Many applicants assume that they will not get onto the Cambridge vet course, but in many ways our admissions system is the simplest. If you are doing, or have done, well in maths/science at school or university, then you may find that Cambridge is the vet school at which you are most likely to gain a place.
All veterinary schools receive more applications than there are places available, but if you are passionate about wanting to study veterinary medicine and have an interest in science, we encourage you to apply. It is a competitive process but all applications are considered extremely carefully. Most of our applicants are interviewed, which provides a great opportunity for you to really show your passion for the subject and your scientific abilities.
Making your application
Across the UK, the admissions process for Veterinary Medicine starts earlier than for other courses, so the deadline for submitting your online application to UCAS is usually the 15th October – but check this date on the UCAS website. A detailed description of the admissions process can be found in the Cambridge online prospectus available here. We encourage you to use the fifth, non-veterinary, ‘backup’ choice your UCAS form, if you wish.
Most applicants will also need to register for our Admissions Assessment, with the same deadline as for your UCAS application. For more details on the Assessment, see below.
Although there is much communication between them, it is the individual colleges which conduct the admissions process. When you fill in your UCAS form you will be asked either to choose a college, or make an ‘open application’. If you select this option, you will be automatically allocated to a college which will consider your application as if you had applied to them directly.
Some applicants worry about choosing a college, but you should see it as a positive decision which allows you to choose the place where you may spend much of the next six years. Look at some college websites , maybe attend an open day, and pick the college you think looks best for you.
Your choice of college does not affect your chances of getting a place. The colleges each have a nominal ‘quota’ of applicants, but they often take more. Also, colleges with larger quotas tend to get correspondingly more applicants, so do not worry about this too much.
The quotas are: Churchill 2, Clare 4, Downing 2, Emmanuel 4, Fitzwilliam 3, Girton 9, Caius 2, Jesus 3, Magdalene 4, Murray Edwards 5, Newnham 3, Pembroke 2, Queens' 3, Robinson 4, St Catharine's 5, St John's 4, Selwyn 4, Sidney Sussex 2, Trinity Hall 2.
Christ’s, Corpus Christi, Homerton, Hughes Hall, King’s, Peterhouse and Trinity do not admit vets.
There are also places reserved for graduate and mature students – see the ‘Graduates and over-21s’ menu tab for more details.
Once the UCAS application is completed, an online supplementary questionnaire is sent to applicants in all subjects, and is not veterinary specific. Some of the questions may not seem very relevant to you – you may feel you have already put most of what you need to tell us on your UCAS form – in which case, do not worry if you do not write much on the additional form!
Over eighty per cent of our applicants are called for interview, usually early in December. Most have two interviews of thirty minutes each, conducted on the same day. See below for details of this.
Decisions about offers are made in early-to-mid January. All offer-holders are invited to a non-compulsory (but fun!) Offer Holders’ Open Day, often in February, where they get a chance to meet each other, and receive an introduction to what life will be like here as a veterinary student – from Day 1 to graduation as a vet.
In May you will have to confirm which of your offers you would like to make your ‘firm’ offer, and which is your ‘insurance’ offer. Remember that if you achieve your insurance offer, but not your firm offer, your insurance university is committed to giving you a place.
“Don't be put off - I didn't think I stood a chance of getting in either!” - Emma
What criteria do we use to make our decision?
It is generally accepted that the admissions process at Cambridge is more science-oriented than that for other veterinary courses. Because of this emphasis, applicants who are confident at science and good at dealing with novel scientific concepts will find Cambridge the easiest veterinary course on which to secure a place.
GCSEs (or their equivalent) are not as important to us as A-levels (or their equivalent), but obviously it is encouraging if you have some A*’s at GCSE.
2. A-Levels, or Equivalent
Our research shows that for ‘standard-age’ applicants, success in science/maths in the last two years of school is the best indicator of performance on courses at Cambridge.
You should be taking Chemistry, and at least one of Biology/Human Biology, Physics or Mathematics. Many applicants are taking three science/maths subjects in total, and our experience suggests that they are more likely to be successful than those taking two.
We do not require Biology, and welcome applications from candidates who are doing well in the physical sciences and Maths.
We do not count Psychology. In contrast, Further Maths may act as an enabling subject and be included in your conditional offer – ask individual college admissions offices for advice.
The typical conditional offer for Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge is A*AA. Most successful applicants who have not yet taken their exams will receive this conditional offer, unless they have special circumstances or if their A-level subjects necessitate an offer with more complex phrasing.
Extended Project Qualifications and non-science fourth A-levels would not usually form part of the conditional offer, but they may be discussed at interview.
Admissions offices at Cambridge colleges regularly consider applicants with qualifications other than A-levels. If you are studying for the IB (typical offer is a total of 40-42 and 776 in higher or more relevant subjects), Scottish Highers (typical offer AAA), Pre-U, or any non-UK qualifications, you can find more information on individual college admissions websites.
