The Student Room Group

Do I still have a shot at Cambridge (or Oxford?)

I was already majorly concerned about the fact that my school will now only let me do three levels (or 4, but in a subject I struggle and would not do well in), but my school has waited until now (when it’s too late really to apply elsewhere) to inform us that they don’t allow you to do an EPQ either. Every teacher is trying to convince me that it doesn’t matter but i feel like my chances of Cambridge are decreasing even further. In all honesty I’m really angry and feel like I was tricked into staying to make the school look better or something. I intend to make up for these things with as much experience as I can manage but even if I get 3A* and absolutely crush the interview, realistically how would that even compare to an applicant who has done 4 A-Levels plus an EPQ plus some of the extra experience. Please be honest with me and give some advice if you have any to offer, I don’t know what i’m supposed to do.

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Reply 1
I forgot to add but i’m hoping to go into medicine. I think i wouldn’t be so worried if it was another course but even medicine at the average university is extremely competitive
Reply 2
Original post by Quinni
I forgot to add but i’m hoping to go into medicine. I think i wouldn’t be so worried if it was another course but even medicine at the average university is extremely competitive

Cambridge and Oxford are both now saying three A levels only with some exceptions like Trinity Cambridge who want FM +3.What are your gcse's like?Oxford Medicine look for 10 9and 8"s.Cambridge will be less bothered about gcse's but will make a higher offer.How did you perform within your school as Oxford will take this into account.You need med experience of some kind,wider reading and can do your own research into a medical area of interest .So in answer to your question 3 A levels are sufficient along with a good BMAT score.
Reply 3
Original post by Scotney
Cambridge and Oxford are both now saying three A levels only with some exceptions like Trinity Cambridge who want FM +3.What are your gcse's like?Oxford Medicine look for 10 9and 8"s.Cambridge will be less bothered about gcse's but will make a higher offer.How did you perform within your school as Oxford will take this into account.You need med experience of some kind,wider reading and can do your own research into a medical area of interest .So in answer to your question 3 A levels are sufficient along with a good BMAT score.


Thank you! I’m my GCSEs i got seven 9s and two 8s (regrettably one of them was in chemistry). My scores were the best my school has had in a while. I have absolutely no experience yet but I’m trying to research some places to do some volunteering or work experience. In terms of wider reading I have done my own studying and read a few anatomy-based books out of personal interest but i’m not sure what titles/type of books are expected in or classified as ‘wider reading’ (i would really appreciate any recommendations you have concerning both)
Reply 4
https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6044384
This is Oxford Mums guide for applying for Medicine at Oxford but there is lots of cross over info.Best of luck and do join us on the main thread.Ps 8s and 9s are regarded as the same by Oxford and Cambridge so don't worry about that .St John's Ambulance is a good thing to get involved in and also care homes are better than nothing.it shows whether you are cut out for the caring profession.
Reply 5
@Oxford Mum did you do a Cambridge Dymstified one?
Reply 6
Please do some research and find out what universities (specifically Oxbridge) look for if that interests you, and for medicine what challenges people face to get offers.

I suspect you have been hearing some incomplete advice from people with little knowledge of applications for competitive courses.
Reply 7
Original post by ajj2000
Please do some research and find out what universities (specifically Oxbridge) look for if that interests you, and for medicine what challenges people face to get offers.

I suspect you have been hearing some incomplete advice from people with little knowledge of applications for competitive courses.

Are you saying that Oxbridge Medicine are looking for 4 as that is not the info we are getting?
Reply 8
@MedMama I would value your response of OP!Thank you.
Original post by Scotney
@MedMama I would value your response of OP!Thank you.


of course
there is a real value in posting on the *Which Medicine School Should I Apply To?* thread
setting out GCSEs
A level predictions
any contextual
work experience
and, most importantly, for the other 3 choices or some of them *the UCAT score*
( also, I just answered a question for this for someone an hour ago )
then there is a team of us who can bounce ideas off each other and look at it from different angles :smile:
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 10
Original post by MedMama
of course
there is a real value in posting on the *Which Medicine School Should I Apply To?* thread
setting out GCSEs
A level predictions
any contextual
work experience
and, most importantly, for the other 3 choices or some of them *the UCAT score*
( also, I just answered a question for this for someone an hour ago )
then there is a team of us who can bounce ideas off each other and look at it from different angles :smile:


Many thanks!PRSOM!
Original post by Scotney
Many thanks!PRSOM!


