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How to apply

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 science/maths 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 a strong 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.

 

07-1a-fallows-swan.jpgMaking 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.

Applicants will also need to be registered for our Admissions Assessment, with the same deadline as for your UCAS application. For more details on the Assessment, see below. (Our applicants no longer sit the BMAT test.)

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 if you can (don't worry if you can't!) 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, Homerton*, 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.

(*Please note, Homerton intends to start admitting vet students from October 2019 onwards (for which you can apply in October 2018. Their quota is not yet decided but is likely to be 3 or 4.)

Christ’s, Corpus Christi, Hughes Hall, King’s, Peterhouse and Trinity do not admit vets. If you apply to one of these colleges your application will simply be allocated to a college which does.

There are also places reserved for graduate and mature students – see the ‘Graduates and over-21s’ menu tab for more details.

07-1c-badger.jpgOnce the UCAS application is completed, an online supplementary questionnaire is sent to applicants in all subjects - thus, it 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 want to tell us on your UCAS form. This is fine: do not worry if you do not write in some of the boxes on the additional form!

Over seventy-five per cent of our applicants are called for interview, usually early in December. EU applicants are interviewed in Cambridge, but the University also conducts interviews in a variety of locations in Asia and North America. 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

 

07-2a-agar-plate.jpgWhat 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 maths, and good at dealing with novel scientific concepts will find Cambridge the easiest veterinary course on which to secure a place.

1. GCSEs

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, especially in science/maths subjects. 

 

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, Physics or Mathematics. The latter three subjects are considered equally.

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 - although every year we admit strong applicants who have taken only two science/maths subjects. In this context, we realise that recent changes in the format of A-levels mean than most applicants have had to choose their full A-level subjects soon after their GCSE results, with little opportunity to change afterwards, so the important thing is to work hard in the science/maths subjects you are doing.

Unsurprisingly, most of our applicants are taking Biology, but we do not require it - we welcome applications from candidates who are doing well in the physical sciences and Maths.

We do not count Psychology. However, 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; applicants are encouraged to take Chemistry and two other science/maths subjects, with at least two at higher level), Scottish Advanced Highers (typical offer AAA, similar subject choices recommended), Pre-U (D2,D3,D3), or any non-UK qualifications, you can find more information on individual college admissions websites.

We sometimes receive applications from candidates who have taken a variety of scientific foundation courses. If you have taken this route, your application would still be assessed largely on the science/maths skills we would expect from an A-level candidate - i.e. strong performance in Chemistry and at least one other science/maths subject: in your course, at GCSE or equivalent, in the Admissions Assessment (see below), and at interview. You are advised to contact the admissions office at the college to which you are thinking of applying.

07-2b-chicken.jpg3. Admissions assessment

Veterinary Medicine applicants are asked to take the University’s pre-interview ‘Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment’. (This assessment replaced the BMAT in 2017.)

Bear in mind that this assessment is just one of the pieces of information we use in our selection process - for example, it does not 'trump' performance at interview and in school science/maths subjects.

If you are still at school, you can be registered 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). The University charges 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 and tests in a wide variety of subjects – usually one day in late October or early November.

The aim of the assessment is to give us an idea of your ability in school-level 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. Although the subject matter is school-level, the questions are sometimes hard - so don't worry if they seem hard to you!

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 75% 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 (see below),
  • keenness to discuss veterinary/scientific issues, especially those encountered from wider reading or research, and
  • evidence of an ability to balance work and leisure activities.

07-2c-stable.JPGAlthough you may be asked some difficult questions, do not worry – this is how we ascertain 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 understandably 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 even tell us that their interview was what made them realise 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 suggest 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.

We do not have an absolute requirement for work experience, but a total of two weeks’ 'seeing practice' with vets is recommended. Your work experience does not have to be done in a single 'block', so our suggested amount could be thought of as 'a cumulative total of 10-12 working days'.

This limited recommendation 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 or half-a-year of Saturday mornings with a local vet. If you have had trouble arranging work experience for any reason - for example if local vets seem unwilling, or if you only recently decided to apply for Veterinary Medicine - you can explain this on the Cambridge online questionnaire (see above).

The best way to prepare for discussing your work experience at interview is to spend time with vets dealing with clinical cases, and be observant, interested, interactive and thoughtful. Ask lots of questions about what is going on in the cases you see, and make sure you make time to talk to vets, nurses and auxiliary staff about their working life, as well as to clients.

 

What criteria do we focus on less?

We find that exam predictions are difficult to interpret as we know how difficult it is for teachers to make accurate predictions months in advance.

catpicAlthough 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 in science/maths, while still maintaining a good balance between work and recreational activities, it does not actually matter what those activities are.

Most UCAS school reports are very complimentary about veterinary applicants, and so they often do not provide much information to allow us 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.

07-d-path.JPGSecond, we are happy to accept applications from candidates who wish to take a gap year before starting their course. Your plans may involve travel, maybe 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

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