Section A: The Application Process for Medicine at Oxford
1. What qualities does Oxford University Medical School look for?
It's pivotal that applicants for any medical school show a passion for learning, of course because the medical degree is a gruelling 5/6 years of studying, but also because Medicine as a whole entails life-long learning in order to develop and succeed in your chosen specialty. At Oxford, huge significance is placed upon the science underpinning clinical Medicine and as such, scientific ability and a hunger for learning are key factors assessed by the admissions team. As well as this, applicants should possess a realistic understanding of what a career in Medicine involves. They should also possess the key attributes that any doctor should have, such as having an empathetic persona as well as good communication skills.
2. What elements of your application does Oxford University value most?
The personal statement is not marked by the admissions team, however, they do mention that it is an important part of the application process as it provides an insight into your interests, achievements and ambitions. They also state that while personal statements are not formally scored, they are read carefully and at the interview stage, the personal statement is likely to provide a focus for the questions that you are asked.
The most important parts of the application process are your GCSEs and BMAT scores. This is because students are shortlisted for interview based on their combined GCSE & BMAT scores. There is no cut-off as such for your BMAT/GCSE scores. (As a side note, GCSE results are contextualized, meaning they are compared to the results students usually obtained at your school eg. to see if you have over-achieved. For more information on how contextualized results are used/interpreted, please follow this link: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/decisions/contextual-data.
Around 25% of applicants are shortlisted for interviews. At the interview stage, there is roughly 1 place available per 2.5 individuals, so the interviews are very competitive and performance at interview is extremely important in helping the admissions tutors decide who to give a place to.
3. How important is the BMAT score at Oxford University?
Oxford requires the October/November sitting of the BMAT test to be taken (the month may vary from year to year so check the BMAT website). The BMAT test is extremely important in the shortlisting process as candidates are shortlisted based on their combined GCSE and BMAT results. A numerical ranking based on both GCSE and BMAT performance, equally weighted, is used to shortlist candidates for interview.
While there's no 'cut off' or minimum score you need to obtain on the BMAT, it's worth bearing in mind that applicants are shortlisted for interview according to their combined BMAT and GCSE score, so you want to score as high as possible on the BMAT to increase your chances of being shortlisted.
In the shortlisting process, sections 1, 2 and 3 of the BMAT exam are weighted 40%, 40% and 20% respectively. Of those shortlisted in 2020, the mean adjusted BMAT score was 60% and in 2019 it was 61.8%.
The following graphs, showing the distribution of the number of A*s achieved at GCSE (nA*), the proportion of As achieved at GCSE (pA*) and adjusted BMAT scores for the 2020 cohort, may be seen below.
4. How important are the grades you ultimately achieve for Medicine at Oxford University?
The entrance requirements for Medicine at Oxford are A*AA in three A-Levels (excluding Critical Thinking and General Studies, and the international A-level in Thinking Skills) taken in the same academic year.Candidates are required to achieve at least grade A in both Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics, Mathematics or Further Mathematics.
They aren't flexible if you miss your grades, so it's vital you match the entrance requirements.
5. What other requirements does this university have for Medicine?
While there is no formal GCSE requirement for Medicine, a strong performance at GCSE is essential to increasing your chances of being shortlisted for an interview. The admissions website states that 'The GCSE measure used was a combination of proportion of the A* grades at GCSE and number of A* grades at GCSE (with equal weighting).' It is worth bearing in mind that GCSE results are contextualized as GCSE performance is assessed against the results usually obtained at your school to see if you may have over-achieved relative to the results usually obtained at your school. More information on contextualized results may be found here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses-listing/medicine
Of those offered an interview in 2020, the mean number of A*s was 10.6 and in 2019 it was 10.2. For shortlisting purposes, a grade 8 or 9 is equivalent to an A*.