:h:
Reply 12
Original post by Scotney
Are you saying that Oxbridge Medicine are looking for 4 as that is not the info we are getting?


I'm taking the original post where the OP seems to have the impression that they will be disadvantaged in applying for Cambridge medicine with three rather than four A levels, and without taking an EPQ.

It seems very clear that taking 3 A levels will not be a disadvantage in any way so long as they take the right subjects. I suspect the same is true for the EPQ so long as long as they use the time saved for something productive.

However, I am concerned that they have received misleading / inaccurate information from somewhere and thus may have a lot of other misunderstandings about application processes. For most subject that might not be earth shattering. It absolutely can for medicine.
Reply 13
Original post by Quinni
I was already majorly concerned about the fact that my school will now only let me do three levels (or 4, but in a subject I struggle and would not do well in), but my school has waited until now (when it’s too late really to apply elsewhere) to inform us that they don’t allow you to do an EPQ either. Every teacher is trying to convince me that it doesn’t matter but i feel like my chances of Cambridge are decreasing even further. In all honesty I’m really angry and feel like I was tricked into staying to make the school look better or something. I intend to make up for these things with as much experience as I can manage but even if I get 3A* and absolutely crush the interview, realistically how would that even compare to an applicant who has done 4 A-Levels plus an EPQ plus some of the extra experience. Please be honest with me and give some advice if you have any to offer, I don’t know what i’m supposed to do.

You should only do 3 A-levels anyway, particularly for medicine, as doing 4 gives you no advantage, even for Oxbridge, and you would not have enough time to do all your volunteering, super curriculars, BMAT, interview prep etc.

It’s a shame they don’t let you do an EPQ, as it contributes well to your super curriculars and gives you something specific to discuss at interview, but instead you can do additinal supers like entering medicine essay completions, doing MOOCs etc.
Original post by Quinni
I was already majorly concerned about the fact that my school will now only let me do three levels (or 4, but in a subject I struggle and would not do well in), but my school has waited until now (when it’s too late really to apply elsewhere) to inform us that they don’t allow you to do an EPQ either. Every teacher is trying to convince me that it doesn’t matter but i feel like my chances of Cambridge are decreasing even further. In all honesty I’m really angry and feel like I was tricked into staying to make the school look better or something. I intend to make up for these things with as much experience as I can manage but even if I get 3A* and absolutely crush the interview, realistically how would that even compare to an applicant who has done 4 A-Levels plus an EPQ plus some of the extra experience. Please be honest with me and give some advice if you have any to offer, I don’t know what i’m supposed to do.


Original post by Quinni
I forgot to add but i’m hoping to go into medicine. I think i wouldn’t be so worried if it was another course but even medicine at the average university is extremely competitive

Oxford only shortlist on the basis of GCSEs and BMAT for medicine. Cambridge view the application holistically but practically require you to be doing 3 STEM subjects in order to achieve a competitive score in interview and BMAT to be made an offer. Neither prefers you to have done 4 A-levels and neither considers an EPQ as part of an offer at all.

You seem to making a lot of very significant assumptions without much reason behind them.

You've assumed 4 A-levels will give you "bonus points" somehow in the process (it won't, at least not at Oxford or Cambridge - or most medical schools these days)

You've assumed an EPQ is important and will be considered in shortlisting (neither consider it as part of making an offer and its only value is in what you gain from it in terms of reflecting on it in your PS - and you could just as well get the same value by doing wider reading; most medical schools similarly do not consider it as part of making an offer and it's effectively an extracurricular activity of which it could be one from many choices)

You've assume the medical schools have a purely mechanical way of comparing applicants where the one with the most qualifications and work experience "wins" (which is not how it works - in fact for many medical schools the academics are just a tick box part of the process and once you meet the academic requirements they don't refer to them further and offers are based purely on the interview).


