Oxbridge & Medical School Application Guide

As the school year begins, it can only mean one thing for Year 13 students - the dreaded UCAS application! And with that, the most talented young minds among them may be considering applying to Oxford University, Cambridge University or Medical School. 

Aside from the usual scrambling to research uni and course choices and write a personal statement, these students will have a host of extra responsibilities, just to be in with a chance of getting an interview for the most prestigious universities in the country. Being clued up and well-prepared will make all the difference. 

This blog will make sure you are up to speed and on track to getting your application in, while including expert advice from top-class educators about their own experience applying and how they made themselves stand out. 

What’s the Process?

Oxbridge Universities

Applying to Oxford or Cambridge (Oxbridge) University is a unique and testing experience. 

It all starts with your work and what you do inside school in terms of your results and outside of school in terms of extracurricular reading, hobbies and a passion for your subjects.

In the end the process is simple enough - but requires a lot of organisation and exceptional work to be in with a chance.

1. Research the course and university you want to study and its entry requirements. You can’t apply to Oxford and Cambridge in the same year!

2. Check out the tuition fees and living costs to determine what preparations are needed or assistance may be available to you.

3. Learn about the Admissions tests you will be required to do and prepare.

4. Explore the options either university has for their Colleges as you choose during the UCAS application. You can also submit an open application if you don’t have a preference.

5. Visit for an Open Day or attend one of their events to learn about the town, university and colleges for yourself.

6. Consider your choices for subject combinations at high school or sixth-form college to give you the best chance. Research the university requirements to make sure.

7. Register for the right application tests in September the year before the entry year. 

8. Write a fantastic personal statement that makes you stand out from the rest. 

9. Submit a UCAS application to your chosen course by the early UCAS deadline.

10. Complete any other forms required by the University. Cambridge requires you to make a ‘My Cambridge Application’ account to facilitate any additional written work to be submitted to them as part of the application.

After that, all you have to do is wait! Hopefully, receive an invitation to the university for an interview. You will usually be offered to stay in one of the college dorms if you have to travel far. 

Truthfully the Univeristy websites have a lot of useful information on the application process and how to give yourself the best chance of being accepted. 

They have everything from revision resources for the admissions tests to YouTube videos made by interviewers on what they are looking for - you should definitely check out the applicant guide for Oxford or the applicant guide for Cambridge and get to know it inside out!

Dates to Remember:

  • 1st - 29th September 2023 - Register for Admissions Tests (only some Oxbridge courses require an aptitude test)
  • 16th October 2023 - Early UCAS deadline for Oxbridge & Medical Schools Applicants
  • 18th - 20th October 2023 - Admissions tests take place (in school or private centres)
  • 10th November 2023 - Deadline for any written work to be submitted (only some Oxbridge courses)
  • December 2023 - Interview takes place
  • 9th January 2024 - Deadline to hear back about Interviews

Medical School 

The Medical School application process is quite similar in terms of early research but the application tests are very different. They cost around £70-78 to take in the UK and £100+ outside the UK. 

Use the NHS course finder tool to check the tests you need to apply for. Depending on the test your course wants you to do, you should scour the website of that test for any resources they have that will help you prepare for the test. They are usually one of either:

  • University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) 
  • BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
  • Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)

You can only sit these admissions tests once per admissions cycle - so make sure you are well prepared. If you need some expert advice on Medical School Admissions or Oxbridge Admissions - Sherpa has expert tutors who have been through it all before and provide the teaching, resources and confidence required to pass these tests. 

Medical Interviews

The two types of interviews are Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) and Traditional/Panel Interviews. An MMI will present you with several 10-minute scenarios you have a chance to prepare for and draw on experience before you react. 

You should check which type of interview you’re invited to as it will often vary. 

Interview prep is crucial to a successful interview. They usually take place between November and March after the UCAS deadline depending on the uni.

Make sure to be clued up on the four pillars of medicine and how they apply to ethical scenarios. You should also familiarise yourself with the GMC and their role. It is always a good idea to ask if anyone can do a mock interview with you as the more practice you have, the more confident you’ll be. 

Some universities will require additional tests called the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which tests your decision-making based on the expected medical code of conduct.

What Subjects Do I Need To Study?

The most desirable subjects by most universities at A-level are Chemistry and Biology accompanied by another A-level with many choosing Maths or Physics. English and Maths are needed at a minimum level of GCSE.

For Scottish students, usually, two sciences and Maths or Physics are required for Highers. English is needed at a National 5 level but most applicants will have Higher English too. Either 3 Advanced Highers or 2 Advanced Highers and a Higher are required in S6. 

