Studying Medicine at Oxbridge is a bit different from studying it at other medical schools. They both place emphasis on strong scientific grounding. You study the medical sciences first, before learning to apply that knowledge to medical practice as a clinical student. At Cambridge the Years 1,2 and 3 are Pre-Clinical Studies; Years 4,5 and 6 are Clinical Studies. At Oxford, the first five terms are devoted to the “First BM’. This is followed by a four term BA Honours course (the Final Honour School) in Medical Sciences; the Principles of Clinical Anatomy course is delivered at the end of the third year. In December of the third year students must apply to be accepted by a clinical school. A joint admission scheme is in place with the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and London. Most Cambridge students stay in Cambridge; about 85% stay in Oxford.
As you can see, the courses at Oxford and Cambridge approach the subject from a medical science perspective. So if you want a more practical clinical based course from the outset, then perhaps the Oxbridge courses are not for you.
Like some other medical courses you will have to take the BMAT test. You must register yourself at your school and do the test at your school.
Unsurprisingly, because of the fewer places available and the highly scientific nature of the courses at Oxbridge, an excellent academic track record is expected. GCSE results are important but these are weighed against the BMAT results, so don’t give up hope if you don’t have all A*s at GCSE.
Do make sure that you read both the Oxford and Cambridge prospectuses very carefully before you apply.
If you have good GCSEs and particularly strong science results, what else can you do to make your application competitive?
- Immerse yourself in the world of medicine.
- Read articles in the broadsheet press, weekend papers are a good source of information.
- Follow BBC Health news regularly.
- Listen to radio programmes such as The Moral Maze (BBC Radio 4)
- Listen to the Today programme (Radio 4)
- Read widely around the topic. Books such as “The Selfish Gene’ Richard Dawkins or any other popular science ones will give you plenty to think about. A Very Short Introduction to Ethics will be useful preparation for application.
- Read New Scientist. You don’t have to subscribe; there might be a copy in your school library or local newsagent.
Get some Work Experience
It is very important to have work experience if you want to study medicine. You need to find out if you can cope with a life in medicine; you will be working at the sharp end of life, working day in, day out with people who are in difficult, challenging or uncomfortable situations. How do you feel about dealing with the basics: the red and brown stuff, as one admission tutor put it recently?
However, work experience in a hospital or GP’s practice is not vital. Most admission tutors recommend volunteering at Residential or Care Homes. This sort of work will give you a real insight into what it is like to work with people who are elderly, frail, ill or not fully able. It will test whether you have the required skills:
- Can you empathise?
- Are you compassionate?
- Are you sensitive to the needs of others?
- Can you communicate sensitively and thoughtfully?
- Can you work as part of a team?
- Can you build relationships with the residents, patients and staff?
Perhaps you don’t know the answer to these questions. Work experience will help you find out.