Medical Science

Medicine at St John's

St John’s is proud of its medics, and is able to offer a range of strong educational support for undergraduates and clinical students.

We view the six year course as integrated: clinical and scientific ideas and opportunities offered in the first three years are carried through into the last three years through electives, summer school opportunities and special study components. We have appointed two new Clinical Directors of Studies specifically to enable this; one who will teach pre-clinically as well as direct clinical studies, and one clinically qualified academic to champion scientific achievement and career development, throughout the six years. St John’s has six Fellows and two Teaching Associates (senior scientists) directly involved in teaching and several other Fellows who contribute on a more occasional basis. 

St John’s provides excellent facilities for those reading medical subjects. The library is well stocked with the core medical textbooks, and there are several skeletons and medical models available for loan to students as extremely useful teaching aids. The College operates the Rolleston  

Fund, which provides a very generous book grant scheme for undergraduates, over and above the standard College scheme for other subjects, and substantial grants to support fifth year electives. This funding is additional to the many grants for research, resources and travel which are available to all St John’s students.

St John’s is a relatively large college with an intake of 17-18 medical students/year. These come from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds and from all parts of the UK and abroad. There will be 100 or so medics across the six years, so that there is a significant medical community within the College which forms a close-knit supportive group. There is a thriving College Medical Society, which arranges social events and talks, and holds an annual dinner in which leading clinicians come to present recent cases and research findings. The society greatly assists in supporting contact between students at different levels of training, for example to discuss third year subject choices and fifth year electives.


The Course

Medical training at Cambridge is different to that on offer at most other UK medical schools. Our course is heavily science based and is designed to train medical scientists: individuals who will understand developments in science and technology and who will enable the application of these developments into areas of clinical practice such as diagnosis and therapy. This exploits the strong research base in biomedical sciences at Cambridge.

The scientific element of the course carries substantial advantages for Cambridge trained physicians, allowing them to easily understand and work with new findings and developments: as a result many combine research work with their clinical work in their medical careers. Equally however, it should be understood that the Cambridge course places a significant burden of motivation and learning on students beyond what is the norm for other medical schools.

The first two years of the Cambridge course provide coverage of the basic biomedical sciences in depth. The medical sciences are treated in a fundamental way with the objective of instilling in students a thorough understanding of the scientific principles that underlie the practice of medicine. In the third year students take a course of advanced study in a subject they are particularly attracted to. This places students alongside Cambridge’s Natural Science students and takes them to honours degree level, frequently equipping students with laboratory research experience and even original scientific publications. Usually students specialize in a single scientific subject during their third year, but options to choose from a selection of medically-related courses also exist. All students then undertake clinical training in the subsequent three years at the Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

It is important that you understand the objectives and demands of this course before you apply: this form of training will not suit all applicants who wish to become doctors. Before you apply ask yourself if this is the course that you want? If it is, we would be delighted to consider you.  

For further details of the course please review the Undergraduate Admissions website for Medicine.

Entry Details

UCAS Code: A100

Typical Entry Requirements

A Level: A*A*A

International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential/Desirable Subjects: A Level/IB Higher Level Chemistry, and two of AS/A2 Level or IB Standard/Higher Level Biology/Human Biology, Physics, Mathematics. At least one of these subjects must be at A2/IB Higher Level

Submitted Work: None

Pre-interview Assessment: Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). More information can be found here.

Work Experience: to develop understanding of what a career in Medicine involves and your suitability for your intended profession, you’re strongly advised (though not required) to undertake some relevant work experience (either paid or voluntary) in a health or social care organisation. We aren’t prescriptive about how this is obtained, recognising the widely differing opportunities available. For students applying for 2022 Entry, we're mindful that the COVID-19 crisis will prevent prospective applicants from completing work experience in a care or medical setting. Consequently, applying without this experience will not disadvantage your application to Cambridge. We would encourage you to do some online research about the NHS and wider healthcare systems – the challenges they face generally, their structures, and staff perspectives – instead of practical work experience. There are lots of resources and sources of information available online at no cost – some helpful examples can be found in this MSC Guide.


Additional to the University’s requirements, 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.

It should be obvious that we are looking for students with a motivation for medicine as a career and very strong abilities in scientific subjects, both of which are prerequisite for a course of the type we offer. Beyond this we are looking for flair and a passion for science and for finding out. Intelligence and imagination are important to us, but so is the integrative ability to link diverse information and to apply general principles across the subjects. Our assessment is not only based on achievement at the stage of applying, but on our assessment of potential to benefit from the course.

We cannot admit Affiliated students to read Medicine.


We attract around 100 applicants, with above the average marks of those applying for Medicine at Cambridge as a whole, and typically interview around 50 applicants. The initial measure by which applicants are ranked for deselection is Section 2 of the BMAT, which is seen as a reliable indicator of academic ability that all applicants can be compared with. Competitive candidates usually obtain a result of 4.7 or higher in Section 2, because of this it is advised that applicants prepare for the BMAT in the months leading up to the test.

Our overall assessment of your academic potential will be based on a combination of past examination results, BMAT 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 as a whole. We aim to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. Two interviews are held for each candidate, of about 20 minutes each:

The Aptitude for Medicine Interview is conducted by a Fellow in one of the basic medical sciences and a medical practitioner (usually the Director of Clinical Studies). This interview focuses on professional development and the wider aspects of medicine. You will be asked what your motivation is to study medicine as a vocation, and to show any relevant experience you have in healthcare or caring in general. Obviously some practical experience of voluntary work in a hospital, etc is likely to provide a very useful basis for discussion at this interview, although we appreciate that this is not always easy to obtain. The interview will also explore a number of general questions about your understanding of medicine, public health, interaction with patients and related topics.

The Science interview is given by the Director of Pre-Clinical Studies and a Fellow in one of the basic medical sciences. This academically-based interview will draw together ideas which you have studied in your different subjects at school. The aim is to see if you can apply concepts which you have already met in ways which you have not encountered before. The interview is normally divided into two approximately-equal parts. One will typically explore a problem loosely-related to medicine. The other will be designed to test your scientific reasoning skills as you link together concepts from the basic sciences to address a problem which you have not met before.

A sample of the Scientific Reasoning Skills problem is provided, based on the questions used in the 2017 admissions round. The problems used in the actual interview will, of course, normally be different each year.