This is Delphine’s experience of a St Johns College Medicine Interview – if you’re applying for Medicine at Cambridge then this will be a great indicator to what you need to think about when it comes to your Medicine interview.

What was the format of your interview?

My St Johns College Medicine Interview consisted of two interviews – one on personal statement and the other more science based. Both interviews had two people interviewing and took place in rooms at St. John’s college, around mid December. Both interviews were quite formal, however the personal statement interviews felt slightly more casual. Each interview lasted about 20 minutes, so in total only 40 minutes/

I made sure I had read up on the stuff that was mentioned in my personal statement and also was up to date with any current medical news. For the scientific interview, it is quite difficult to prepare specifically for what is going to come up as they could technically ask anything and are more just looking at how you think rather than what you know. Thus, for this bit of the interview I did not specifically prepare anything.

What was the content of the interview?

In the first interview, they focused their questions on my personal statement. This included questions such as: “How do you/are you going to manage your time if you came to Cambridge (seeing as I played a significant amount of sport?” My answer to this was that playing sport actually helped me to manage my time as it was a break from work and allowed me to structure the time I did work.

In this interview they also gave me a graph to interpret (which showed that health increased with income i.e. health inequality). Both the tutors in this interview were extremely friendly (one was medical and one was not). They did make me think and obviously, there are always some nerves going into an interview but they made it as comfortable as they could and for these reasons I did enjoy it.

In the second interview the questions were more specific to medicine. They took out some vertebral body models and asked me some questions about them, such as which ones I thought would be located where on the spinal column etc. (the answer was the more substantial ones further down to support the weight above) and asked me to try and put the vertebral bodies together. They also asked me about some of the muscles in the legs, such as those in the thigh (and what I thought their predominant role was in locomotion). Although I did find this interview quite challenging, it is now obvious to me that they do not care so much about what I already know, but are interested in the steps of how I think and approach novel problems (so remember to think out loud!).

What surprised you about the process?

The format was how I thought it would be, with one interview focused on the personal statement (questions about work experience, why medicine, extracurricular’s – the usual stuff to expect). However, in this interview I was also asked to interpret a graph, so it is not just limited to personal statement questions. I think also it is important for this part of the interview to be clued up about current topics related to medicine in the news.

The more scientifically orientated interview was also how I expected it to be. They are really interested in how you think, and so will stretch you in presenting a problem or question that you are not familiar with. In this interview it is important to speak through your thoughts out loud as you try and work out the problem they are presenting. They are not out to see you fail and so if you become stuck will help you along (which from what I can remember happened to me quite a lot).

How did you prepare?

For the interview I did several things, including:
1) Read the book ‘The Knowledge’ my Mona Kooner – this is very helpful for medical ethics and for all medical interviews (not just Oxbridge ones)
2) Made sure I looked in detail at the stuff i mentioned in my personal statement.
3) Made sure I was up to date with news that was medically related (e.g. current problems in the NHS)
4) Made sure I had an answer prepared to the classic questions like “why medicine?”, “why this college?”, “Why cambridge/oxford?” etc. (Try and make these answers original and specific to you as they’ve probably heard the same answer about a million times!)

What did you think to the overall experience?

I think the overall process is effective. I like how the personal statement/work experience questions are in a separate interview from the scientific interview as this allowed me to switch between modes of thinking. In addition, there were only two interviews and they were ~20 mins each which went very quickly! This means you can come to the interview in the morning and be gone by early afternoon, which was nice.

The tutors are all really nice and are not trying to catch you out. Some of the questions may be challenging but just take your time and think out loud, they want to see if you can problem solve (which is a really important skill for all medics!). I think the layout of the interview has changed slightly now, as there are three separate interviews, but it is a similar sort of thing, with one focused on personal statement/work experience and the other two more scientific.

What would your advice be to someone applying to your course?

Try not to be too nervous about the interview, as the more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to perform to your best ability. The people interviewing you are nice and not trying to scare you!

Try to stay on top of current medical news, make sure you know about stuff you’ve mentioned in your personal statement and be prepared to talk about work experience and why you want to go to the university/college in question.

Although you may not think it before the interview, when you come out you may realise that you actually really enjoyed it! Good luck!