These are the most frequently asked questions about applying to study Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge. If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please email:
Which subjects should I take at A level (AS/A2 level)?
Chemistry at AS or A level is mandatory. You will also require two other subjects at A level normally from Biology/Human Biology, Physics and Maths. A minimum of 3 A levels (or equivalent examinations) are necessary which are normally from Chemistry, Biology/Human Biology, Physics and Maths. If you are taking Further Maths, you may find that colleges consider this just as useful – contact college admissions offices to ask about this.
Can my third A level be a non-science subject, and which non-science subjects would be considered appropriate or inappropriate?
Although many Colleges consider applicants offering only two science/mathematics subjects at A Level, please note that the success rate of such applicants is much lower. In the past three admissions rounds, 95 per cent of applicants for Veterinary Medicine offered three or more science/mathematics A Levels and, of these, 24 per cent were successful in obtaining a place. Of the five per cent of applicants who offered only two science/mathematics A Levels, just three per cent were successful in gaining a place. If you are taking a non-science/maths subject, then it should be an academically-focused one, such as English, a language, History or Geography. Critical Thinking and General Studies are not considered acceptable third A levels for any course at Cambridge.
What grades do I need to achieve at GCSE and GCE A level to be competitive for a place?
The typical conditional offer for 2015 entry was A*A*A.
Students wishing to study Veterinary Medicine must obtain:
- Grade C or above in GCSE (or equivalent) Double Award Science and Mathematics
- Two single awards in GCSE Biology and Physics may be substituted for Double Award Science
Bear in mind that your A level results will be looked at more closely than your GCSE results, as they are a better indicator of your future performance at university.
I'm doing another type of examination - will you accept it instead of A levels?
We do accept a range of different qualifications including Scottish Highers and the International Baccalaureate. For information on what type of grades you should be looking to achieve in these exams, please look at the online Undergraduate Prospectus page about entrance requirements: http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/requirements/
Are there any other tests that I will have to take as part of the application process?
Bio-Medical Admissions Test (BMAT): All applicants for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine are required to take this test after making their application and before interview. The test is taken at school/college examination centres. The test is used to assess scientific aptitude and focuses on scientific abilities relevant to the study of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge. The BMAT is also used at other Universities. Information on how to enter and a list of centres where the test can be taken can be found on the BMAT website: www.bmat.org.uk. Any queries about the BMAT and centre arrangements should be made to the BMAT helpdesk (telephone: 01223 553366).
How can I tell which Cambridge College will be best for me, and can I apply to more than one?
It’s really down to personal choice as to which college you decide to apply to. There are a lot to choose from, although there are some which don’t accept applications for veterinary medicine, (Christ’s, Trinity, King’s, Peterhouse, Hughes Hall, Corpus Christi). The best way to start making a choice is to read the individual colleges’ websites, or even come to an Open Day or other event organized by the colleges and take a look around. Colleges all provide the same basic amenities; accommodation, sports facilities, libraries etc, but they differ in size, location and age, and all these factors might steer you towards making a choice. For more information about the colleges, please have a look at the online prospectus at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/colleges/
The Alternative Prospectus (produced by the Student's Union), also gives useful information about the colleges - http://www.applytocambridge.com/ You may choose one College as your first choice, alternatively you can make an 'Open' application i.e. an application where you do not make a definite choice of College, in which case, your form will be forwarded to the College which had the most places compared to the number of applicants last year. Even if you come to Cambridge on a day other than an official open day, you could still spend some time walking around the colleges; if you let the porters know that you are a prospective applicant, they will usually let you have a look around.
Am I at a disadvantage if I make an Open Application rather than applying directly to one of the Colleges?
Absolutely not – your application will be considered just like anyone else’s.
Can I apply for Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge if I have a disability or Specific Learning Disability (SpLD)?
A disability, SpLD or health condition needn't prevent you from becoming a veterinary surgeon if you can satisfy the professional fitness to practise requirements. However, in these circumstances you should contact a College Admissions Tutor, or the Dean or Director of Teaching at the Department of Veterinary Medicine as early as possible to discuss your needs and the course requirements. Such disclosures will be considered independently of your academic qualifications and the interview process.
The University's Disability Resource Centre (DRC) can provide general advice and guidance for students with a disability, SpLD or health condition. There is more information in the online Prospectus at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/support/disability/index.html
If I find it difficult to get a particular type of work experience, e.g. working with cattle and pigs, will I be at a disadvantage?