6. What should I put in my personal statement for Medicine at Oxford University?
The following paragraph from the Oxford admissions website outlines their stance on the personal statement:
"Your personal statement is an important part of your application to Oxford. It allows you to tell us about your interests, achievements and ambitions in your own words. Although we do not formally score your statement we read it carefully. If you are invited for interview, the statement is likely to provide a focus for the questions that you are asked. It is therefore essential that your statement is an accurate, unembellished account of your activities. We may check the claims that you make on your statement: discovery of fabricated or exaggerated material – during the admissions exercise, or even later on during your time as a student – may bring into question your suitability to practise Medicine.
For A100 Medicine at Oxford, GCSE and BMAT performance data are predominantly used initially to determine whether or not you are short-listed for interview. The information that you provide in your personal statement becomes increasingly important if you are not short-listed on the basis of GCSE and BMAT scores. Of course, every detail becomes important once you have reached the interviews and are being considered for a place."
When I was writing my personal statement, I was told that Oxford valued academic achievements a lot more than any non-academic ones, so I was told to have an 80%/20% split between academic and non-academic points in the personal statement. Make sure you don't neglect the non-academic side of things though. You're applying to 3 other Medical schools as well, and you're often told to have a 50%/50% split for most other medical schools, so I think it's a balancing act here. Try to get in as much of your academic interests and achievements as that's definitely highly valued by Oxford but don't completely neglect your other extra-curricular activities. These show the Medical schools who you are as a person, and are an excellent opportunity to help explain how you've developed and exhibited some of the essential skills required for any medical student and doctor. This can include your great teamwork skills shown through being a member of a football team, your brilliant time-management skills in holding down a part-time job during your academic studies or your great communication skills as you're a member of your school's debating society!
On the academic front, here's your chance to showcase your academic skills and interests, perhaps by including any academic projects you've undertaken, any books you've read or any special interests and how you've researched these. Oxford's Medical School is big on research - the university is full of Medical researchers, and the fact that undergraduates students are made to intercalate in 3rd year shows the importance the Medical School gives to academic research, so really try to show your interest in this, and in understanding the science underlying Medicine: display intellectual curiosity and show-case your problem-solving skills!
7. What is the structure of the Medicine interview at Oxford University?
The Oxford interviews usually take place over 2 days (you're given accommodation in an Oxford college to stay overnight). You're interviewed at 2 different colleges - the first is your college of choice (as listed in your UCAS application) and the second is randomly assigned. At each college, you will usually have two interviews, so there's a total of four interviews.
All the interviews are 'panel' interviews - you'll usually be interviewed by 2 tutors. The tutors are those you will be taught by at the college and they're usually very friendly people!
8. What does Oxford University look for in a Medicine interview?
The interviews are structured as an Oxford tutorial would be. Tutorials are small group teaching (usually 3 students with 1 tutor) in which you study a specific topic in a lot of depth. They're very interactive, with students encouraged to get involved, give their thoughts and come up with solutions to questions. At the interview, the tutors are assessing how well suited you'd be to this type of teaching. You need to show that you're engaged with the topic or problem presented and they want you to show intellectual curiosity. Vocalise your thoughts as you work through the problem, as it shows the interviewers how you think - and this is what they really want to know about you. If they know your train of thought, it also allows the interviewers to engage more with you and help you along the way, giving you hints etc.
The interviewers aren't necessarily interested in you getting the right answers, but they want to know how you think and the logic behind your solution. Try and ask inquisitive questions, and say aloud what you're thinking.
In terms of the actual questions themselves, they're pretty random and it's very difficult to prepare as such for an Oxford interview. I'd suggest brushing up on everything you've covered in A-Level Biology so far but the interviewers don't expect you to know everything, and as I've mentioned, they're far more interested in finding out how you think and reason and if you are able to critically analyse problems that you are presented with rather than your learned knowledge.
