Medicine at Oxford

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Should I Apply?

Medicine is a 6 year course that qualifies you to work as a doctor. The overwhelming majority will enter the Foundation Program as a Foundation Year ('junior') Doctor on graduation. To date, everyone graduating from a UK medical school having passed all of their exams has obtained a Foundation Year post if they wanted it.

Why Medicine at Oxford?

The course: Oxford's course is a traditional, lecture-based course with a strong focus on basic science and physiology. Tutorials provide frequent small group teaching with leading academics. The course is divided into pre-clinical and clinical years, enabling a smooth transition from school years and providing the underlying understanding necessary to make sense of clinical work before commencing hospital attachments and responsibilities.

A BA in medical sciences (equivalent of an integrated BSc) is obtained by all students (who do not have a previous degree) in their third year. This, and in previous years, provides opportunity to conduct primary research.

Oxford uniquely allows transfer to London clinical schools after 3rd year.

In the clinical years, attachments are based around the John Radcliffe Hospital, a tertiary referral centre with a large catchment area. Only a minority of attachments, approximately a quarter, are outside of Oxford. The elective is 10 weeks long and takes place immediately after finals, to enable the attachment to be experienced without the distraction of impending exams. Oxford uniquely offers additional opportunities to do attachment abroad in paediatrics and obstetrics and gynaecology in 5th year. Common destinations include New Zealand, South Africa, India, Tanzania and the Seychelles.

Oxford obtains excellent student approval in the National Student Survey, Oxford's drop out rate is amongst the very lowest in the country at just 1.8%, and Oxford's scientific course has been cited as the reason for its graduates having substantially higher pass rates in post-graduate exams

The City Oxford a historic and beautiful city renown as one of the main tourist attractions of the UK. It is the main city in the region, serving as a commercial and transport hub with facilities outreaching its modest population. Transport links with London are very frequent and economical, continuing 24 hours a day. All necessary facilities are within a 5 minute walk of the city centre. Commuting for most people consists of a 10 minute walk for the first 3 years, maybe a 20 minute cycle after that. Despite this, it is also mere minutes from open countryside. Oxford has a very low crime rate.

The University Oxford is a unique university in numerous ways. The tutorial system offers uniquely close contact with senior academics. The college system provides a close social environment with people of multiple different subjects. Accommodation provision is excellent, with at least two years college accommodation guaranteed. Rents are cheap mostly between £3,000 and £4,000 per year for an undergraduate. Provision for sports and societies is unrivalled, including international volunteering and travel bursaries.

So is Oxford right for me?

The most important factor in the decision needs to be the course. That is what you will be doing for at least 3 years, and medical course structures in the UK differ radically. If, for instance, you desire early clinical contact, Oxford is very likely not for you.

Beyond that you should consider all factors that are important to you. Would you want to live in a huge city? Would you prefer the north of the country (where despite Oxford's substantial subsidies, life is usually marginally cheaper)? Would you want to be surrounded by very gifted, very academic individuals?

Special note: Stereotypes. Many films, television shows and newspapers love to portray the 'hallowed halls' and the people within them, often not in an entirely flattering manner. Many applicants have have understandable anxieties over whether all Oxford students are rich/posh/tweed-wearing twits. In a recent survey, 92% of teachers thought that more than half of Oxbridge were privately educated. The truth is: 57% are state-educated, increasing each year. This compares to 71% of all medical schools, a difference of just 14% or 1 in 7 at most. Very very few students struggle with this issue - I cite the extremely low drop out rate as evidence of this. Most very wealthy students are lovely people, share just the same anxieties you do and its them who are in the minority, not the state educated. Should you have continuing anxiety on this topic, I suggest making a post on the forum so that you can learn from the experiences of, and be reassured by, real current students.

Special note 2: Workload. This is also a major source of anxiety - many people want to live a life as well as study whilst at university. Oxford is not a barrier to this. Workloads may be slightly different - in one survey Oxford students reported working 42 hours per week, whilst at Imperial they reported 36, but the differences are smaller than in other subjects, and important factors like Oxford's short term times, short commute distances and excellent sports and society provision should be considered. Oxford is not known for its rowing for nothing! Holidays in the clinical years can be shorter than some other universities, however.

Do I have the requirements for Medicine?

