How to Get Into Medicine at Oxford
The University of Oxford’s Medicine undergraduate degree is one of the most prestigious in the world. In fact, the Times Higher Education rankings have placed Oxford as the best in Britain “for medicine for the past 11 years.”
Unsurprisingly, given its excellent reputation, Medicine at Oxford is also one of the most competitive degrees to get into at any UK university. In 2020, only 9.2% of male applicants received places, while just 8% of female applicants got an offer.
Why is Medicine at Oxford so special? Here are a few reasons:
- Exceptional facilities, which include a world-class library and Medicine teaching centre.
- A longer course time of six years (as opposed to five at most other universities), which allows you to get a thorough pre-clinical grounding before heading into clinical placements.
- The tutoring and college system. All Oxford undergraduates have unprecedented access to academic tutors and can enjoy the comforts afforded by living in an intimate and inclusive collegiate environment.
So, now you know why this is such a special degree, you might well be wondering how to get into Medicine at Oxford.
Here’s a rundown of some top tips for building a strong application and giving yourself the best chance of studying Medicine at the University of Oxford.
How to Get Into Medicine at Oxford: Have an Excellent Academic Track Record
If you want to study Medicine at Oxford, you need to have an exceptional academic record. That means great GCSEs: the reality of the situation is that very few applicants with fewer than 8 A*s at GCSE are either shortlisted or called to interview. However, it is worth noting that the admissions department will consider the context when it comes to your GCSEs (for example, if you performed much better than everyone else in your school, but still got fewer than 8 A*’s, this will work in your favour). Admissions tutors are aware that not everyone comes from privileged socio-economic backgrounds, and will look at your academic achievements in the context of the school’s overall performance.
An excellent academic record also includes your predicted A-level or IB grades. Generally speaking, Oxford Medicine applicants are required to achieve A*AA in their three A-levels. These A-levels should include Chemistry and either Physics, Maths, Further Mathematics, or Biology.
It is not essential to take Biology, but it is a helpful subject to take as it can be good preparation for the first year of your course. When it comes to applying for Medicine, Chemistry, Biology, and Maths is a useful subject combination at A-level. For more in-depth information on which combination of A-levels to choose, check out the section on Acing the UK Admissions Process on the A&J Education site.
It is not essential to take more than three A-Levels, but if it is within your abilities then it’s worth considering. Your fellow applicants will be some of the brightest and driven individuals of your age from around the world, and taking an extra A-level can help to set you apart from other candidates. If you are uncertain whether your high school curriculum will satisfy Oxford’s Medicine entry requirements, check the course website or contact admissions directly.
You can also get in touch with one of our expert mentors at A&J Education to book a free consultation and get more insight and advice.
When it comes to the IB, you’ll need to get grades of at least 766 for your three Higher Levels. Overall, you should be aiming for 39/40 points or above in your Diploma. Unlike with A-levels, it’s not worth taking an extra IB subject: you’re taking six subjects already and the IB is generally considered to be more academically rigorous than A-levels. You don’t want to burn out for the sake of taking seven subjects rather than six.
Great BMAT Result
Those applying to Oxford will have to take the BMAT (the BioMedical Admissions Test) as part of the admissions process. The BMAT is an aptitude test which many of the best universities in the UK use as part of their Medicine admissions processes.
Remember that if you’re applying for Medicine at Oxford, you’ll need to take the exam in the November sitting (rather than at any other time of the year). You will also have to register for your BMAT as part of the UCAS process.
The test itself comprises three sections, testing a broad range of skills including problem-solving, data analysis, your scientific knowledge and ability to apply it, and your written communication. Your BMAT score, along with your GCSEs (if available) are two of the key factors that the admissions tutors use when deciding whether you should be shortlisted as a candidate.
According to the Oxford marking criteria, the average applicant scores around 5.0 on the BMAT: if you want to stand out, you should be aiming for a score that’s closer to 6.0 on your test.
If you want to increase your chances of doing well in your BMAT, you’ll need to be strategic about the way you prepare for the assessment. You can access a number of past papers on the BMAT website. You’ll also find some useful guides to sections 1 and 2 of the test, as well as an in-depth rundown of specific marking criteria for section 3.