9. What are my chances of getting into Oxford for Medicine?
Medicine at Oxford is very competitive. In 2020, Oxford Medical School received 2,054 UCAS applications (1,766 in 2019). In 2020, around 23% of the applicants were shortlisted for interview. In 2019 25% of applicants were shortlisted for interview. At the interview stage, there are usually around 2.5 applicants per place available. Overall, this means that around 10% of applicants are offered a place to study Medicine at Oxford.
10. What are the entry requirements for Medicine at Oxford University?
Section B: What is Medicine at Oxford University really like?
1. What types of Medicine courses are available at Oxford University?
The undergraduate course (A100) is a 6 year long course. In your 3rd year, you essentially intercalate - you choose specific options which you study over the year and are examined on these at the end of the year (for example, I studied endocrinology, infection and cardiovascular medicine.) Alongside this, you undertake a year long project which can be a lab-based or a statistical project. You are also required to write an Extended Essay which is a 3000 word essay on a topic of your choice. At the end of this year, you gain a BA in Medical Sciences. Years 4-6 of the course are the clinical years, and after completing these you obtain a BMBCh in Medicine. The following link provides more information on the standard Medicine course: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses-listing/medicine.
There is also the option to enrol in the graduate-entry/accelerated Medicine course (A101). This course is an intensive four year medical course and has been designed for graduates who are trained in applied or experimental sciences. It is a 4 year course and is open to students who have already obtained a degree in an experimental science subject. The following link provides more information on the graduate-entry Medicine course: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses-listing/medicine-accelerated.
2. What is the course structure of the 6 year Medicine course?
Teaching at Oxford is very traditional - split into 3 years of pre-clinical teaching, followed by 3 years of clinical teaching. Your clinical exposure is very restricted in your first 3 years, as the medical school prefers instead to focus on the scienceunderlying Medicine. You'll cover all the fundamental medical sciences in your first 2 years. The first year syllabus covers physiology/pharmacology, biochemistry, genetics and anatomy while in your second year you study applied physiology/pharmacology as well as pathology & neuroscience. The third year, as mentioned earlier, is an intercalated year.
Years 4-6 are clinical, when you'll start rotations and clinical placements in Oxford and other district general hospitals in surrounding areas (includes Oxford, Northampton, Reading, Swindon and Milton Keynes) as well as undertaking GP placements. In your 6th year, you have the chance to undertake a Medical elective which may be undertaken in the UK or abroad.
3. What is the teaching style?
The teaching style is traditional - you have daily lectures covering the syllabus. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, lectures were never recorded, so if you wanted to listen to them you had to attend the lectures in person (although lecture attendance is not compulsory, nor is it monitored).
As well as this, twice a term you're given the chance to visit a local GP practice and interview a patient who suffers from an illness that you would have come across in your studies, to observe how the clinical symptoms may present in a patient, and discover more about the effects these illnesses have on a patient's life.
You also have weekly compulsory dissection room (DR) sessions in 1st year and slightly less frequent DR sessions in 2nd year. It's prosection (meaning that the dissections have already been carried out beforehand) and you are given the chance to learn anatomy while being taught by either a final year medical student, a tutor or a junior doctor who runs the session. It's roughly 6-8 students per teacher, so this is a very good opportunity to learn in-depth anatomy and ask lots of questions.
You also will have labs roughly once or twice a week to develop your practical skills and enhance your understanding of the main subject areas, such as physiology/pharmacology and biochemistry. As well as this, every Friday you have histology sessions where you study cells under a microscope. These sessions are an incredibly relaxed way to end the week.
In my opinion, one of the best features of Oxford's teaching style is its tutorials. Tutorials are small group teaching, usually consisting of 3 students with 1 tutor and you undertake them with your fellow college medics. These are compulsory sessions but are a genuinely great opportunity to really develop your subject knowledge as tutors are experts in their fields and it also gives you the chance to go over anything you may not have understood from lectures. As the other 2 students will be your college medics, you'll usually be very friendly with them, making tutorials more relaxed and enjoyable. The tutors are also usually very lovely (my tutor always offered us hot chocolate and biscuits during tutorials!) so tutorials can be genuinely fun.