The most important reason for doing work experience is for you to find out what the job is like and to make sure that you know what you are letting yourself in for - as well as giving you something to discuss at interview. It is not essential or even desirable to spend lengthy periods doing this kind of work. You certainly should not give up other valuable forms of extra-curricular activity, e.g. sports or music, in order to undertake work specifically with animals. Indeed, some successful candidates have not had extensive experience of such work. We are more interested in what you have gained or learnt from your work experience rather than the quantity you have accumulated.
When can I attend an open day at the Veterinary School?
You can find out more about open days at the Veterinary School by looking at the ['Open days and visits' section] of this website or the Open Days information on the University Prospectus at:
http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/events/. Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the Department of Veterinary Medicine unless we are holding an open day.
Can I apply to Cambridge if I have previously applied unsuccessfully to study Veterinary Medicine?
Yes, absolutely. We welcome such applications, as long as you have subsequently achieved our typical conditional offer. If you have applied to Cambridge before, you may wish to apply to a different college, to give you a completely fresh go at the admissions process.
How will my application be viewed if I wish to defer for a year so I may travel or work with animals?
Many Colleges favour a gap year providing the candidate uses the time for some particular purpose or aim but please check with your preferred College. Taking a gap year between school and university is something that needs to be discussed with individual Colleges because their policies may differ. Your plans may involve travel, or in other cases it may simply be an opportunity to earn some savings prior to starting the University course and our attitude is that the time certainly need not necessarily be spent in veterinary-related employment. You should contact one or more of the colleges’ admissions offices to discuss your plans. Their contact details can be found at: http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/colleges/contacts.html
Why does the Cambridge veterinary course take 6 years when the other universities take only 5?
The third year of the course provides an opportunity to study a single subject in depth. The Part II, which is taken during the third year, is mandatory for all students, within the six year course. The BA degree is awarded at the end of their third year to all students who successfully complete the preclinical course, and this qualification is recognised as equivalent to the intercalated BSc that is offered by other universities to some students. The only exception is that affiliated students (i.e. students who already have a degree in another subject) proceed directly to the clinical course in their third year and therefore complete the veterinary degree in 5 rather than 6 years. For more information about the third year, please have a look at Course Structure.
What subjects can I study in my third year?
You do not have to decide this until the end of your second year. Most students select a biological subject – and the options are: Biochemistry, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, biological Anthropology Neurobiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology Development and Neuroscience, Plant Sciences, Psychology, and Zoology. However, it may be possible to take other subjects across the University – Management Studies, is one example. If you want to see more details, do an internet search on ‘cambridge university department’, plus the name of the course listed above. Once on the departmental website, look for ‘undergraduate teaching’ or something similar and then select ‘Part II’ (which is the arcane Cambridge name for the third year).
I want to specialise with zoo animals, how do I do that?
Our philosophy is that all veterinary students should prepare for all the diverse species with which they may be presented in practice, and thus our students do not specialise in a particular field during the six year veterinary course. However, you could study a relevant subject at Part II in the third year, (see above for more details), and there may also be a suitable elective opportunity in sixth year. During the first three years, you will concentrate on the fundamental scientific principles that underlie veterinary medicine and this underpins the more practical clinical training which is provided in the last three years of the course. Both parts of the course provide an excellent basis for a variety of specialities, including specialising in zoo animals. Furthermore it is possible to take the Zoology BA course in the third year and there are also opportunities for studying elective subjects which can involve zoo animals. There is a very active Cambridge University Veterinary Zoological Society that has frequent meetings and an exciting programme of seminars and lectures. Indeed, several of our recent graduates have embarked on successful careers in this branch of Veterinary Medicine.
How much will it cost to study Veterinary Medicine in Cambridge and there any grants available?
Information on tuition fees and finance can be found in the Undergraduate Prospectus at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/finance/. There are some extra costs for equipment and protective clothing which you will need to buy before and during the course (Please see http://www.biology.cam.ac.uk/undergrads/mvst/prospective/cost). The common misconception is that studying at Cambridge will be expensive, but various factors such as the large amount of college accommodation available and the system of Cambridge Bursaries mean that no student should have to endure financial hardship or be put off from applying by financial worries.
Will I be able to work during vacations?