You can use the section 2 knowledge guide to identify which topics you need to work on. Generally speaking, you’ll require a GCSE level of knowledge in Science and Mathematics.
However, don’t be fooled by that fact. You must ensure that there aren’t any gaps in your foundational knowledge. Moreover, you’ll need to know the core material in-depth so you can answer questions that ask you to apply it to more complex situations or scenarios.
Section 3 often asks you to explore ethical situations you may face as a doctor. One key tip is to learn the four pillars of medical ethics, what they mean and how they can be applied to ethical dilemmas. It’s also useful to practice your writing for this section: the section 3 marking criteria takes the clarity and conciseness of your written work into account.
The best tip is to practice, practice, practice! Don’t wait to take a past paper until you feel ready; they are one of the best ways to get to grips with the format of the BMAT and the types of questions you will be asked. Good luck!
How to Get Into Medicine at Oxford: Strong Personal Statement
As part of your UCAS application, you will also have to write a Personal Statement of up to 4000 characters (approx. 1 page, or 500 to 700 words).
Use this statement as an opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the subject and talk about what drives you to study Medicine at university. The admissions team at Oxford knows that Medicine is a highly demanding career: they’ll want to see that you have really thought through this application. They’ll also be searching for candidates with work experience in either a clinical or caring environment.
Look for opportunities to work at your local hospital or GP surgery. You can even volunteer at a care home near you. Many of these spots can get filled up quickly so start looking early.
Read around your subject. There are lots of popular non-fiction books relating to medicine at the moment; Phantoms in the Brain, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, and This Is Going To Hurt are all great, insightful books. Mentioning them in your Personal Statement or interview will demonstrate your love for the subject.
Check the BBC Health website or The Lancet online journal regularly to keep your finger on the pulse of global and domestic medical news.
You need to be prepared to make a compelling case about why you want to become a doctor. You’ll also need to show that you’re constantly working to prepare yourself for facing the many challenges that medical school, and then life as a doctor, will present.
For a more in-depth insight into writing an effective Personal Statement, check out our in-depth guide to applying to a UK university on the A&J Education website.
Apply by October 15th!
This is the crucial date to remember. You must submit your application by October 15th at 6 pm UK time. This is the deadline not just for Oxford, but for all medical school applications in the UK. No late applications will be accepted.
Wait to See if You Have Been Shortlisted
About a quarter of applicants will be shortlisted and called to interview. You will find out if you have been successful around the end of November. If you have been invited to interview, well done! You have made it over the first hurdle!
How to Get Into Medicine at Oxford: Have a Great Interview
The interview is a crucial part of your application. You have made it this far because the Oxford admissions team thinks you have the right profile on paper, but now they want to see how you respond in the interview.
You’ll be interviewed by medical tutors, and will have multiple interviews spread across two separate colleges.
Interviews are usually held in mid-December. You’ll find that your preparation for the BMAT and for writing your Personal Statement will have stood you in good stead for your interview, but here are a few more tips to help:
- Think out loud. Tutors won’t expect you to know everything: the interview is meant to be challenging. They want to see that you can work through intellectual problems in an innovative way, so it’s useful to articulate your thinking process out loud.
- Expect pictures. It’s quite likely that tutors will present you with an X-ray or microscopic slide and ask you some questions about it. Don’t try and overcomplicate it – they are not asking for a diagnosis – but begin with the basics and go from there.
- Practice interpreting graphs. The tutors might also hand you a graph and ask some questions. Again, it’s best to start with the basics (axes, type of data, type of graph) and go from there
- Read medical articles. You may also be given a short article to read as you wait outside the room: the tutors will ask you questions on this article once you get into the interview. If you read scientific and medical news regularly, and practice identifying the key points, possible issues, and broader themes in these types of articles, you’ll feel comfortable answering these questions.
- Relax. Easier said than done! However, your interviewers really are not trying to trick you. They know that you’ll be nervous, and they’ll look to put you at ease as soon as you get into the room. They know that the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll be able to demonstrate your intellectual capacity.
- Ignore the noise. There are always loud candidates talking about how qualified they are to study Medicine at Oxford. Ignore them. Focus on turning up on time, and making sure you have the right room.
If you want more advice on how to relax during the medical school admissions process, check out our article on alleviating stress for interview season.