4. What does an average day as a first year medical student at Oxford University look like?
The timetable can vary considerably from day to day, as some days you may have around 5 hours worth of teaching, while on another day you may only have a single 1 hour lecture. Wednesday afternoons are always kept lecture free. Please find below my first year, second term timetable (this is from 2018). Bear in mind that once you start removing the sessions which don't apply to you (eg. are not for your group), the timetable looks a lot less packed!
5. Is an iBSc offered at this university?
The intercalated 3rd year has been mentioned earlier, but to summarise, it's a compulsory year you undertake in your 3rd year and in this year you choose specific topics and themes to study. Alongside this, you undertake a lab-based or statistical project and write a 3000 word extended essay on any scientific/medical topic of your choice. Unlike some other universities, your research must be Medicine focused (you can't do a humanities based course like some other universities may offer).
6. What is the typical cohort size and does this change as you progress through the course?
The typical cohort size in Oxford is around 150 students and this doesn't change much as you progress through the course.
7. Which hospitals are linked to Oxford University?
When you begin clinical placements, you're initially based at the local Oxford hospital, the John Radcliffe (JR) hospital. You're then sent on clinical rotations to District General Hospitals which are based in Swindon, Reading, Milton Keynes and Northampton. The university offers you accommodation in these towns.
Section C: University & Medical School Life
1. Where is the university located?
Oxford University, unsurprisingly, is located in the city of Oxford. At Oxford, as well as being a member of the actual University, you're also a member of an Oxford college. Colleges are small, multidisciplinary communities consisting of students, academic and administrative staff. Colleges have accommodation for their students, as well as a dining hall, library and a common room. They also have their own societies and college sports clubs, so colleges provide a really lovely community and place for you to stay throughout your degree (for Medicine, you're given the option to change colleges at the end of your 3rd year). There are over 30 different colleges, and they're found around Oxford. Some colleges are located centrally while others are found further away from the city centre. Saying this, all the colleges are within walking distance of each other, so wherever you are you won't be too far away from friends at other colleges etc.
When applying, it's worth visiting the colleges to see how you find them, as each college is unique and has its own character. It's also worth having a look around to see if you prefer to be in the city centre, or if you'd rather be further away.
2. Are students encouraged to take part in societies?
Oxford is full of societies, at both University and College level. While there are many academic societies for you to get involved in, you're definitely encouraged to broaden your horizons and get involved in some of the more casual and fun societies too, and trust me there's a never-ending list of those! With over 400 societies and clubs, there's something for any interest, from the Quidditch Society (don't ask) to Orchestra. Here's a link to all the societies available for you to join at Oxford: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/life/clubs/list.
The list of sports societies for you to join is also impressive, with 83 sports currently covered. These include the main sports such as Football, Cricket, Hockey and Oxford's speciality of Rowing, to more niche interests such as Caving and Rifle. The full list can be found here: https://www.sport.ox.ac.uk/sports-a-to-z#/.
Colleges also have their own college sports clubs, so you can represent your college at university-wide sports tournaments. As well as this, there is a Medical society (MedSoc) which also run their own events for you to get a chance to meet other medics.
3. How diverse is Oxford University?
The following statistics are Oxford University statistics, and not specific to the Medical School.
The proportion of UK-domiciled students admitted to Oxford who indicate in their UCAS application that they identify as BME has risen from 15.8% in 2016 to 23.6% in 2020.
The proportion of UK-domiciled students admitted to Oxford who indicate in their UCAS application that they identify as Asian has risen from 7.2% in 2016 to 9.6% in 2020.
The proportion of UK-domiciled students admitted to Oxford who indicate in their UCAS application that they identify as Bangladeshi or Pakistani has risen from 1.4% in 2016 to 2.0% in 2020.