3. Admissions assessment
From autumn 2017, Veterinary Medicine applicants will be asked to take the University’s pre-interview ‘Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment’. (This assessment replaces the BMAT previously used.)
The importance of this assessment in veterinary admissions should not be over-emphasised - for example, performance at interview and in science/maths subjects in the last two years of school are considered more important.
If you are still at school, you can register for this assessment through your school, with the same deadline as for your UCAS application. If you are not at school, you can approach your old school or contact a local examination centre for help (see link below). There is no fee for the assessment.
This assessment is used for most science applicants to Cambridge, and many vet candidates will sit it on the same day that their school’s other Cambridge and Oxford applicants sit their own admissions assessments in a wide variety of subjects – usually one day in early November.
Applicants who would be aged 21 or over on the day they intend to start the vet course, and who are applying to a ‘mature/graduate College’, are not required to take the pre-interview assessment. They may instead be asked to take an assessment at interview – contact your chosen college for details.
The aim of the assessment is to give us an idea of your aptitude for school maths/science. Some sections of the assessment allow a choice between questions on Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and vet applicants should feel completely free to pick whichever questions they prefer.
For more information, and past papers, see this link.
4. The Interview
Interviews are an important part of the applications process, so we call more than 80% of our applicants for interview. We look for candidates with:
- commitment to a veterinary or veterinary-related career,
- good problem solving skills,
- an aptitude for discussing scientific and mathematical concepts,
- enthusiasm for discussing veterinary cases they have seen,
- keenness to discuss veterinary/scientific issues as well as their own interests, and
- evidence of an ability to balance work and leisure activities.
Although you may be asked some difficult questions, do not worry – this is how we see how far you can take new ideas and concepts. We will be welcoming and do our best to help you perform to the best of your ability.
Because applicants are often nervous, we try to make the interviews as informal as possible. Do not feel you have to dress smartly!
Many applicants find their interviews enjoyable (really!) and some of our students tell us that their interview was what made them realise that Cambridge was the best vet school for them.
“Everybody is nervous before interviews, it's natural. However, there's nothing to fear! It's not a test to see if you know the answers, but a way for the interviewers to understand your thought processess and how you approach a challenge.” - Callum
5. Work Experience
It is important to emphasise that we do not demand large amounts of veterinary work experience.
Unlike other veterinary schools, we merely ask that you should have done enough to be able to discuss and analyse your experiences at interview and have a realistic idea of what a veterinary/scientific career entails. Prolonged, varied and ‘impressive’ work experience will confer no additional advantage.
Thus, a total of two weeks’ 'seeing practice' with vets is sufficient. This limited requirement is very important for fair access to the course: not everyone has the time, money, contacts or parental availability to see remote hill sheep farming practice, but most people can arrange a couple of weeks with a local vet.
The best way to prepare for discussing your work experience at interview is to be observant, interested, interactive and thoughtful – ask lots of questions about what is going on, and talk to vets, nurses and auxiliary staff about their working life.
What criteria do we not use?
We do not pay much attention to exam predictions, as we know how difficult it is for teachers to make accurate predictions months in advance.
Although you may be asked about things you have written in your UCAS personal statement, your statement will not usually be be assessed, graded, ranked or used to decide whether you are interviewed or offered a place. This is because we are aware of the variation in the amount and quality of advice applicants receive in the preparation of their personal statements.
A long list of extracurricular activities will not advantage your application. Although it is good if you can show that you can do well, while still maintaining a good balance between work and recreational activities, it does not actually matter what those activities are – and you do not even need to be good at them!
Almost all UCAS school reports are very complimentary about veterinary applicants, and so we do not usually use them to distinguish between applicants’ potential. If, however, something has disadvantaged your education, this is a good place for it to be mentioned. Also, we enthusiastically support the University’s Extenuating Circumstances Scheme.
…and three important points
First, we welcome applications from candidates who have previously applied unsuccessfully to study Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge or elsewhere, as long as you have subsequently achieved our typical conditional offer. Re-applying certainly puts you at no disadvantage, and indeed, many of our current students came to us via this route.
Second, we are happy to accept applications from candidates who wish to take a gap year before starting their course. Your plans may involve travel, or it may simply be an opportunity to earn some savings prior to starting the course, and the time certainly need not necessarily be spent in veterinary-related employment. Our only advice is that you should apply at the first opportunity (i.e. while at school) so that if you are unsuccessful the first time, you can try again in your gap year.
Finally, a disability, specific learning disability or other health condition need not prevent you from becoming a veterinary surgeon if you can satisfy the professional Fitness to Practise requirements. We often find that applicants have previously been dissuaded unnecessarily from enquiring about a veterinary career. However, you should contact a college admissions tutor, or the Director of Teaching at the Department of Veterinary Medicine as early as possible to discuss your needs. Also, see this link.
“The veterinary school is a short cycle ride from the town so even in the clinical years it is easy to go to town for shopping or a night out.” - Tom