The Student Room Group

Biomedical Sciences vs Chemistry at Oxford

Hi everyone, I am currently in Year 12 and hoping to apply for either Oxford Biomed (A*AA) or Oxford Chem (A*A*A)

My predicted grades are currently:
Biology - A*
Chemistry - A (I have appealed for this to be raised to an A*)
Maths - A
EPQ - tbc

I am a Chemistry representative at school and have always thought of doing Chemistry as it was the subject I enjoyed most on my school curriculum since Year 10. However, after looking at the Oxford Chemistry (and similar) courses, the material looks extremely hard and maths heavy - I think a lot of applicants will have Further Maths, let alone an A* in Maths which I do not. I am not confident I will enjoy Chemistry as the only aspects I enjoy are Organic Chemistry, Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry etc. However, a lot of my application has been surrounded around Chemistry (although it's not too late - I'm not sure what I could do to tailor it more to Biomed If I end up choosing this)

Oxford Biomed has some Pharmacology modules in the 2nd year but I'm not confident that an application/personal statement which focuses solely on Pharmacology will be enough to be offered a place on this course (as there are other modules such as Immunology, Cellular Biology, Neuroscience etc which seem interesting upon first glance but I have never expressed an interest in these subjects and certainly will not be able to write a personal statement on them.

My other uni choices have Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry which I find very appealing. But I really really want to apply to Oxford but I'm not sure if I should apply for Pure Chem because it's what I'm used to despite it being hard and not as enjoyable as I image or if I should take the new and somewhat spontaneous route and apply for Biochem with a personal statement only focusing on 1 module of the course
Original post by rayvenclaw444
Hi everyone, I am currently in Year 12 and hoping to apply for either Oxford Biomed (A*AA) or Oxford Chem (A*A*A)

My predicted grades are currently:
Biology - A*
Chemistry - A (I have appealed for this to be raised to an A*)
Maths - A
EPQ - tbc

I am a Chemistry representative at school and have always thought of doing Chemistry as it was the subject I enjoyed most on my school curriculum since Year 10. However, after looking at the Oxford Chemistry (and similar) courses, the material looks extremely hard and maths heavy - I think a lot of applicants will have Further Maths, let alone an A* in Maths which I do not. I am not confident I will enjoy Chemistry as the only aspects I enjoy are Organic Chemistry, Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry etc. However, a lot of my application has been surrounded around Chemistry (although it's not too late - I'm not sure what I could do to tailor it more to Biomed If I end up choosing this)

Oxford Biomed has some Pharmacology modules in the 2nd year but I'm not confident that an application/personal statement which focuses solely on Pharmacology will be enough to be offered a place on this course (as there are other modules such as Immunology, Cellular Biology, Neuroscience etc which seem interesting upon first glance but I have never expressed an interest in these subjects and certainly will not be able to write a personal statement on them.

My other uni choices have Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry which I find very appealing. But I really really want to apply to Oxford but I'm not sure if I should apply for Pure Chem because it's what I'm used to despite it being hard and not as enjoyable as I image or if I should take the new and somewhat spontaneous route and apply for Biochem with a personal statement only focusing on 1 module of the course


Having read this, I think it would be best you avoid chemistry and biomed at Oxford for the time being. Medicinal chemistry elsewhere sounds like the way forward. If you find inorganic and physical chemistry disinteresting, you’ll hate pure chemistry and since you haven’t given biomed much consideration, you likely don’t know what you are actually applying for and a lack of ability to write about it in a PS is a huge problem.

Perhaps looking at doing a masters at Oxford later in one of the areas in chemistry you have identified as being especially interesting may be the way.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 2
Original post by TypicalNerd
Having read this, I think it would be best you avoid chemistry and biomed at Oxford for the time being. Medicinal chemistry elsewhere sounds like the way forward. If you find inorganic and physical chemistry disinteresting, you’ll hate pure chemistry and since you haven’t given biomed much consideration, you likely don’t know what you are actually applying for and a lack of ability to write about it in a PS is a huge problem.

Perhaps looking at doing a masters at Oxford later in one of the areas in chemistry you have identified as being especially interesting may be the way.

My issue is that I find all parts of pure Chemistry interesting during A-level lessons but I'm worried it will become much harder and confusing (especially physical chem) and therefore I will start to dislike it. I really like the prospect of studying pharmacology and Biomed is the only Oxford course that offers this - albeit it being in the second year
Original post by rayvenclaw444
My issue is that I find all parts of pure Chemistry interesting during A-level lessons but I'm worried it will become much harder and confusing (especially physical chem) and therefore I will start to dislike it. I really like the prospect of studying pharmacology and Biomed is the only Oxford course that offers this - albeit it being in the second year

I can promise you, compared to A level, uni will be much harder and more confusing - regardless of which subject you take.