Applying to medicine is about applying tactically based on the strengths of you profile, not trying to "brute force" your application into being accepted. Oxford is (once again) one of the most GCSE heavy medical schools in the country; if you don't have ~10 A* equivalent (8/9) grades or better, you will probably not be shortlisted for interview there. Cambridge is averagely competitive for medicine however has a higher standard offer of A*A*A, and as noted functionally requires you to be doing 3 STEM subjects at A-level and those only doing 2 STEM subjects are vastly less likely to achieve competitive enough scores to be made an offer. Even if you had 4A* and an A* in an EPQ, if you didn't have competitive GCSEs for Oxford, or weren't taking 3 STEM subjects for Cambridge, your odds would be poor indeed at either. However there would've been plenty of other medical schools you would've had a much higher chance of getting an offer from if you had done the research and not made assumptions about how the process works.

I'd also note, it makes no direct difference whether you do medicine at Oxford or Cambridge or any other medical school in terms of your career as a doctor. The GMC considers all the medical schools they accredit equal. The NHS which is the sole provider of graduate medical training posts in the UK likewise takes this view, and to ensure there is no bias, they blind recruiters from your medical school to ensure they can't be biased based on where you did your medical degree. The medical degree is a tick box in the specialty recruitment process only. In fact, it may even be arguably detrimental as it may be harder to get a higher decile ranking at Oxford or Cambridge compared to another medical school, and as the recruiters do not know which medical school you got your decile ranking from, you could end up with a weaker outcome there.

So the first thing you should do is stop running around like a headless chicken and sit down and actually read through the shortlisting processes for those (and other) medical schools, and the selection processes after shortlisting, to understand how they differ and where you may or may not be competitive based on your current stats - you can then narrow down further once you get your predicted grades and UCAT score. I'd also recommend not focusing on Oxford or Cambridge overly much for medicine anyway. If your profile aligns with their shortlisting criteria and you like the style of their course (which is quite different from many other medical schools in various ways - and quite different from each other's as well) then consider it. Don't start by assuming you want to apply to one of them out of the gate without any other considerations first.
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 15
Original post by artful_lounger
Oxford only shortlist on the basis of GCSEs and BMAT for medicine. Cambridge view the application holistically but practically require you to be doing 3 STEM subjects in order to achieve a competitive score in interview and BMAT to be made an offer. Neither prefers you to have done 4 A-levels and neither considers an EPQ as part of an offer at all.

You seem to making a lot of very significant assumptions without much reason behind them.

You've assumed 4 A-levels will give you "bonus points" somehow in the process (it won't, at least not at Oxford or Cambridge - or most medical schools these days)

You've assumed an EPQ is important and will be considered in shortlisting (neither consider it as part of making an offer and its only value is in what you gain from it in terms of reflecting on it in your PS - and you could just as well get the same value by doing wider reading; most medical schools similarly do not consider it as part of making an offer and it's effectively an extracurricular activity of which it could be one from many choices)

You've assume the medical schools have a purely mechanical way of comparing applicants where the one with the most qualifications and work experience "wins" (which is not how it works - in fact for many medical schools the academics are just a tick box part of the process and once you meet the academic requirements they don't refer to them further and offers are based purely on the interview).


Applying to medicine is about applying tactically based on the strengths of you profile, not trying to "brute force" your application into being accepted. Oxford is (once again) one of the most GCSE heavy medical schools in the country; if you don't have ~10 A* equivalent (8/9) grades or better, you will probably not be shortlisted for interview there. Cambridge is averagely competitive for medicine however has a higher standard offer of A*A*A, and as noted functionally requires you to be doing 3 STEM subjects at A-level and those only doing 2 STEM subjects are vastly less likely to achieve competitive enough scores to be made an offer. Even if you had 4A* and an A* in an EPQ, if you didn't have competitive GCSEs for Oxford, or weren't taking 3 STEM subjects for Cambridge, your odds would be poor indeed at either. However there would've been plenty of other medical schools you would've had a much higher chance of getting an offer from if you had done the research and not made assumptions about how the process works.

