What Are The Cambridge Medicine Interview Questions Like?

The Cambridge Medicine Interview is the final step of the application process, knowing what questions to expect will help in preparation for the Interview.

Author: Chloe Hewitt

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The Cambridge Medicine Interview is the final, and most important, step for applicants in the admissions process. 

Getting this far in the application process is in itself a massive accomplishment. Interviews for Cambridge can be daunting, but with the right preparation you can present yourself in the best possible way. 

The most effective way to prepare is to have an understanding of the questions that will be asked of you and how to go about answering them. 

What Are Admissions Tutors Looking For In The Interview?

The colleges of Cambridge have agreed guidelines that the Admissions Tutors for Medicine must follow for there to be a uniform selection process. These criteria are intended to illustrate areas that are likely to be tested during the selection process, regardless of the college conducting the Interview. 

The criteria that Cambridge state they are looking for in a candidate is as follows: 

As for how the Admissions Tutors identify each of these in the candidates is detailed below: 

Scientific and Related Competencies

Personal Qualities

Professional and Career Considerations

What Style Of Questions Will Be Asked In The Interview?

There is no set structure to how a Cambridge Interview will go. The questions that are asked vary hugely on their style, though they can be very broadly divided into a few categories, which give an overarching view of how they might go about the Interview.

These categories are: 

Factual

These questions assess the candidate’s knowledge. This takes up a larger part of the Interview than the Oxford Medicine Interviews, as the Cambridge Interview places a large focus on knowledge and retention of factual data.

They are unlikely to take up a significant part of the Interview, and will not draw on more than A-Level Biology and Chemistry knowledge unless you have mentioned a specific topic in your Personal Statement.

Candidates should make sure that they are solid on anything they have written about, and can still tackle the types of questions they might have had at school like mole calculations or the functions of specific organs or systems of the body. Some of the questions of this style may also ask for information that the student will not know the answer and not be expected to know the answer to. Instead, they will be expected to be able to approach in a methodical and reasonable way.

Ethical

Ethical scenarios are a large part of the experience of being an actual doctor. It is unsurprising, then, that these are commonly used in Medicine Interview questions. These questions assess the student’s mentality, and their suitability for the role of a doctor, and introduce them to some of the dilemmas that are common in modern medicine.

While students may not be expected to show that they are morally infallible individuals from day one, these questions will show the interviewers whether the student has an open mind and can see difficult situations from more than one perspective. As well as be able to make informed decisions on the ‘correct’ course of action.

They will often involve introducing a difficult scenario and asking what the most ethical course of action is.

Logical

These Cambridge Interview questions for Medicine may take a much more interpretative direction than some of the others and are likely to have little to do with medicine or health. Some of these questions may seem a bit strange, however, the best course of action to take is to try to answer them to the best of your ability regardless.

Applicants should remember not to be afraid to ask for help if really stuck – the purpose of these questions is to see how the student reacts to difficult questions under stress and assesses their logical and creative ability to come up with interesting solutions to tricky problems.

Analytical

These questions typically provide the student with unseen material to view before or during the Interview. Medicine applicants may be given images, graphs, texts, or objects to analyse and discuss in their Interview. Again, it is important that they think carefully before coming to any conclusions, but to not be afraid to try to answer the question, even if they do not know the answer. As long as you can demonstrate your reasoning that is what the Admissions Tutor wants to see. 

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Example Cambridge Medicine Interview Questions

Medicial Interviews at Cambridge are more scientifically rigorous and demanding than what you would experience at other Medical Schools.

The Interview is much more likely to focus on the human side of biology although questions on chemistry and physics may still crop up. 

You will be tackling a large question with many smaller sub-questions to guide the answer from the start to a conclusion. The main question may seem difficult but start by discussing different ideas you have for breaking the question down into manageable pieces. 

The questions are designed to be difficult to give you the chance to show your full intellectual potential. Furthermore, the Admissions Tutor wants to gauge your teachability. Ultimately, the Cambridge Interview process is meant to reflect the supervisions that form your teaching whilst at Cambridge. 

An example of the type of question you could be asked to assess your factual knowledge, is shown below:

“Why are fewer human females colour-blind than would be expected from the incidence in males?”

The Admissions Tutor is not looking for a colour-blindness expert, but someone who can problem-solve in the face of new ideas. 

An applicant who is extremely clear-headed, although that is unlikely given the intensity of the Interview and being put on the spot, may answer the question with the following: 

“Well, I know that women are much less likely to be colour-blind than men. Why don’t I start by defining colour-blindness and working out why there is a gender difference using Mendelian inheritance, and then think about mechanisms of colour-blindness which may not be accounted for in this method. I noticed you specified females in relation to males, so I’m going to suggest that whatever this mechanism is, it is sex dependent.” 

After the above statement, the Admissions Tutor could give feedback if this seems like a good start and help make any modifications necessary. The applicant would realise that colour-blindness is inherited on the X-chromosome and the second female X-chromosome may help compensate.

Although a single defective X-chromosome would lead to colour-blindness, in having two defective X-chromosomes does not necessarily mean that a woman would be colour-blind as the defects might be opposites and, therefore, cancel each other to lead to normal colour vision. 

The details are unimportant, but the general idea of breaking down the question into manageable parts is important. 

In comparison, a poor applicant may take a number of approaches that will be unlikely to impress the Admissions Tutor. The first and most obvious of these is to simply state “We never learnt about colour-blindness at school,” and make no attempt to move forward. 

Anyone who follows this approach have only made it worse for themselves by resisting prompting as the Admissions Tutor attempts to gauge an answer from them, saying “fine, but I’m not going to know the answer because I don’t know anything about this,” or an equally unenthusiastic and uncooperative response. 

The ‘brain dump’ method, where instead of engaging with the question the applicant attempts to impress or distract with an assortment of related factors is another unhelpful approach. 

“Colour-blindness mainly affects men. You can be completely colour-blind or red-green colour-blind. Many animals are colour-blind, but some also see a greater number of colours.” 

This is not as impressive as a more reasoned response, but the Interview can be salvaged by taking the Admissions Tutor’s feedback on board. The facts stated could start a productive discussion, which ultimately leads to the answer if you are willing to listen to the hints and suggestions from the Admissions Tutor. 

As for a question that puts an applicants ability to think logically to the test, this can be shown through the below:

How much does the Earth weigh? 

Now, on the face of it, this question is impossible to answer. Do not be perturbed, when applying for Cambridge you will be expected to answer this question. Especially given, Maths and/or Physics is an entry requirement for the course. 

This is a fantastic ilustration of the power of simplifying assumptions. It is possible to get extremely close to the correct answer with no specialist knowledge. Consider this approach: 

A good Physics student should also be able to use the fact the Moon orbits the Earth to calculate its mass: 

At this point, the interviewer would probably stop you as the only thing stopping you from proceeding is knowing the moon’s velocity and the distance between the Earth and Moon. A harsh interviewer may not give these to you immediately in which case you might have to use some general knowledge- e.g. it takes light one second to travel from the Moon to Earth. 

These two examples effectively demonstrate the types of questions that will be asked of you in your Medicine Interview at Cambridge. Remember not to stress or feel overwhelmed by the questioning. Make sure to talk through your answers aloud, that is what the Admissions Tutors want to see. 

Conclusion

It is important to remember that you are unlikely to be asked a random string of questions. In most Interviews, there will be a natural sequence of questions rather than a haphazard barrage. 

Ultimately, the Cambridge Medicine Interview is an intellectual conversation, so your answers will often lead to related follow-up questions rather than being ignored. 

Early Interview preparation is essential in getting accepted to Cambridge. Do not leave it too late. 

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