Generally speaking, you should avoid applying to Oxford if you aren’t confident you are applying to a subject you are passionate about in practically every regard. As such, applying for biomed for the sake of a few modules is possibly quite an unwise idea as you likely don’t know what the rest of the course entails and whether you’d actually enjoy it.

Consider making a visit to Oxford at some point to see what the university is like and see if you can talk to any students currently at Oxford to get an idea of what chemistry and biomed at Oxford are like.

There is an official open day on September 15th, if you can attend. Failing that, I’m a current offer holder for chemistry at Oxford and I can try to answer some questions to the best of my ability if needed.
Reply 4
Original post by TypicalNerd
I can promise you, compared to A level, uni will be much harder and more confusing - regardless of which subject you take.

Generally speaking, you should avoid applying to Oxford if you aren’t confident you are applying to a subject you are passionate about in practically every regard. As such, applying for biomed for the sake of a few modules is possibly quite an unwise idea as you likely don’t know what the rest of the course entails and whether you’d actually enjoy it.

Consider making a visit to Oxford at some point to see what the university is like and see if you can talk to any students currently at Oxford to get an idea of what chemistry and biomed at Oxford are like.

There is an official open day on September 15th, if you can attend. Failing that, I’m a current offer holder for chemistry at Oxford and I can try to answer some questions to the best of my ability if needed.

THANK GOD YOU ARE STUDYING CHEM I HAVE MANY QUESTIONS

Firstly, thank you for your reply - I have decided to stick with Chemistry as it is too risky to apply for Biomed with such little knowledge and experience in the subject. I do like Chemistry the most, my major concern was the difficulty level - however, I appreciate each subject is supposed to get significantly more challenging at degree level. Although, I can see myself studying Chemistry with Medicinal Chem in Imperial College London more (as opposed to Oxford Chem but would still like to apply nonetheless)

Secondly, regarding your application, were you able to find any work experience or anything similar to put in your application? I have picked up one book which I plan to start reading but that is all I have. I'm not sure what else I can do to make my application stand out and I would appreciate any advice you have on this, including perhaps what you did to show your interest? Thank you
Original post by rayvenclaw444
THANK GOD YOU ARE STUDYING CHEM I HAVE MANY QUESTIONS

Firstly, thank you for your reply - I have decided to stick with Chemistry as it is too risky to apply for Biomed with such little knowledge and experience in the subject. I do like Chemistry the most, my major concern was the difficulty level - however, I appreciate each subject is supposed to get significantly more challenging at degree level. Although, I can see myself studying Chemistry with Medicinal Chem in Imperial College London more (as opposed to Oxford Chem but would still like to apply nonetheless)

Secondly, regarding your application, were you able to find any work experience or anything similar to put in your application? I have picked up one book which I plan to start reading but that is all I have. I'm not sure what else I can do to make my application stand out and I would appreciate any advice you have on this, including perhaps what you did to show your interest? Thank you


I would say that you shouldn’t worry so much about work experience as chemistry is a highly academic degree and since there is very little in the way of work experience opportunities for chemistry, it isn’t expected that you should have any.

I for one tutored less able students in chemistry so as to get practice with articulating my thoughts clearly and to ensure I made regular use of my knowledge of chemistry so as to not get out of practice.

I also participated in the chemistry Olympiad, getting as far as round 2 (getting into round 2 is also unexpected of anyone applying for chemistry as only 30ish people get marks that high per year and only a small fraction actually go for pure chemistry degrees).

Whilst you don’t need to participate in any chemistry competitions, it may be useful to do so. If you cannot participate in one, why not instead talk to your school’s science department and help organise one and discuss how it has demonstrated you are proactive and have good leadership skills.

Definitely picking up a book to read is sensible, as you can hopefully use it to get a bit of a head start when you begin your degree. I would recommend “chemistry^3: introducing inorganic, organic and physical chemistry” by Burrows et al, as it is very accessible and should hopefully give you a bit of a confidence boost in that regard. You may even find ideas in said books that challenge what you are taught at A level - that level of critical thinking is something unis like to see in their applicants.

Another thing you should add into your personal statement - a small bit on your favourite practical and how it encouraged you to broaden your understanding of chemistry.
Reply 6
Original post by TypicalNerd
I would say that you shouldn’t worry so much about work experience as chemistry is a highly academic degree and since there is very little in the way of work experience opportunities for chemistry, it isn’t expected that you should have any.

