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.


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 specialise 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.

  • 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.

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).

Entry Details

UCAS Code: D100

Typical Entry Requirements

A Level: A*AA

International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential Subjects: A Level/IB Higher Level in Chemistry and one of Biology, Physics and Mathematics

Pre-interview Assessment: Natural Science Admissions Assessment (NSAA). More information can be found here.

Work Experience: work experience is not a requirement for applicants but some experience is useful to understand the profession and what is required of its members. We recommend applicants acquire two weeks of work experience, if possible. For students applying for 2022 Entry, we’re mindful that the COVID-19 crisis may prevent prospective applicants from completing work experience. Not having completed work experience will not disadvantage your application to Cambridge. Further advice and guidance can be found on the Veterinary School’s website.


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.


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. Two interviews are held for each candidate, of about 20 minutes each, detailed below:

The Scientific Reasoning interview is given by the Director of Pre-Clinical Studies and a Fellow in one of the basic veterinary 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 which may be loosely-related to veterinary 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.

The Clinical Reasoning interview is given by the Director of Studies for Veterinary Sciences and a Vet. This interview will cover aspects specific to your aspirations in Veterinary Medicine, compared to the first interview which is likely to be more wide ranging. Although it is likely that you will be asked a few questions about your schoolwork, the interview will not be an oral examination of your academic progress and no special preparation is necessary or desirable.

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.


Directors of Studies

Prof Hugh MatthewsVeterinary Sciences Part IA and IB
Dr David Williams - Veterinary Sciences (Clinical)