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Medicine at Oxbridge - to apply or not?

(153 Posts)
wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 12:40:04

Hi all,
DS wants to study medicine. He has 10 A*s, 4As at AS and is taking 4 A levels. His UKCAT was 700. His careers teacher is keen that he applies to Oxford or Cambridge. DS is very laid back and relaxed, but unsure whether to give it a go or not. He is worried that - as medicine is so hard to get into - it could waste a choice.
So, could anyone answer the following questions:
1. Would a degree in medicine from Oxbridge be advantageous to his career?
2. Would the course be 'all work and no play'?
3. Would studying for the BMAT be a lot of extra work or would it benefit him academically?
4. Does Oxbridge produce better doctors?
5. He attends a state school and we both work - however - I have read stories that tickets for balls are around £100 each. As he would have to take a loan to pay the fees, I am concerned that there would be a lot of 'extras' which he could not afford. Is this the case?

I attended a RG university and do not know anyone who has been to Oxbridge. I would be very grateful for opinions regarding the above.

aloinlee Sun 06-Jul-14 13:55:13

mum141....I just arranged for Blackstone tutors to come to my DS school to give a UKCAT course, and my DS was most impressed.

Fingers crossed the exam goes well......but overall I think they gave lots of good tips and resources to take away

PiratePanda Mon 24-Jun-13 18:48:30

At the risk of outing myself someone very close to me is a professor who teaches the medics at cambridge. It's complete nonsense that it's better suited to those interested in research or that it only turns out research-minded doctors who are impractical. In fact that's complete crap.

It's a great place to study medicine and with cheaper accommodation and bursaries galore much cheaper than a lot of other places. And plenty of state-educated students too. It's a no-brainer - he should apply.

lljkk Fri 21-Jun-13 21:10:08


2rebecca Fri 21-Jun-13 21:06:52

If you want to be a GP then which medical school you went to matters very little. Getting known locally in the area is far more important. For hospital medicine many hospitals favour their own graduates.
I think medicine is one of the areas where Oxbridge counts for little unless you are more interested in academic research medicine.

mum141 Fri 21-Jun-13 18:18:16

Slightly off topic but with regards to Oxbridge Medicine applications - any experiences of the BlackStone Tutors Med prep courses?


Quiteoldmother Sat 15-Sep-12 20:29:17

It's difficult to answer your specific questions, but if DS meets Oxbridge medicine requirements then I suggest it is worth applying. My DS applied for medicine in Oct last year (not Oxbridge). He carefully researched medical schools (including open day visits to 3 of these) made 4 sensible applications (taking account of website info eg re: UKCAT and grades etc), and got one offer that he exceeded. From his and others' experiences there seems to be a huge element of luck. My DS is state school and sixth form college educated but there seems to be huge competition from the independent sector. My DS did a one day Mediquest course in Salford and one day medical interview course in London (cost about £150 each plus travel). He also had plenty of very relevant work experience (but was not particularly strong on extracurricular). It seems to be the case that once a candidate gets to interview it is interview performance that counts as far as getting an offer is concerned. I wish my DS had tried for Oxbridge.......but no doubt my opinion would be different if he had not got an offer at all.....

SCOTCHandWRY Sat 15-Sep-12 19:22:47

And there it's quite common for Edinburgh and Bristol to reject a candidate who is accepted at Oxford.

Certainly that was the case for my SD (now a medic at Oxford), but Edinburgh is looking for something different in the Personal Statement than Oxford, who have a very strong research bias (just like my DS!), and DS statement was written with Oxford in mind. A very strong UKCAT and BMAT, a lot of academic extracurriculars, with all the usual social, w/e and volunteering boxes ticked... resulted in one offer and one space on a waiting-list.

Anyone applying to Medicine these days need to be aware that it is really, really hard to get an offer at any uk medical school, and they need to apply to the universities whose entrance requirements match their strengths/weaknesses... yes, almost perfect academics are required by all Med Schools but there are a lot of subtle differences (an example would be, don't reapply to Edinburgh unless you have very carefully read and understood how they score the academics of re-applicants, as you could be wasting one of your 4 choices.)

Fewer than 40% of applicants will get ANY offer from any of their 4 choices in the first cycle of application (places in medical schools are strictly regulated and numbers have been cut at the same time that there has been an increase in the number of applicants) - it is becoming more common to have to apply over 2 (or more) UCAS cycles to get a place, which is still a better option than graduate entry to Medicine (even tougher to get in that way).

