Application

 Cambridge

 Christ’s

 Medicine

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – non-selective

Not known if selective

 yes (9 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(NA at AS)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

EEE at A2, take two AEAs

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

The science based course appealed to me as I wanted to see just what exactly all the science at A-Level was leading to. I also think to become the best doctor I can, a solid grounding in the scientific basis of medical procedure is essential.

My impression had always been that Cambridge was better for science. Also I liked the fact that Cambridge was dominated by the university and the city was more an afterthought while Oxford was half city and half university.

My teachers set me a few past paper questions to prepare for the MVAT which weren’t marked, but were discussed. My Biology teacher from September picked out a disease a week which I would go away and research and then discuss with her. I also had two mock interviews which were in my opinion more interviews based around procedures at other medical schools, but were in fact more similar to the interviews I received at Cambridge than I thought they would be.

Preparation

yes

CAF:Be honest, keep it neat and legible and if you choose to fill in the “additions to personal statement” box try and engineer a fluid prose style.
Read around the subject. I have a large ring binder full of articles I’ve found interesting in New Scientist and Scientific American over the past 18 months. It is never too late to start. Read books as well. I’m interested in immunology, oncology, virology and evolutionary theory. I wanted to read as much as I could about these subjects and even looked at undergraduate textbooks at times. Keep up to date on ethical isues relating to medicine in the broadsheet newspapers especially in the weeks leading up to the interview.

Interview

yes

The MVAT. I did some past paper questions and discussed them with my chemistry teacher. I also did some past paper questions from the UK mathematical challenge as they seemed similar in style to sections 1 and 2. In section 3 you get the chance to show how much you know so if you can bring in things you’ve read from outside the A-Level syllabus it may help. Also I think in 2003 they will ask about scientific epistemology – it might be worth looking it up.

no

no

I stayed overnight in the college and met some of the other interviewees who were reasuringly friendly and nervous. My first interview was the next day and I thought I would be asked lots of hard science questions but was asked mainly about ethics and only a little science. The second interview was split half and half between questions on my motivation for medicine and science. The third I had thought went disastrously for the reasons I will outline below.

I didn’t have to submit any work, but when I was called to interview the letter said I could bring any work I wanted the interviewers to see with me. I ended up taking my A2 Biology and Physics coursework with me and an essay on medical ethics I’d written for religious studies.

In my first interview I was asked expected questions such as why did I want to become a doctor and what the positives and negatives of life as a doctor were etc. This was followed by questions on the ethics of Professor von Haegan’s televised dissection. Here I tried to explain why proponents of both sides of the argument thought what they thought and then gave and reasoned my own opinion. I was then asked what I thought the biggest advances in medicine in the past twenty years were and what diseases were the biggest killers. I was finally asked how blood is returned to the heart. In my second interview I was asked again why I wanted to be a doctor and why I wanted to study at Christ’s and Cambridge. I was then asked to explain how embryonic stem cells differentiate into specialised tissue and this led on once again to questions on the ethics of this. We finished by the interviewer asking me to take him through the process of evolution with reference to the shells he had in front of him. In my final interview I really thought I’d messed up. He fist asked me again why I wanted to be a doctor etc and then said that since this was the college of Darwin we should perhaps talk about evolution and speciation. He asked me what a species was and how speciation took place. I messed this up but instead of giving me another bite at the cherry he continued to talk for a long time. I hadn’t said much after about ten minutes and was getting worried and so I started to interject with hopefully intelligent questions and comments E.G. “Is that an example of positive feedback?” and “Is that similar to the recent sequencing of the mouse genome?” etc. Each time I said something, the usual reply was that I was correct but only partially or that there was a better answer. I came out feeling like I’d blown it but in hindsight having received an offer I think that the interviewer was looking for me to engage him in discussion and make rational propositions which showed thought even if they weren’t correct. Don’t let me put you off, the interviewer was extremely nice, I just didn’t like it because I thought I’d messed up. Be confident but not cocky. If you have any questions just e-mail me, I’d like to help if I can.

Grey suit as this is what I have to wear for school and felt comfortable in it. I met a lot of interviewees who were dressed in smart casual so I don’t think this is too important.

Impressions

I was utterly imperessed with it about 10 seconds after stepping through the gates. I was sold then, but there were a lot of things that reinforced this for example the friendly , open and welcoming students.

The room I stayed in was fairly large with a cupboard, washbasin, bed, chairs and desk. However none of the walls had paint or wallpaper and were entirely composed of bleak, grey concrete. One the other hand though, I think you get moved to a nicer room after first year, and all the students I talked to said they had really enjoyed living in that block because all the corridors are interconnected and it made for a really fun time.

Good

All very polite, seemingly knowledgable and all eager to put interviewees at ease.

Tremendous. I spent some of the time the night before my interviews and some of the time between them in the common room and they were all open, friendly and reassuring.

Final stage

I was at a friends house and so my parents gave me the news over the phone. I then proceeded to phone all my friends with the news and arrange to celebrate. I wasn’t expecting to get in so to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. The news didn’t really sink in until days after the event.

Looking back

Yes, because I would not have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t tried

Read around your subject. Try your best and if you don’t suceed be glad you tried. Don’t apply if you can’t handle being rejected. The most important thing for me was to become a doctor; Cambridge was an afterthought.