Always check the entry requirements for each university before applying to ensure you meet the entry criteria and know what grades you need to reach in the summer term!

What If I Don’t Get Accepted?

Don’t Give Up! Lots of students fail their medical school application the first time around, some say it is designed that way to make sure they really want it and spend a gap year gaining more work experience. Some students even study for a full bachelor's degree before applying.

You may also be interested in this blog: How to Become a Veterinarian

Oxbridge Undergraduate Application Tips

Are you planning on applying to Oxford University? The advice in this section of the blog is also applicable to Cambridge Applicants. Please get in touch to discuss the slight differences between the two Universities’ application processes. 

If you aren’t planning to study History, don’t worry either! This advice is very helpful for almost any Oxbridge course. The main differences will be the type of school work or interview content that will be expected and the name of the aptitude test required. 

Each Faculty of Oxford or Cambridge has some great advice on their website about what they are looking for each subject’s applicant - so ensure you do some research well before so you can use the school year to prepare some work that will blow them away!

To ‘improve’ generally as a historian, have a look at some of the resources provided by Oxford. Start with just one of these, and remember to be curious and follow your nose!

Here are the 6 steps I used to get into Oxford, and you can too! 

  1. Nail your schoolwork early: Starting at least at the beginning of Year 12, it’s important to commit to doing excellent work in your final two years which may come with some sacrifices. This is often overlooked; the first step to the Oxbridge journey is to be at the very top of your class. That’s the kind of student they’re looking for. 
  2. Write and submit an essay to these prestigious essay competitions: Starting in June/July Year 12, your skills will be well practised and reaching their peak. Submitting work to competitions like the History Essay Prizes and doing well is a great accolade for your application. You can submit the same essay to several prizes, so pick your best. The deadline for these is roughly the end of July, so get started immediately after finishing your exams at the end of Year 12. 
  3. Nail your Personal Statement: Starting Summer - October Year 13. It helps to do some planning through the summer or list your life achievements. If you find them lacking, there is still time to add them to the list! For History, write four paragraphs, each one describing a different area of history you’re interested in, and giving evidence of what you’ve done to pursue this. For example: “ I’m really interested in the American Civil War, so I wrote my Summer Essay on it.” Expect to be quizzed about this during your interview, so make it something you like and make sure you’ve prepared it well!
  4. Nail the History Admissions test (HAT): Starting after the Year 12 exams for the November Year 13 Exam. Access past papers through the chosen universities' websites. The Oxford HAT page has some great advice and past exam resources. Don’t forget past paper Mark Schemes to get a sense of what they are looking for and how the exam criteria are weighted. Do as many of these as you can under timed conditions. Ask your parents, teachers or friends to read through your essays and have a discussion about it.
  5. Nail your two school essay submissions: Starting in November Year 13, you will likely need to upload some written work for the application (for History anyway). This is where point 1 (nailing your school work) comes into fruition. If you’re writing A* essays throughout Year 12, the school essays which you submit at the start of Year 13 will be really strong. Make sure you send in essays that you’re passionate about because you might have to talk about them in your Interview!
  6. Nail the Interview: Occurs during December Year 13. You will have two interviews (minimum). One on a source extract, and one on your personal statement/ a general discussion. Be nice! Aside from what you say, your tutors want to find out if they like you, and would want to teach you and live in the same College as you for three years. So be engaging, and see if you can respond and react to their ideas if they challenge your own. Coming across as passionate and articulate is vital, so practising interview skills is important. Try it with friends, parents, teachers, relatives. It’s a skill that anyone can learn with time! Get anyone at all to quiz and drill you about your Personal Statement Topics and why you want to study History at this College. 

Preparing for an Oxbridge Masters Interview

Are you planning to apply for a Master's degree at Oxford or Cambridge University? If so, you might be wondering what it takes to succeed in the interview process. As someone who has been through it, I can offer valuable tips based on my experience that will help you prepare effectively and stand out during your interview.

First and foremost, it's essential to understand that the interview is not just an assessment of your knowledge but also an opportunity to showcase your intellectual curiosity and problem-solving abilities. To excel in your Cambridge University Master's degree interview, keep the following tips in mind.

Firstly, familiarize yourself with the interview format and structure. These interviews often consist of challenging questions and problems relevant to your field of study. To acclimate yourself to the interview style and pace, practice answering sample questions and engage in mock interviews. This preparation will boost your confidence and help you perform better on the big day.

