Rightly or wrongly it is your interview that will decide your offer of a place to read medicine at Oxford. The UCAS form and BMAT are used to short list candidates, and are then not considered again except in separating two similar interviewees (see https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/study/medicine/pre-clinical/statistics for the full application procedure). This places a lot of pressure on the interview process, so here are the basics you need to know and some top tips to help you really perform and impress.
Interviews for medicine run over two days usually around the second week of December. This includes an evening meal, overnight stay, and breakfast the following morning all provided by the University. You will have a minimum of four interviews, two in your College of application, and two in a randomly assigned College. During your time at interviews nobody will know your College of application, nor your BMAT score, the whole process is blinded to avoid bias – so probably best not to mention either of those things. All in all you’re required to be in Oxford for approximately 26 hours and in theory you can be called for interview at any time.
Interviews vary greatly between Colleges, and the tutors that run them. The aim is to have the interview closely resemble a traditional tutorial, but may also include discussion of your personal statement – in particular work experience or unusual A-level subject choices. The Oxford interview is notoriously hard to prepare for as rarely do you get asked the standard medicine interview questions. Never the less I would know your personal statement inside out, have read some current medical literature, and prepare a decent “why medicine?” and “why Oxford?” response as a bare minimum.
Instead interviewers seek to take concepts that you will have learnt at GCSE or A-level and apply them to unusual or practical situations. Encouraging you to think about information in a way you almost certainly will never have done before. So first and foremost if you don’t immediately know the answer to a question, don’t panic, you’re not supposed to! Instead interviewers want to see you vocalise your process of deduction from first principles so let the interviewers know what you’re thinking, talk them through everything.
Very often this turns the interview into a discussion, for example… a question that sticks in my mind from interviews is “tell me how you could measure the volume of all the blood in the body”. After making a joke about bleeding the patient into a measuring jug (yes jokes are ok but don’t go overboard!) I proceeded to discuss how one could apply the molar concentration formula by injecting a known mass of solute before testing a blood sample after equilibration for the concentration of the solute. The interviewers then handed me a piece of paper and asked me to express a blood volume in surd form using my method with measurements they gave me. The interview then proceeded with a discussion of assumptions made in my methodology and how my calculated value would be affected if these assumptions were incorrect, what if the solute was metabolised? What if it was bioavailable? What if it was soluble in the intracellular compartment? What if it was excreted?
This may seem scary as it’s all off the cuff spitballing of ideas, but in fact this one questions and discussion occupied 20/25 minutes of my 40 minute interview! There are no right or wrong answers, vocalise your thought process and as long as your logic is sound the interviewers will be satisfied. Whilst you cannot hope to predict the questions you will be asked, you can practice discussing and deriving scientific methodology as I have described above. I remember spending a lunchtime a week with my A-level biology teacher in the run up to interview postulating all sorts of bizarre things. It really is something that gets better with practice and plus the more you are used to doing it, the more confident you will appear at interview. If you’re reading this in preparation for interview, the very best of luck, just remember you’re going there to learn, they don’t expect you to know it all already… anything they ask can be derived from first principles.