As to cost - it's cheaper for DS1 to live at Oxford (in college), than his sibling in Edinburgh - however, DS1 is not allowed to work in term time (had to sign a document to that effect), and Oxford term ends a month later in the summer than all the Unis close to us, which means a dearth of summer jobs for DS to apply to...

unitarian Sat 15-Sep-12 11:48:10

LittleFrieda 2010 was DD's year of entry. That year the BMAT schools were mostly offering AAA though Cambridge was already asking for A*AA as a typical offer. Oxford said it wouldn't ask for *s that year and didn't.
DD had two other offers. One was for AAB and the other was AB (it allowed for the Maths A she had from the previous year). For 2011 entry both those med schools raised their typical offer to AAA.

We found TSR pretty reliable for info but I would advise any candidate to check individual prospectuses very carefully. New Media medicine seems more popular with overseas students.

unitarian Sat 15-Sep-12 01:51:54

DD goes back to London tomorrow embarking on 3rd year clinical.
She applied to Oxford but (I know this sounds ludicrous/incomprehensible) it wasn't her first choice. She had her heart set on a particular London school which is where she is now and she had two other offers.

She liked the 'feel' of Oxford but the course structure didn't appeal to her. She wanted earlier clinical experience but came under some pressure to try for Oxford so she ended up applying to 2 BMAT schools in order to get the one she wanted.
Now she says that, although she wouldn't exchange where she is, she would have applied to Cambridge rather than Oxford. I asked why and she says it's because of Cambridge's reputation for science. (Don't shoot the messenger! I'm merely passing on her opinion.) smile

Betelguese Mon 10-Sep-12 00:06:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lolwhut Sun 09-Sep-12 18:23:10

Depending on the Uni the interviews can be difficult and unpredictable. They interview hundreds of amazing on paper DC's and, I presume, they are good at working out who will succeed.

I think a lot of uni's interviews take place and are scored without the interviewers being aware of the students academic achievements.

Piffle Sun 09-Sep-12 17:08:31

The lad at my sons school did his Biology A Level early. Also A*
Both his parents are surgeons, he is doing some voluntary work within his fathers research business and will reapply next year.
He flew the BMAT, failed at interview, he's a quiet respectful, boy

Lolwhut Fri 07-Sep-12 12:12:28

There are now no AAB Med Schools according to The StudentRoom Wiki It will be interesting is too see how many more start adding those pesky A* A level requirements.

I know you should be wary of trusting any entry requirements info other than that in the actual Med Schools Prospectuses but, I think the Student Room Med School Wiki's is fairly reliable. As my DS's situation was a little unusual he contacted each Uni directly and got them to confirm their response in writing. On several occasions he got conflicting information from the same Uni. (hmm)
A few Uni's were spectacularly unhelpful and wouldn't give any clarification as to whether my DS would meet their academic requirements. Obviously, he didn't apply to any of those.

LittleFrieda Fri 07-Sep-12 09:43:59

lolwhut - In 2011 the Sheffield UKCAT cut off was 727.5 (iirc) which is probably too high. In 2012 it was still over 700, so the A level grades raise appears not to have made much difference.

In 2010 there were several med schools with AAB offers, I'm not sure there are any now are there? And a few years before that there were many that were ABB.

Yellowtip Fri 07-Sep-12 09:29:44

The shift is at GCSE level - as with Birmingham for Medicine - not at A2. The trend for A Level grades is up. It isn't a lowering in the true sense (hence the inverted commas), it's about access. UKCAT and BMAT (and a number of other admissions tests) fall into the same bracket on that front as GCSEs.

Lolwhut Fri 07-Sep-12 09:11:12

Sheffield was an AAB Uni for 2011 entry so it has raised its A level requirements but are being more flexible with their UKCAT. I think, perhaps, that they wanted to move away from such a rigid UKCAT score as it was probably putting off some otherwise extremely capable students. They also increased their IB points requirements considerably. So I don't think it is a matter of lowering standards.

I am sure that Birmingham lowering of GCSE requirements was done in the same light. People were nervous to apply unless they massively exceeded the academic requirements, meaning that otherwise excellent students would not apply. I imagine such a high GCSE requirement would very much favour privately schooled students and I would think (hope!) fair access was a consideration.