During the interview, demonstrate your critical thinking skills by approaching problems from various angles. Explain your thought process clearly and be open to considering alternative solutions. Remember, it's not just about reaching the right answer; interviewers are interested in evaluating your reasoning abilities.

In addition, effective communication is crucial. Take your time before responding to questions, and don't hesitate to seek clarification if needed. Engage in a respectful and intellectual dialogue with your interviewers, showing them your willingness to learn and grow. Be receptive to their guidance and suggestions, as they are experts in their respective fields.

While confidence is important, it's equally vital to remain humble throughout the interview. Recognize that interviewers want to assess your potential to contribute to the academic community at Cambridge University. Embrace challenging questions as opportunities to demonstrate your passion and knowledge. Even if the interview feels different from your school experience, approach it with an open mind and view it as a chance to learn and showcase your potential.

In conclusion, preparing for a Cambridge University Master's degree interview requires subject knowledge, critical thinking, effective communication, confidence, and humility. By familiarizing yourself with the interview format, practising sample questions, engaging in mock interviews, and embracing the opportunity to learn and engage with your interviewers, you can enhance your chances of success. Best of luck as you embark on this exciting journey!

In Summary

  • Revise your written work - It’s a good thing to talk about if you remember you’re thought process!
  • Have other texts or extracurricular reading you are passionate about and have thought about deeply - The quality of thought is better than the quantity of reading.
  • Be curious - They want to see you are so curious about your field you enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and read into it comprehensively. 
  • Be humble - You don't always have to be right to impress - it's better to be confident in your work but also be willing to be proven wrong and want to explore the reasons why or how.


Medical School Application Tips

Applying to medical school can indeed be a challenging endeavour, particularly for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or state schools. These individuals often face unique hurdles and may perceive a lack of support or a disadvantage compared to their peers from more privileged backgrounds. 

As someone who successfully gained acceptance into Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) from a state school without external guidance, I understand the significance of navigating the process independently. Here are some insights and advice based on my experience:

  1. When selecting medical schools, don't solely rely on rankings or whether they are considered "red-brick" universities. Instead, focus on the course structure. Some medical schools have a more traditional approach, emphasizing academic coursework in the early years, while others offer an integrated curriculum with early clinical experience. Consider your preferred learning style and the importance of early patient interaction to develop communication skills. Evaluate teaching methods, such as lectures or problem-based learning.
  2. Seek student perspectives to gain insights into the course structure and overall student experience. Reflect on your own preferences and attend open days or virtual events to gather more information.
  3. It is crucial to research the admissions tests required by each medical school early on in your application process. Use your summer break to explore the options and take note of the specific requirements of each university. Keep yourself updated on any changes, as the BMAT is set to be scrapped, which means universities that previously used it will be reforming their entry requirements. Stay informed about these updates to ensure you meet the necessary criteria for each medical school you are considering.
  4. Acquiring clinical work experience in a hospital or GP setting can be challenging for many students. However, it's important to note that clinical experience doesn't have to be limited to those specific environments. Any form of work experience can be valuable as long as you can reflect on what you have learned and relate it to your future development and the qualities required for a career in medicine. In addressing this hurdle, BSMS offers a virtual work experience program that is accessible to all students, providing an opportunity to gain insights into the medical field and overcome limitations in obtaining traditional clinical experience. This resource can be a valuable asset when applying to medical school.


Applying to medical school is a multifaceted and competitive process that requires careful planning, relevant experiences, and a strong application. Get ahead of the race this summer by researching your options, using this time to practise for the UCAT and other admission tests and remember Sherpa Tutors are on hand to help you through the process!

I am currently a third-year medical student at University College London. I clearly remember applying for medical student and the stress before the UCAS application and entrance exams!

My advice for getting successful medical school offers is to first revise hard for your prediction exams. Medical schools require you to achieve the highest A-level grades and will use your prediction exams to see if you are capable of achieving the minimum standard they require. 

My second piece of advice is to sit the UCAT before you start the second year of A-levels, so ideally end of August or the start of September. This is because, during September and October, students are often busy with not only school work, BMAT entrance exams and personal statements which leaves little time for UCAT preparation. Furthermore, the summer provides plenty of time for UCAT preparation. 

I would also suggest revising year 13 content during the year 12 summer if you are planning to sit the BMAT as the BMAT requires at least four weeks of intensive preparation prior to the October sitting therefore it leaves little time for school work and revision. 

Lastly, remember to pace yourself and not burn out too early. The application process is long and arduous therefore take breaks, visit your friends and pursue hobbies. Remember you’re not a doctor just yet!

Author's profile picture

Russell Kilgour

8th September

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