See requirements page and admissions statistics page. The standard entry requirements are A*AA in three A-levels taken in one academic year. Applicants are required to offer Chemistry (compulsory) AND at least one from Biology, Physics and Mathematics. There is no benefit in having more than two sciences, or in having a non-science subject, although the above site does state: " be aware that not having A-level Biology is associated with a greater risk of having difficulty at the early stages of the course"

All candidates are required to sit the BMAT in November (NB this is after applying).

Whilst official GCSE requirements are non-specific, admissions data linked above shows that a very strong set of grades is needed to stand a realistic chance at Oxford. The author would consider the chance of a successful application with less than 60% of grades at A* to be negligible. In 2015 the average students offered a place at Oxford had 94.5% A*. Only 2 students got in with 6 or less A* at GCSE. Both candidates had extenuating circumstances. One got an exceptional BMAT.

I do suggest you review the data yourself.

Medical courses also have specific fitness to practice requirements, including declaring any criminal convictions or transmissible diseases, and the website linked above includes 'person characteristics' that are desirable in a person intending to take up the responsibility of a career in medicine.

The Medicine Course

The first two years focus on developing a grounding in human biology. See Oxford's page on the medicine course

First Year

The three main topics are Physiology, Organisation of the Body (anatomy, histology and embryology), and Biochemistry and Genetics. There is a smaller module in Medical Sociology. This is taught through the medium of lectures, labs, prosection and tutorials (including essays). Examination is at the end of the year in the form of a multiple choice paper and essays.

Second year

The three main topics are Systems of the Body (building on 1st year physiology), the Nervous System, and Principles of Pathology (immunology, microbiology). There is a smaller module in Psychology for Medicine. The teaching and examination formats are similar to first year, but exams are slightly earlier in the year to allow a start on 3rd year, and there is a greater expectation that you cite experiments and primary evidence to back up your points in your essays.

Third Year

Actually starts at the end of 2nd year. This year focuses on medical research and its importance in clinical practice. You can choose one of five areas: Neuroscience, Molecular Medicine, Myocardial Vascular and Respiratory Biology, Infection and immunity, Signalling in health and disease. This year is much more self-directed, with fewer tutorials and lectures. You organise and complete an 8 week research project, most frequently under the supervision of a PhD student, in an area of current scientific research. Examination is by assessment of your research, and in timed essay examinations at the end of the year which focus on your ability to understand and critically evaluate primary research in your area.

Application for clinical years

As it stands, approximately a third of students will move to London for clinical years. Some choose to go, but in the event of under-subscription, some are moved against their preference. This process is done by application based on academic results and, where relevant, an interview. This process makes room for the intake of Cambridge students and graduate-entry students.

All students are guaranteed a clinical spot at either Oxford or London - you cannot 'fail' to get in.

Fourth Year

This year introduces the clinical environment and specific knowledge of disease, patient assessment, investigation and treatment. The MedEd course introduces examining patients and ward-based learning, the laboratory medicine lecture course illustrates how basic science is applied to real patients, and hospital rotations in medicine and surgery, as well as special study modules, develop key knowledge, communications skills and professionalism in a real hospital environment. Examination is at the end of the labmed course (MCQ), and at the end of the year (MCQ, OSCE).

Fifth Year

This consists of 6 x 8-week modules in specific areas of medicine: Paediatrics Obstetrics and Gynaecology Neurology Psychiatry Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, Trauma and Emergency Medicine General Practice, Palliative care, Dermatology and Public Health

A written exam and OCSE follows each attachment.

Sixth Year

Senior rotations in medicine and surgery prelude finals examinations in early February. This is 3 exams: a short answer paper, an MCQ and an OSCE. The elective, special study modules and preparation for practice occur afterwards. Electives are informally organised and there is no specific assessment for activity whilst on elective.


See Oxford's page on interviews

Candidates are assessed primarily on GCSEs and BMAT score and approximately 1 in 3 candidates are interviewed. Each candidate is interviewed at two colleges over a two day period. Most frequently there are two interviews at each college. Accommodation is provided.

Interviews build on your knowledge from your school work to explore new ideas and assess your approach to unknown problems. Specific knowledge of medicine is not assumed nor looked for, but most questions will likely have some relevance to medical science. Assessment of your suitability as a doctor, such as your approach to ethical dilemmas or dilemmas facing the medical profession, will also be performed.

Personal Statement

Personal statements should focus on your knowledge of medical careers, your experience of the medical or caring profession, and your suitability for such a career. Generally speaking, personal statements are more relevant for less academic-focused universities, and universities that put less resources into interviewing. The degree to which the personal statement is used may depend on the tutor reviewing the application.