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Medical Schools: Cambridge v Oxford

Advice & Insight From Medicine Application Specialists

When ranking which medical school is better between Oxford and Cambridge, a truly objective measure is hard to come by. However, we can look at certain scores, as well as comparing the courses and admissions processes. Of course, it’s hard to determine which of these eternal competitors is truly ‘better’ – the question might rather be which is more appropriate for you as a potential student.

Comparing Oxford versus Cambridge by Outcomes

One possible differentiator is research output – however, both universities score very highly, and will be only marginally different from each other during any period. As it stands, Oxford is seen as the best in the world, with a score of 99.6 out of 100, whereas Cambridge has a score of 98.6.

We can also look at the number of Nobel Prizes each Medical School’s clinicians and academics have received. At the time of writing, Cambridge has produced 27 Nobel Prizes, which is 9 more than Oxford, which has produced ‘only’ 18 – which is still two more than Harvard.

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Comparing Oxford versus Cambridge by Admissions

Oxford received somewhat more than 2000 applications in 2020. Of these, 23% were shortlisted for interview. Oxford looks at the BMAT and GCSE in particular during their ranking process. When looking at GCSE, they look at the proportion and number of A* grades. Any candidates who do not make the initial shortlist are re-reviewed in case there is a particular area that is not representative of the rest of the candidate’s performance. For the 2020 cohort, 149 quota offers were made alongside 8 open offers. Therefore the overall success rate for female applicants was 8%, and for male applicants it was 9.2%.

Each applicant will be seen at two colleges, including the college that they have applied to. There are 425 applicants invited to interview.

Cambridge received 1584 applications in 2019, with 323 receiving an offer. Unlike Oxford, Cambridge grants interviews to the majority of applicants – around 80%. Medicine is the third most competitive course at Cambridge, behind Engineering and Natural Sciences. BMAT scores on average are 5.5 for section 1, 6.1 for section 2 and 3.5 for section 3. Two thirds of students are predicted 3A*s at A Level. Average offer holders for Medicine will have 9A*s, and the average applicant holds 7 A* GCSEs.

At Cambridge there are normally two interviews, although certain colleges may interview applicants three times. Interviews are normally structured as one Biology or Chemistry (or combination) interview, and one Medicine & Personal Qualities interview. You should look into the college that you are applying to in order to learn more. 

Overall in terms of admissions, Oxford seems to have the edge in terms of competitiveness. However, both universities are incredibly competitive and these numbers will shift slightly over time. As it stands, you should consider that Oxford is a better selection for those who are very confident in their BMAT and GCSE scores, whereas Cambridge is a better bet for those who believe that the interview will be their best chance of success, as Cambridge invites so many more students to interview, and relies less on the BMAT and GCSE when determining who those students are.

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Studying Medicine at Oxford versus Cambridge

The first point to consider is that Cambridge’s medical school is twice the size of Oxford’s in terms of student numbers. This means that Oxford might be a better bet for those who prefer a smaller, community feel. Oxford colleges will generally only have four to eight medics per year, whereas Cambridge colleges might have as many as 20 to 25, depending on the college. Cambridge has women-only colleges, whereas Oxford does not.

Oxford has fewer colleges than Cambridge, but this does mean a higher number of students in total per college. However, you should expect to be able to get college accommodation for at least the first three years at both universities.

Cambridge offers more intercalated degrees than Oxford, although the previous route of doing an entirely unrelated degree like Economics in one’s third year is no longer an option.

Cambridge offers both full-body dissection, and in general has a greater focus on anatomy than Oxford, which offers only prosection. Cambridge also teaches certain modules in an interdisciplinary manner (i.e. teaching is shared with Veterinary Medicine students).

Oxford offers the chance to transfer to London after three years, whereas Cambridge requires students to stay in the city for the entire duration of the course.

Medical Schools: Cambridge v Oxford

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