Why might Oxbridge appeal to you?
If you want an academically focused course with a particular emphasis on the science underpinning medical practice then Oxbridge might be an option to consider. The medical course at both Oxford and Cambridge is 6 years long with the opportunity to carry out a research project in the 3rd year of study. The Oxbridge medical course is split into the preclinical and clinical years. Patient contact is kept to a minimum for the first 3 (preclinical) years of study with the course taking an unashamedly scientific bent. Oxbridge undergraduates will receive a degree after 3 years after which they will progress on the clinical course (a further 3 years of study) with an emphasis on clinical skills and practical placements in community and hospital settings. If rankings and research quality are important to you then Oxford and Cambridge both consistently score highly in both these areas. Don't be swayed by the prestige and reputation of an Oxbridge degree, it's important that you are choosing Oxbridge for the right reasons and because you think you will enjoy your time spent studying there.
How is Oxbridge different to other medical schools?
As mentioned above, the Oxbridge medical course is split into the preclinical and clinical years. In addition, Oxford and Cambridge are both based on a tutorial system (which is basically a small-group learning discussion with a tutor in that field). At both Oxford and Cambridge, students are set essays to consolidate topics taught in lectures and tutorials, giving evidence and examples from the findings of relevant research studies. It's unlikely that you'll be required to write essays at most other medical school.
And then there's the college system to consider. Oxford and Cambridge are split into constituent colleges with students belonging to a particular college (most students will live, eat and even socialise within college). You will have to select a college preference when submitting your UCAS application or alternatively you can opt for an 'open application' which means you will randomly be assigned to a college of allocation. It's important though not to stress too much about college choice because every year lots of students are offered a place at a college other than their college of choice and most people end up loving wherever they end up. As with any medical School, there will be lots of opportunities to get involved with university life outside of medicine whether that be university sports, societies, music, drama or volunteering.
Oxford and Cambridge have lots of weird and wonderful traditions which may or may not appeal to you! There is a rich history to both of the Universities and the architecture of the old (and more modern) colleges can be stunning.
How do I make a competitive Oxbridge Application?
If you're considering applying to Oxbridge, your personal statement might look a little different to other medical applicants because Oxbridge place a lot of emphasis on academic skills and super-curricular interests. You will be expected to have read around your subject and have a strong academic record. Of course, you will also be required to sit the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) and if you are successful during the initial admissions selection, you will be invited to interview. Oxbridge interviews differ slightly from most other medical school interviews and might be described as more 'traditional' than the MMI format you might see elsewhere. You might be required to discuss your motivations to study medicine, to talk about particular areas of medicine that interest you, to analyse and interpret data from a graph or chart or work through a series of challenging problems. Be prepared also for ethical discussions and questions about information contained within your personal statement including relevant work experience, volunteering roles, personal skills and interests.
How will be application be assessed?
Before Interview Stage, your application will initially be assessed on your GCSE results (if you have taken them) and BMAT score. Your GCSE results will be contextualised (which means that the University will consider the School that you went to and your achievements relative to the expected attainment of other pupils at the same School). This means that if you attended a School which generally sees poor attainment at GCSE then you won't be unfairly disadvantaged when your application is considered for interview. So if you are a bright student who has consistently strong academic results and often find yourself at the top of your class, you may have a very good chance of being called to interview. At Oxford, the contextualised GCSE score (which is a combination of the % and number of A* /8/9 grades at GCSE) is combined with the BMAT score to determine which candidates to invite for interview. You won't know your BMAT score before interview but generally a 5 is considered a good BMAT score which a 6 being considered very competitive and only the best candidates scoring a 7 or above.
If you are invited to interview, you will be asked to go down to Oxford/Cambridge (you might be required to stay overnight). You'll probably bump into lots of student helpers so be sure to make use of their past experience and advice and take the opportunity to find out a little more about university life. The Interview isn't designed to scare you or test that you can get the answers right. The interviewers will be more interested in how you approach a problem so make sure you demonstrate your thought processs clealy- talking aloud is a really great way to show the interviewer exactly what you're thinking. Don't be put off by difficult questions- they aren't designed to be easy and the interviewer should guide you through a problem. The interviewers will mostly be academic tutors at your college and will be looking to see that you would be comfortable in a tutorial environment. The Interviews are designed to mimic the format of a tutorial so try not to see it as a formal question and answer setting but more of an intellectual discussion between you and the tutors. Be open minded and prepared to consider things from a different perspective!
Will I fit in at Oxbridge?
It's important to remember that there is no 'Oxbridge type' . If you're bright and demonstrate a real flair and interest in medicine then you will be welcome at Oxford regardless of your background, the School you went to, whether your parents attended university or the area that you grew up in. If you're worried about fitting in at Oxbridge, be assured that Oxbridge students come from all walks of life and you're sure to find a group of like-minded individuals who are all equally passionate about their subject as you are. You should be prepared to work hard though and an Oxbridge medical course isn't for everyone. Although all medical students will be required to work harder than most other undergraduate students at university, Oxbridge medical students might even have a higher workload than medical students at other universities. However, it's certainly manageable and there will be time to pursue other interests too.
Oxford or Cambridge?
Having considered all the points above, if you're still keen to apply to Oxbridge then you might find yourself choosing between Oxford and Cambridge (given that you can't apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year). Though both medical Schools share many similarities there are also lots of differences to consider (for instance Cambridge medical School is bigger than Oxford but Oxford is often considered to have a larger city-feel than Cambridge.