As I mentioned earlier, my DS did not have any GCSE's or any other achieved qualifications when he applied so we ended up experts in GCSE requirements of medical schools by the end of the process. Some Uni's, although I forget which ones, really did just want to confirm that the applicant met the minimum academic requirements for GCSE's and then gave it no more weighting whatsoever. So a student with a string of A*s would have absolutely no advantage over a student with more modest GCSE's. (or in my DS's case NO GCSE'S shock)

All I can say, is that it was all a bit stressful and I am glad DS2 and DD don't seem interested in medicine. smile

Yellowtip Fri 07-Sep-12 08:21:26

OP there's a perceptible shift in the tenor of the entry requirement pages for certain courses this year - not just in Medicine. It's about access. I've no doubt that the reality is that those at selective schools (both state and independent) will be regarded exectly as before, so for those students, the 'lowering' of standards should be treated with caution.

alreadytaken numbers are irrelevant. it's the quality of competition which matters, not the quantity.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Fri 07-Sep-12 06:30:47

Twentyten- he really enjoys his voluntary work and would do it anyway, even if he wasn't hoping to read medicine. Although, I agree that it may help his application.

Alreadytaken- I think he knows that PBL will be part of the integrated courses. He is more than happy with that- he just isn't keen on courses that are completely based on it. He is currently looking at the ISC medical website which gives an excellent resume of all the courses. Any ideas why Sheffield would change their UKCAT boundary? The whole process is an absolute minefield!

alreadytaken Thu 06-Sep-12 21:41:11

Sheffield changed their UKCAT requirement this year, their website is up-to-date and therefore differs from comments you will see elsewhere. Birmingham have changed their GCSE requirement so that applicants can have fewer A* GCSEs but they must have them in science subjects and English. American universities do not do undergraduate medicine and are very unlikely to take uk students as graduates. Oxford have slightly changed their selection procedure so that selection for interview is more centralised.

Since medical schools started to interview drop-out rates have fallen and are probably low everywhere. Drop out rates tend to be low in any subject for students with high grades. A more interesting set of figures - but one that would take great time and effort to obtain - would be how many students have to repeat a year or more of medical school.

PBL is now part of most medical school training. Some schools use it more than others. Oxbridge would be a good choice for a student who dislikes the idea. There are also differences between schools in interview style (Edinburgh and Southampton do not interview), in the weight placed on personal statements and references and prosection/dissection.

Has he settled on Oxford now? Cambridge allows more of their students to stay, rather than sending them elsewhere, for clinical training. Bursaries at Oxford and Cambridge are similar for middle income families, Oxford has the edge for poorer students. Teaching styles are similar. Oxford places more emphasis on GCSE in selection for interview, Cambridge on AS grades. Cambridge interview more applicants but the pooling system is harsher on candidates. Both place a lot of weight on BMAT scores. Cambridge is the larger school. Although the number of applicants per place at Oxbridge are low they are all likely to be highly qualified, that is not always true of applicants to other medical schools. Some miss the A2 requirement but are taken anyway.

Besidetheseaside I think your advice would be in much demand later, when interviews are being arranged.

twentyten Thu 06-Sep-12 19:45:38

Haven't read all of the thread but just wondered if your ds had/is doing related volunteering/work experience?
A friends DS(very well qualified) failed to get into med school one year and took a year out to get experience volunteering in old peoples homes,worked in a pharmacy and got work experience in hospital.He got through the next year(into Cardiff which he loves).
Really worth looking at.

LittleFrieda Thu 06-Sep-12 19:39:35

Those are very impressive stats, wehaveonly. Just make sure the med schools he chooses are HIS choices, and not something he is being pushed into for the benefit of the school, for example.

Do look at the dropout rates too: I think Oxford's are v v low, which perhaps proves their admissions process works very well. Some med schools apear to shed their students at an alarming rate.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Thu 06-Sep-12 19:27:05

Betelguese- I think other med schools do offer bursaries - Edinburgh has a generous system in place. From your analysis league tables are not easy to comprehend. He just read the caption 'Oxford best in the world for medicine' and took it at face value.

Betelguese Thu 06-Sep-12 19:17:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Betelguese Thu 06-Sep-12 19:14:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Thu 06-Sep-12 18:52:23

Thedoc- sorry posted too soon. Since I started this thread he now considers the positives to be the generous bursaries and small tutorial groups.

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