?

Oxford receives a somewhat greater number of applicants than Cambridge, having received 2054 in 2020. This total of 2054 was reduced to 1851 due to various students being ineligible for the course. Looking further at the 1851, only 23% would go on to be shortlisted initially, with a further 41 added after a manual review. That means a far lower proportion of Oxford applicants are invited to interview than Cambridge applicants – around 425 are invited in total.

In 2020, a total of 157 offers were made. That means a success rate for male applicants of just over 9%, and 8% for female applicants. The number of GCSEs held at A* was higher for Oxford offer holders than Cambridge’s offer holders, with 10.7 A*s at Oxford vs Cambridge’s 9 A*s. Additionally, 96% of all GCSEs grades attained by those with Oxford offers were A*s.

Oxford’s ranking process for shortlisting prior to interview involves a normalised BMAT score added to a contextualised GCSE score – similar to Cambridge’s, although perhaps indicating that those who are very confident in their BMAT and less confident in their interview itself might be better applying to Oxford than Cambridge.

Oxford applicants will be seen at both the college that they choose, and one other college that is randomly assigned to them.

In Conclusion, is Oxford Easier than Cambridge for Medicine?

The answer here is that Oxford is certainly not easier than Cambridge for Medicine, having both a somewhat higher number of applicants and a higher-scoring average offer holder. However, both universities expect such a high level of applicant – and the applicants will meet this expectation – that you should not base any decision on the ‘ease’ of applying to the university, and should instead reflect on the exact nature of their assessment process, and your particular strengths and weaknesses – and of course, the courses and universities themselves.

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