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University of Cambridge Medicine Interview Questions

Past Interview Questions & Tips

Cambridge Medicine Interview Format (Historically)

Cambridge adopts a more traditional approach to their interview process, with most candidates having at least two interviews, each lasting between 20 and 45 minutes. There are usually two people in the interview, one of which is a current medical practitioner and an admissions tutor. Cambridge uses the following criteria to inform their selection process:

  • Knowledge of the scientific basis of medicine, including its most recent developments – this is an area which is relatively unique to Cambridge.
  • Personal qualities relating to good medical practice – honesty, caring, patient respect, knowledge and competency and equipped to maintain good medical practice
  • Excellent communication skills
  • An understanding of the importance of the physical, psychological and social aspects of patient care
  • A sound appreciation of ethical, legal and community issues related to medicine
  • Demonstrates teamwork – can work effectively in multidisciplinary teams
  • Possess the capacity for inquiry and are prepared to continue learning, teaching, evaluate and research throughout their careers and to prepare them fully for their roles as doctors.

 
Cambridge medicine interviews are, in general, designed to mimic the structure of a ‘supervision’ (small-group teaching session), and one of the interviewers’ main aims is to establish how you adapt to such a situation. In a typical interview, the interviewer will introduce a scientific problem and will expect you to talk them through your thought process as you attempt to establish ‘the answer’.

COVID-19 Update For 2022 Entry

Cambridge will be interviewing all shortlisted applicants virtually in 2021-2022. Interviews typically take place in December. The university states that Though your interview will be online, the aims and content will still be the same as in person interviews.’

Cambridge Medicine Key Application & Interview Statistics

Overall Success Rate (Total Applicants : Total Spaces)
Overall Success Rate (Total Applicants : Total Spaces)
Percentage of Candidates Interviewed
Percentage Of Candidates Interviewed
Interviewee Success Rate
Interviewee Success Rate

Before the Interview

  • Ensure that you are familiar with topics you studied at A-level, revise these topics regularly, this includes any non-Science based subjects.  Ensure that you clarify anything that you find challenging so that you are confident in these areas when in the interview. 
  • Review and make notes/annotate the main points of your BMAT essay topic. Consider areas that need further development or clarification. Ensure that you pro-actively note down your key points from your BMAT essay following the examination, so that these will be familiar to you during the interview.
  • Re-read your personal statement frequently, annotating it with possible questions.
  • Consider the obvious questions such as “why Cambridge” or “why do you want to be a doctor rather than a nurse?” Ensure that your answers demonstrate both an understanding of your prospective career as well
  • Keep up to date with issues affecting the NHS and medical advances
  • Practice talking about medicine/science-related topics, either with your friends or family members using the historical interview questions in this document. 

Interview Focal Points

  • Unlike other medical schools, the Cambridge interview will focus almost entirely on your scientific aptitude, rather than your personal qualities, extracurricular activities or work experience. Interviewers can ask you anything related to the modules you have completed for A-level; generally, this is one Biology-based question, a Chemistry-based question and a Statistics-based question.
  • Cambridge is a world leader in academic medicine. Interviewers are most impressed by candidates who show genuine enthusiasm – medicine is, after all, a very long course and they want to be sure that all students are truly dedicated to studying this challenging subject. This may be portrayed through:
  • Reading books and journal articles on areas of medical science which interest you,
  • Attending talks and lectures on clinically interesting matters
  • Keeping up to date with news of recent scientific advances, organise work placements in clinical and research settings.  
  • Ensure that you are constantly verbalising your thought process during the interview and can confidently use scientific language in conversation. If you can’t immediately come up with an answer in the interview, don’t panic. Your interviewer will want to see how you tackle a challenging scientific problem, so talk it through with them. Start with the basics, even if they seem obvious. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s something you don’t understand – ensure that you ask for clarification.
  • In addition to scientific aptitude, the Cambridge will have a few questions regarding your personal statement, BMAT essay and work experience, ensure that you are comfortable talking about these at length and can demonstrate that you have reflected adequately on these. 

Optimise Your Interview Performance

Learn the best interview strategies and practice with past interview questions & model answers.

University of Cambridge Medicine Past MMI Stations & Interview Questions

Why Medicine/Cambridge?

  1. Why do you want to study medicine/be a doctor?
  2. Why Cambridge?
  3. What do you think you could contribute to college life?

 
Background and Personal Statement:

  1. How good were your teachers at school?
  2. What have you found most difficult at A Level and how did you overcome this?
  3. Tell us everything about you in 60 seconds.
  4. What are your top three skills?
  5. Tell me about a news article you have read recently that you found interesting.

 
Work Experience:

  1. What did you learn from your work experience?
  2. Can you tell me about a patient from your work experience?


 General Questions

  1. If you could meet anybody from history who would it be and why?
  2. If you could invite any two people alive or dead to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
  3. If you had to choose a new language to learn, which one would it be and how would you go about it?


Attributes of a Good Doctor

  1. What makes a good doctor?
  2. Do you think that all doctors should have a disability in order to empathise with their patients?
  3. Is humour a useful skill for a doctor?
  4. Is it more important to be competent or compassionate?
  5. What else do doctors do apart from treating patients?
  6. You are with a nurse who takes blood and makes a labelling mistake on a patient who has needle phobia. What do you do? What do you say to the patient and what do you say to the nurse?


