Home » Applying » Subjects

Veterinary Medicine


St John’s currently admits between two and four veterinary students each year, and our students come from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds and from all parts of the UK and abroad. St John’s is particularly fortunate in having a resident pre-clinical Director of Studies in Veterinary Medicine (who is also the Veterinary School Clinical Advisor for Clinical Studies), and no fewer than six Teaching Fellows who supervise our undergraduates in all the central medical veterinary subjects.

Lectures and practical classes for pre-clinical students are, of course, provided by the appropriate University Departments (Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology), but the College also provides excellent facilities for those reading the subject. The library is well stocked with all core veterinary textbooks and subscribes to several veterinary journals, a feature not common in college libraries.

The College has a Veterinary Society that meets for a meal — with varying after-dinner speakers — once or twice a year. This gives the opportunity for pre-clinical and clinical students to meet and discuss veterinary medical matters in an informal setting.

Courses in Veterinary Medical Sciences

Pre-clinical and Clinical Courses

It is important to appreciate that there is a sharp distinction between Pre-clinical and Clinical Studies. In the first three years the medical sciences are treated in a fundamental way with the objective of instilling a thorough understanding of the scientific principles which underlie the practice of Veterinary Medicine. The clinical courses are practically and vocationally orientated and recent re-organisation has enabled the final year to be freed of lectures, allowing students to devote all their time to the clinical care of animals under their responsibility.

The Pre-clinical Course

All undergraduates read for the BA degree in three years, although they complete their essential pre-clinical training (i.e. obtain the Second Vet MB qualification) at the end of the second year. A special feature of the Cambridge course is that in the third year undergraduates are free to pursue a course of study of their own choice. Broadly, three options are available:

  • to specialize in a single scientific subject from Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos (e.g. Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pathology, Pharmacology or Zoology). These courses constitute an in-depth analysis of a subject and often provide participants with valuable research experience through project work alongside members of a Department in a research team.
  • to offer two Special Subjects and an Elective Subject. Special Subjects are roughly equivalent to half a single subject as described above, so this option allows candidates to choose a combination of topics of particular interest to themselves. The subjects are various e.g. Developmental Biology, Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Animal Biology, Microbial and Parasitic Disease.
  • to branch out further and take a non-medical course (e.g. Law, Social and Political Sciences and Biological Anthropology), though it is necessary for holders of Local Education Authority awards to obtain the approval of their authority in such cases.

2nd Vet MB Subjects in the Tripos

The ‘compulsory’ parts of the course relevant to Second Vet MB qualifications can be summarised briefly as follows:

All veterinary students take Part IA of the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos in their first year and study Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry and Genetics. They also take the Second Vet MB examination in Animal Behaviour and Animal Husbandry (since this is not examined in the Tripos).

In their second year, students take papers in General Veterinary Physiology, Veterinary Anatomy, Special Veterinary Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology in Part IB of the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos.

Directors of Studies

Dr David Williams - Veterinary Sciences (Clinical)
Dr David Williams - Veterinary Sciences Part 1A and 1B

UCAS Code: D100

Entry Requirements

Grade A*AA  in three scientific subjects at A-level, one of which must be Chemistry.

Pre-clinical Requirements

If you are to be offered a place to read Veterinary Medicine you must satisfy the University’s Pre-medical Requirements. Put in their simplest form these require that you have obtained:

  • passes at GCSE level in Biology, Physics and Mathematics (or in Double-award Science and Mathematics)
  • passes at AS or A-level in three of the following: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics
  • one of the subjects must be Chemistry and at least one pass must be at Advanced GCE.

For these purposes a pass in the Scottish Advanced Highers, or at Grade 5 or above in the Higher level of the International Baccalaureate, is considered equivalent to a pass at A-level. Candidates who are taking other subjects or examinations should write for advice before applying.

Please note that these are merely the University’s minimum requirements and that the College makes conditional offers of  A*AA in scientific subjects at A-level as an entry requirement. Almost all of the applicants to St John's will obtain at least A*AA grades at A-level. Whilst the College is prepared to consider applications from candidates offering a third A-level in a subject other than those listed above, it should be stressed that this will be exceptional.

All applicants for Veterinary Medicine are required to take the Natural Sciences pre-interview written assessment in November. This replaces the previously used Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). 

Those invited for interview will have three interviews, each of about twenty minutes, one with the Tutor handling your application, the second with the Director of Studies in Veterinary Medicine. The third interview is designed to further explore a candidate’s scientific and medical aptitude, and to give an opportunity for more of our teaching Fellows to become involved with the assessment of candidates. Before this interview applicants will be given a text to read, for subsequent discussion. No specific preparation is required, or indeed desirable, and this additional interview should be regarded as a further opportunity for a candidate to impress.

Our assessment of your academic potential will be based on a combination of past examination results, NSAA results, the confidential report that we ask your school to write, as well as the interviews. The main purpose of the interviews is to help us to set this information in a wider perspective and to find out more about your motivation and aptitude for the Cambridge course and profession. We try to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them.

The interview with the Director of Studies will cover aspects specific to your aspirations in veterinary medicine, while the interview with the Tutor is likely to be more wide ranging. Although it is likely that you will be asked a few questions about your schoolwork, the interviews will not be an oral examination of your academic progress and no special preparation is necessary or desirable. Our assessment of your academic potential will be based very largely on past examination results and the confidential report that we ask your school to write. The main purpose of the interviews is to help us to set this information in perspective and to find out more about your motivation and aptitude for your chosen course and profession. Obviously some practical experience, for example by helping at a local veterinary surgery, is likely to provide a very useful basis for discussion at interview.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the veterinary interviews please do feel free to contact our Director of Studies, Dr David Williams, by e-mail at dlw33@cam.ac.uk. He will be only too happy to chat with you about applying as a potential vet student.

Further Information

To book places at Departmental Open Days, or for more information you should contact 01223 337701, or email application.advice@vet.cam.ac.uk.

If any prospective applicants would like the opportunity to see some clinical work with our Director of Studies, Dr Williams, please contact him via email on dlw33@cam.ac.uk

Veterinary Medicine Course Video, courtesy of the University of Cambridge