Your vacations will be taken up with completing the required weeks of Extra Mural Studies (EMS). You will need to complete 12 weeks of preclinical EMS and 26 weeks of clinical EMS before you can graduate. The objective of preclinical veterinary EMS is to give you experience in United Kingdom farming enterprises involving livestock, and experience of working with and handling other domestic animals, particularly horses. Such experience should include handling, housing, feeding, breeding, work routines, health problems and preventive measures. This will provide a necessary background for your clinical studies. Additionally, it should help you obtain an understanding of farming economics and an assessment of the contribution to efficiency and economic performance which the veterinary surgeon may be able to make. Clinical EMS builds on the experience gained in the preclinical years and helps the student to gain a deeper understanding of the techniques and skills taught throughout the course. Apart from time spent carrying out EMS in the vacations, our students often have time left to do paid work – although please note that you will not have sufficient free time to do paid work during university terms.
Where can I find a reading list that will help me to prepare for starting the course?
In general, you should read whatever scientific literature interests you, even if it does not always seem very ‘veterinary’. You can find some information about the underlying scientific concepts of the veterinary medicine course, together with a list of recommended reading material here: http://www.biology.cam.ac.uk/undergrads/mvst/prospective/basic-science-concepts
Can I practice in other parts of the world once I graduate?
The VetMB degree awarded by Cambridge will allow you to work in almost all other parts of the world, including Australia and New Zealand, and developing countries such as India. Many of our graduates go on to work in other parts of the world. The Cambridge course has not been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, (AVMA), so if you wish to practice in the US or Canada, you will need to apply to the AVMA and sit another series of tests.
When will I start to have contact with animals?
You will start to have contact with animals right from the second week of your first year when you have animal handling classes with different species of animals such as dogs, horses, sheep and pigs, as well as ‘live anatomy’ teaching sessions with horses and small and farm animals. You will have plenty of animal contact throughout the course culminating in the lecture-free final year during which time you will be working in each of the hospital clinics in small groups under the supervision of the clinical staff. Cambridge Vet School was a pioneer of this approach to teaching as we were the first vet school to have a lecture free final year of clinical rotations.
What qualities do you look for in a potential student?
There's no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student and we want to give applicants as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate their strengths and potential. Therefore, each applicant is considered individually, using all of the following information:
- academic record – especially in science and maths, and particularly in the last two years of school
- school/college reference
- personal statement – rather than ‘grade’ your statement, we will use it for ideas for what to ask you at interview
- performance in any tests required
- contextual data
- performance at interview (if interviewed)
There are some useful tips for applicants on the Cambridge University Student’s Union website at http://www.applytocambridge.com/applying/tips/
How many applicants do you receive each year?
You can access statistical data on the number of applicants here: http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/statistics/
Can I apply if I am a mature applicant?
Yes! We have around 6-7 mature or affiliated students in each year of the course. Mature students are classed as those without a first degree but aged over 21 at the time of application, and affiliated students are those who have completed a first degree in a related subject before applying to Cambridge. Students at Cambridge come from all walks of life and applications from students who already have a degree or mature students. (i.e. over 21 on the day they would start the course). Indeed, we have a number of places on the course which we intend to allocate to such candidates, if possible. We strongly encourage potential mature and graduate applicants to discuss their application in advance with the college to which they are thinking of applying, so they can be given advice about how best to proceed. Also, we recommend that they consider applying to one of the three colleges with particular experience of considering mature and graduate applications, and supporting such students once they start the vet course - Lucy Cavendish (women only), St Edmund's and Wolfson.
More information can be found at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/access/mature/
What is the application process for international applicants?
We have a small number of international students on the veterinary course and just over 10% of undergraduate students within the University are from overseas and represent more than 120 countries. The application process is a little different for overseas applicants – for more information, please have a look at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/international/
Do you have any information for parents and supporters?
We recognize that an important part of your University life is the support you get from your family members, friends and supporters and they will inevitably have questions of their own about the course and the University. You can view or download a copy of the University’s guide for parents and supporters at http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/publications/
If you come to the Vet School during the July Open Days, there will be a talk for parents and supporters on both days, which will give them a chance to ask senior staff members questions about Cambridge.
What are my career prospects when I graduate?
There are many areas of work in which you may use your veterinary degree. Many of our graduates go into clinical practice, but many also go on to further study, work within the pharmaceutical industry, work for government departments such as DEFRA or working for a charity clinic such as the PDSA or RSPCA. A recent RCVS Survey  found that the average time taken for recent graduates to find their first veterinary position was 2.7 months. You can find out more about the varied opportunities available to a veterinary graduate by looking at the RCVS ‘Walks of Life’ website at:
https://www.rcvs.org.uk/publications/walks-of-life/ where you can download the ‘Walks of Life’ booklet.
 RCVS Survey of Recent Graduates, IES, 2013