Biology-based Questions

  1. What is an amino acid and why are there only twenty?
  2. What problems do fish face underwater?
  3. What evidence is there that humans are still evolving?
  4. Why can’t humans live forever?
  5. How has the human diet changed in the last three decades and why?
  6. What are the problems with the current taxonomy system?
  7. How would you poison someone without the police finding out?
  8. What causes the common cold and why is there no cure?
  9. How does the flu vaccine work?
  10. Why do we need ATP, why not just release energy from glucose directly?
  11. How much of human behaviour is genetically determined?
  12. What techniques could be used to date how long a disease has existed in a population?
  13. Why is it a disadvantage for humans to have two legs?
  14. Tell us about drowning. Why do you drown faster in saltwater rather than fresh water?
  15. Given a skull: what animal is this, describe the teeth and why they are like that etc.
  16. Describe what happens when a neuron is excited and an action potential follows.
  17. Describe the processes that occur at a synapse.
  18. Show what happens to the membrane potential of an animal cell when put in different solutions.
  19. How can a specific animal tell the difference between spring and autumn? 
  20. How many genes are there in the genome of a rice plant? 
  21. Draw a diagram of the [organ] and tell us how it is adapted to performing its function.
  22. How does blood get back from your feet to your heart?
  23. How many litres of blood does your heart pump in your lifetime?
  24. What would life be like without enzymes?
  25. How true is it to say that the modern meal is the culmination of a long journey away from biology?
  26. Why do men often go bald, but women rarely do?
  27. What is DNA fingerprinting and why is it used in forensics?


Chemistry-based Questions

  1. Why are explosions a risk in flour mills? What stops bags of flour exploding in the kitchen?
  2. How does a glow-stick work?
  3. Why don’t fish freeze?
  4. What issues might there be if you wanted to create a metallic oxide that has good conductive properties but is also transparent?
  5. What is the concentration of water?
  6. Why does iron rust and how can rusting be stopped?
  7. How does blood maintain its pH?
  8. Discuss the bonding in benzene.
  9. How many moles of H2O are there in that cup of water?
  10. Calculate what volume of wine can be drunk to reach the legal concentration of alcohol in the blood for driving?
  11. How would you differentiate between salt and sugar without tasting them?
  12. How do amino acids bond to form a peptide?


General Science- based Questions:

  1. How would you simulate altitude in your living room?
  2. How would you measure the weight of your own head?
  3. If you are in a boat in a lake and throw a stone out of the boat, what happens to the level of the water?
  4. Why can you not see many stars when you stand on top of a mountain?  
  5. How would you design an experiment to disprove the existence of god?
  6. What leaves you drier if it’s raining: running or walking?  
  7. When is Newtonian law wrong?


Medical-based Questions

  1. What’s the greatest medical innovation this century?
  2. How would you determine whether leukaemia patients have contracted the disease because of a nearby nuclear power station?
  3. At what point is a person “dead”?
  4. What is [named disease]?
  5. What does the letter b stand for in b-lymphocyte? 
  6. How do prions actually affect the brain?
  7. How does the body try to remove or recognise poison?
  8. How would you solve the aids crisis in South Africa/prevent the spread of Ebola? 
  9. Why are cancer cells more susceptible to destruction by radiation than normal cells?
  10. What is the normal level of potassium? What is it used for? How does it move in and out of cells?
  11. How can you stand upright and balanced even with your eyes closed?
  12. How could you tell how long a disease has been prevalent in an area?
  13. Should placebos be used in hospitals? What about in GP-surgeries?
  14. What are fluid-balance charts used for?
  15. What are QALYs?
  16. What are the dangers of an ageing population? Is ageing a disease?
  17. What are the effects of cocaine on cerebral and coronary blood flow?
  18. What is a clinical trial and why are they so important?
  19. What is an ECG and how does it work?
  20. What is obesity/the best way to tackle the obesity epidemic?
  21. What is the point of cellular compartmentalisation?
  22. What will you do if the senior doctor is not at the hospital and you have to perform a life-threatening procedure for the first time to save someone’s life?
  23. What has to change from foetus to baby with regards to blood circulation?


NHS

  1. What do you think of the state of the NHS? What would you do to improve it?
  2. If you were in charge of the nation’s health at the time of an outbreak of an unknown virus, what would you do?
  3. What is the current government policy on health and medicine?
  4. How much money should the NHS spend on palliative care?
  5. How well can we compare public and private healthcare?
  6. Why do some people describe the NHS as the ‘jewel in the welfare crown’?


Ethical Dilemmas

  1. Should someone sell their kidney?
  2. What do you think of assisted suicide?
  3. Would you give a 60 year old woman IVF treatment?
  4. Are there too many people in the world?
  5. Discuss the changes doctors would have to make if euthanasia were legalised.
  6. What are the ethical implications of genetic screening from birth?
  7. Are disabled lives worth saving?
  8. Discuss the ethical dilemma of Huntingdon’s disease when one family member knows they have it and don’t want anyone else to know.
  9. How could you justify the legalisation of ecstasy?
  10. If a psychologically ill person commits a crime, are they a criminal?
  11. If you had to give human rights to one of either chimpanzees, dogs or elephants, which would you choose?
  12. If you have the money to do either 1 heart transplant or 100 hip replacements? Which would you do and why?
  13. If you had a billion pounds to spend on a specific area of research, what would it be and why?
  14. If you were in charge of the nation’s health at the time of an outbreak of an unknown virus, what would you do?
  15. In your opinion, what has been most significant medical breakthrough in the last 10 years?
  16. Should patients always have complete autonomy?
  17. Should patients with a terminal illness be able to use an experimental drug, even if it has not yet been rigorously tested?

 
Additional Questions:

  1. Why are manholes round?
  2. If you were a grapefruit, would you rather be seedless or non-seedless?
  3. Draw a cross section of a bicycle wheel.
  4. How would you describe a human to a person from Mars?
  5. What is a tree? 
  6. How many people believe in evolution in the United States? 

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