The proportion of UK-domiciled students admitted to Oxford who indicate in their UCAS application that they identify as Black has risen from 1.3% in 2016 to 3.7% in 2020
The proportion of UK-domiciled students admitted to Oxford who indicate in their UCAS application that they identify as Mixed Heritage rose from 6.4% in 2016 to 8.8% in 2020.
In 2020, 68.6% of students were from state schools while 31.4% were from independent schools
Regarding the ratio of undergraduates: graduates, Oxford usually has around 3,300 undergraduate places and about 5,500 graduate places each year.
4. What bursaries are available at Oxford University for medical students?
Oxford University provides funding and bursaries for students, and individual colleges may have additional funding available for eligible students, such as a dedicated hardship fund.
The following information is taken directly from Oxford's webpage on bursaries and scholarships for 2022 entry:
'If you are a UK-resident studying for your first undergraduate degree and your annual household income is £27,500 or less, we will offer you a Crankstart Scholarship. This includes a non-repayable bursary worth up to £5,000 per year towards study and living costs. The Crankstart Scholarship also provides access to funded internships to develop employability skills, volunteering opportunities and social and community building events. For full details of the scholarship visit the Crankstart Scholarship pages.'
If you are a UK student, or a Republic of Ireland (ROI) national living in the UK or Ireland, from a lower-income household studying for your first undergraduate degree (or Graduate Entry Medicine) and are not eligible for, or do not take up, a Crankstart Scholarship you will be eligible to receive an annual non-repayable Oxford Bursary to help with the costs of studying and living in Oxford.
Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who have been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme may qualify for home fee status and student finance from the UK government, and therefore they may also be eligible for an Oxford Bursary if they meet the residence requirements.
The bursary amount will depend on your annual household income:
It may also be worth looking at specific college websites to see what they can offer financially. Some colleges may give you a small sum of money to contribute to buying textbooks etc. It is worth noting that the libraries are extremely well-stocked, so in all honesty, you don't really need to go out your way to buy textbooks.
5. Are student support services readily available and easy to access?
Each Oxford college has its own college doctor, nurse and college counsellor who are all very happy to support students in any capacity. Each college also usually has a chaplain who may be able to offer help and advice. As well as this, there is a specific University Counselling service made available to students. The Medical School also employs a Senior Welfare Doctor solely to help and advise medical students - you can book a 1 hour consultation with them and receive completely confidential help. This can range from general stress about exams/studying and needing advice on time-management to more complex mental health issues.
Regarding taking time off, students have the option to 'rusticate' which essentially means to suspend studies for a year (although this may be longer if required). College tutors would be able to advise regarding this.
For mitigating circumstances, it's judged on a case by case basis. For Medicine, getting in touch with your college and with the Medical School Senior Welfare doctor would be advised.
6. What are the best food spots around Oxford University?
Oxford is full of wonderful restaurants, takeaways and kebab vans! The shopping centre, Westgate, also has its own food court and moving further away from the city centre, you can find Cowley Road (located pretty close to St Hilda's and Magdalen College). Cowley Road is full of ethnic stores and cafes so finding good food shouldn't be a problem in Oxford! Cowley Road also has plenty of halal cafes and a halal butcher which I personally found very helpful!
7. Is student accommodation available at Oxford University?
Every college provides its own student accommodation for students to live on-site. Have a look at the accommodations that different colleges offer on open days if you can because they can vary quite considerably. Some colleges offer you accommodation for 3/4 years, while others might require you to live off-site (eg. rent a house privately) for a year.
College accommodation is pretty reasonably priced, and you're only charged for the weeks you're actually living in accommodation (Oxford's terms are 8 weeks, you're not charged during the holidays when you go home.)
Once you reach the clinical years (Year 4 onwards) you're usually required to rent accommodation privately, and living in the OX3 postcode, near Marston, is a popular choice for 4th-6th years, as it's close to the John Radcliffe Hospital. You are given the option to change colleges at the end of 3rd year, and Green Templeton College is a graduate college that does offer on-site accommodation for clinical medics in the city centre.