The practice of Medicine offers a breadth of experiences impossible to find in any other subject. Every day brings different patients with different needs. It’s a great choice for scientists who strive to understand and apply research findings to improve the lives of the patients in their care. It offers a meaningful career that is prestigious, secure and well paid. However, practising Medicine can be arduous, stressful, frustrating and bureaucratic and is not suited to everyone. You need to be sure that Medicine is the right choice for you. These pages will help you work that out, but there’s no better way to find out for sure than by gaining insight of medical practice by seeing it in action and talking to those who provide healthcare. Studying Medicine because that is what is expected of you is never a good idea; make sure that your motives for choosing to do so are well reasoned.
The Medicine course at Oxford provides a well-rounded intellectual training with particular emphasis on the basic science research that underpins medicine. We have retained a distinct three-year pre-clinical stage that includes studying towards a BA Honours degree in Medical Sciences, followed by a three-year clinical stage. The Medical School at Oxford is relatively small, allowing students and staff to get to know one another and benefit from a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
With separate pre-clinical and clinical sections to the course, students on the Oxford standard medical course first gain a comprehensive grounding in medical science, before applying that scientific foundation in the clinical setting.
How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?
I visited both - both are great unis but the atmosphere at Oxford seemed more vibrant. I also quite liked the idea of having 2+ interviews at Oxford compared to at Cam where it may all rest on 1 because it felt like I had a greater chance to prove myself.
Also, I didn't know this when I applied but it could be useful for future applicants - Oxford had a new application procedure this year - only 35% of medical applicants were interviewed mainly based on BMAT results and GCSEs. This means if you are strong on paper than it could be more worthwhile to apply to Ox - however beware that quite a few 'perfect' applicants were rejected pre-interview. (Profile 102)
I went to both and prefered the look of Oxford. Oxford's prospectus was better in terms of presentation and content. Without A-level Maths most of Cam's NST was not available to me. Dyslexia institute coincided with own interest (Profile 197)
Oxford medicine course is less anatomy-heavy. Was told that (at least the first year) was slightly less work. Seems to be more time for extracurricular activities, has better nightlife, Oxford Union etc. (Profile 570)
Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?
Do cartloads of background reading - become a human sponge - you can find some fantastic articles from the internet. Read the medical sections on the New Scientist. Read the 'medical' topics in your big fat bio text books. Read a book by Richard Dawkins (good because he is a fellow at Ox) - the Selfish Gene perhaps - his books are actually really entertaining! Read up on the NHS and current issues - know who won the last Nobel Prize. If you're interested in say genetics (like myself) then know some key dates (1953) and general history (Watson, Crick, Franklin etc). (Profile 102)
Interview: read through all your A Level textbook, including those you haven't covered yet. Read your personal statement, if you have written something like: I have good knowledge in drugs, then they will ask you what do you know about it.... so get prepared. (Profile 199)
- OAF: A very simple form - if you have any specific interests relevant to Oxford enter them here
- Interview: Remain calm, although challenging it is a good experence and I enjoyed all but 1 of mine.
- Practice interviews are useful but by no means essential. (Profile 197)
Go over organic chemistry especially, and other chemistry and biology for A Level. Try and read around medical topics using New Scientist / Scientific American / Student BMJ. read up on a scientific topic you're interested in so you can talk about that topic in interview. Read you personal statement at some point before so you remember what you said in it. Read The Times in the run up to your interview so you know what's going on in terms of medically related news. (Profile 570)
Did you have to sit any pre-interview exams?
BMAT - buy/borrow CGP books - know them from cover to cover. Do the timed practice papers on the BMAT website. It is also a time management exercise so be quick but stay calm - my time management flew out the window on the day because I was panicking.
My score wasn't too dazzling but once you get through the deselection pre-interview I don't think it matters as much, it pretty much rests on the interview. My essay was horrific but thank god they didn't ask about that. (Profile 102)
BMAT exam in November. Prep is difficult but a revision of GCSE Science and Maths is a good idea. Try practice paper from www.bmat.org.uk - WORK QUICKLY- you have around 30sec per question. (Profile 197)
Big time pressure. Don't bother leaving questions for later, as you probably won't have time to go back to them - just guess. Make sure you save the last few seconds to mark random boxes for questions you haven't managed to get round to. (Profile 570)
Yes, BMAT. Any questions I didn't know, I guessed, I ticked all of the ones I didn't know as A, or B etc (even though some of them have more options than others) I think it's better to do that as opposed to randomly ticking boxes, as you're more likely to get some of them right (probability wise). You won't have time to go back to consider any questions you missed out properly so work efficiently and move on if you can't answer a question. Also, do a plan for your essay as you only get one sheet of paper and I ended up filling mine with lots of crossing out! (Profile 882)
What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?
First interview was a logical problem which was good because it doesn't matter if you get the answer (after I said my ideas, the fellow said that all my answers were wrong but it didn't matter) because it's just to see how you think. There was also ethics and we touched upon the NHS and how to improve things (I got a bit controversial and said scrap IVF, being sterile is not an illness, it's just a status, 20% chance of success, what sort of odds is that!). Oh yeah also he said "What interests you in bio?" - talked about british bio olympiad and then went on to describe the co-ordination of the heart. Second interview was a lot more of my background reading. Talked about books I read (all genetics) went on to gene therapy. Current issues (MRSA - went on to talk about bacteria and antibiotics), retroviruses, MRI, basically a hell of a lot! This interview was very testing, they kept firing question upon question at me so you have to be sharp! Then went on to talk about using stats in medicine/randomised controlled trials. (Profile 102)
Maths: prove root 2 is irrational. Physics: if you tie a helium balloon on a car, how is the balloon's motion as the car is moving, etc. Chemistry: describe a drug/medicine you know and how it functions. Biology: if I have a new medicine, it function well during experiments, but when a patient eats it, it is functionless, why? (Profile 199)
On estimating blood volume; what would i bring to uni; describe an object; identify death rates; and reasons amnioscentesis; bird behaviour; drug testing; photoelectric effect and compton scatter; NHS problems; Designer babies (Profile 197)
Brasenose and Balliol, two interviews each: Analysing graphs based on heart and lung function (though wasn't told that before) and asked to make deduction based on the data presented. How to deal with patient who is scared about an operation. There was a news story at the time about patients who were overweight being refused operations on the NHS, was asked pros and cons of this. Question about patient confidentiality, and whether there were cases when it would not apply. Conducting an experiment based a on a hypthesis I've now forgotten, including what statistical techniques could be used. Question about whether all swans were white (they aren't), and devising and experiment to test whether they were. Discussion about genetics (molecular rather than mendelian). Question about benzene. Discussion about bacteria and viruses. (Profile 570)
I was asked questions to do with respiratory system (Balliol tutor Piers Nye is doing research into things involving respiration) and it involved analysing ECGs and graphs. I was also asked about X rays and how they work. At my second college, there were a few questions about genetics related diseases (tutor specialised in genetics and molecular biology, i think) and about the different types of diabetes and how you might increase your chances of getting it. In terms of ethics, there was a question about whether the NHS should operate on fat people, and what would I say to a patient who needed an operation but was overweight. (Profile 882)