I for one tutored less able students in chemistry so as to get practice with articulating my thoughts clearly and to ensure I made regular use of my knowledge of chemistry so as to not get out of practice.

I also participated in the chemistry Olympiad, getting as far as round 2 (getting into round 2 is also unexpected of anyone applying for chemistry as only 30ish people get marks that high per year and only a small fraction actually go for pure chemistry degrees).

Whilst you don’t need to participate in any chemistry competitions, it may be useful to do so. If you cannot participate in one, why not instead talk to your school’s science department and help organise one and discuss how it has demonstrated you are proactive and have good leadership skills.

Definitely picking up a book to read is sensible, as you can hopefully use it to get a bit of a head start when you begin your degree. I would recommend “chemistry^3: introducing inorganic, organic and physical chemistry” by Burrows et al, as it is very accessible and should hopefully give you a bit of a confidence boost in that regard. You may even find ideas in said books that challenge what you are taught at A level - that level of critical thinking is something unis like to see in their applicants.

Another thing you should add into your personal statement - a small bit on your favourite practical and how it encouraged you to broaden your understanding of chemistry.

Thank you so much for your help, I also wanted to add that I have done a Chemistry Olympiad and a Chemistry Analytical Challenge but only obtaining participation awards in both..is it still worth mentioning? I also tutored younger year groups on valency in Chemistry during one afternoon, should I also mention this even though it was not a recurring event? Thanks again
Original post by rayvenclaw444
Thank you so much for your help, I also wanted to add that I have done a Chemistry Olympiad and a Chemistry Analytical Challenge but only obtaining participation awards in both..is it still worth mentioning? I also tutored younger year groups on valency in Chemistry during one afternoon, should I also mention this even though it was not a recurring event? Thanks again

By all means mention them.

You don’t have to specify whether you got an award or not or whether the events were recurring or not. What would matter far more to the admissions teams is an explanation of how these things have benefited you. For example, did you stumble across any unfamiliar material in the Olympiad that you have now since read up on to familiarise yourself with it?
Reply 8
Original post by TypicalNerd
I would say that you shouldn’t worry so much about work experience as chemistry is a highly academic degree and since there is very little in the way of work experience opportunities for chemistry, it isn’t expected that you should have any.

I for one tutored less able students in chemistry so as to get practice with articulating my thoughts clearly and to ensure I made regular use of my knowledge of chemistry so as to not get out of practice.

I also participated in the chemistry Olympiad, getting as far as round 2 (getting into round 2 is also unexpected of anyone applying for chemistry as only 30ish people get marks that high per year and only a small fraction actually go for pure chemistry degrees).

Whilst you don’t need to participate in any chemistry competitions, it may be useful to do so. If you cannot participate in one, why not instead talk to your school’s science department and help organise one and discuss how it has demonstrated you are proactive and have good leadership skills.

Definitely picking up a book to read is sensible, as you can hopefully use it to get a bit of a head start when you begin your degree. I would recommend “chemistry^3: introducing inorganic, organic and physical chemistry” by Burrows et al, as it is very accessible and should hopefully give you a bit of a confidence boost in that regard. You may even find ideas in said books that challenge what you are taught at A level - that level of critical thinking is something unis like to see in their applicants.

Another thing you should add into your personal statement - a small bit on your favourite practical and how it encouraged you to broaden your understanding of chemistry.

Also I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your PS with me - I will be sure not to plagiarise it! (I have just created my account today so am not able to send private messages yet but it is important to me that you know I am grateful for your help)
Reply 9
Original post by TypicalNerd
By all means mention them.

You don’t have to specify whether you got an award or not or whether the events were recurring or not. What would matter far more to the admissions teams is an explanation of how these things have benefited you. For example, did you stumble across any unfamiliar material in the Olympiad that you have now since read up on to familiarise yourself with it?

Ohhh okay that makes sense. Thank you so so so much for all your help, this was a very insightful conversation for me :smile:
Original post by rayvenclaw444
Also I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your PS with me - I will be sure not to plagiarise it! (I have just created my account today so am not able to send private messages yet but it is important to me that you know I am grateful for your help)

No problem. I figured it’d be useful to you to have an idea of what I did well and what I didn’t do so well. Just make sure to not share yours by any means though via TSR- only ever share it by secure emails or whatsapps with people who have agreed to check it.
Original post by rayvenclaw444
Ohhh okay that makes sense. Thank you so so so much for all your help, this was a very insightful conversation for me :smile:


No problem. I hope the last few days of year 12 go well and I wish you the best of luck for year 13 and your application.
for an Oxford biomed application:

over the summer, do you have access to immunology, cellular biology, neuroscience or other biomed module topics? so you can write about it in your personal statement

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