I'd also note, it makes no direct difference whether you do medicine at Oxford or Cambridge or any other medical school in terms of your career as a doctor. The GMC considers all the medical schools they accredit equal. The NHS which is the sole provider of graduate medical training posts in the UK likewise takes this view, and to ensure there is no bias, they blind recruiters from your medical school to ensure they can't be biased based on where you did your medical degree. The medical degree is a tick box in the specialty recruitment process only. In fact, it may even be arguably detrimental as it may be harder to get a higher decile ranking at Oxford or Cambridge compared to another medical school, and as the recruiters do not know which medical school you got your decile ranking from, you could end up with a weaker outcome there.

So the first thing you should do is stop running around like a headless chicken and sit down and actually read through the shortlisting processes for those (and other) medical schools, and the selection processes after shortlisting, to understand how they differ and where you may or may not be competitive based on your current stats - you can then narrow down further once you get your predicted grades and UCAT score. I'd also recommend not focusing on Oxford or Cambridge overly much for medicine anyway. If your profile aligns with their shortlisting criteria and you like the style of their course (which is quite different from many other medical schools in various ways - and quite different from each other's as well) then consider it. Don't start by assuming you want to apply to one of them out of the gate without any other considerations first.


I would argue that the fact that OP has scored the highest gcse's at his school which he indicates is not the best would be taken into consideration by Oxford.
Op I would urge you to visit Oxford on 15 th Sept so he can ask the tutors in person.But OP do join the medical thread on Tsr as you will gain from the years of experience helpers have in medical applications.
Original post by Scotney
I would argue that the fact that OP has scored the highest gcse's at his school which he indicates is not the best would be taken into consideration by Oxford.
Op I would urge you to visit Oxford on 15 th Sept so he can ask the tutors in person.But OP do join the medical thread on Tsr as you will gain from the years of experience helpers have in medical applications.

Hadn't seen that post at the time I was writing, but I agree.

At the time of writing I had no idea what OPs GCSEs were so was writing generally to inform regardless if their specific circumstances.
Original post by Quinni
Thank you! I’m my GCSEs i got seven 9s and two 8s (regrettably one of them was in chemistry). My scores were the best my school has had in a while. I have absolutely no experience yet but I’m trying to research some places to do some volunteering or work experience. In terms of wider reading I have done my own studying and read a few anatomy-based books out of personal interest but i’m not sure what titles/type of books are expected in or classified as ‘wider reading’ (i would really appreciate any recommendations you have concerning both)

There's not really an order of precedence with wider reading at Oxbridge. It's not about finding the most respected and well known books and writing about those. The important thing is how you analyse it in your personal statement. You need to show critical engagement with the work and nuanced understanding of it. Basically, why did you read it, and why was it worth your time? Oxford are looking for capable students that will perform well during the degree. They won't mark you down for not knowing all the content before you've even started.
Original post by ajj2000
I'm taking the original post where the OP seems to have the impression that they will be disadvantaged in applying for Cambridge medicine with three rather than four A levels, and without taking an EPQ.

It seems very clear that taking 3 A levels will not be a disadvantage in any way so long as they take the right subjects. I suspect the same is true for the EPQ so long as long as they use the time saved for something productive.

However, I am concerned that they have received misleading / inaccurate information from somewhere and thus may have a lot of other misunderstandings about application processes. For most subject that might not be earth shattering. It absolutely can for medicine.


there is an important point here for @Quinni
- decide first if you want to study at either Oxford or Cambridge more than you want to study medicine, or if being accepted onto a medicine degree is your overriding priority.
Please do not underestimate how tough it is to get a medicine place anywhere now.

Clearly, you are very bright. It is fundamentally important to decide your priority in this respect now, working out what you want to do before you begin a gruelling application process for undergraduate medicine.
Wish you every success.
Reply 19
Original post by MedMama
of course
there is a real value in posting on the *Which Medicine School Should I Apply To?* thread
setting out GCSEs
A level predictions
any contextual
work experience
and, most importantly, for the other 3 choices or some of them *the UCAT score*
( also, I just answered a question for this for someone an hour ago )
then there is a team of us who can bounce ideas off each other and look at it from different angles :smile:


Thank youuu I’ll definitely try that soon, maybe in a week or so :smile:

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