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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

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...

  • if you are doing well in school science/maths, you may find the Cambridge veterinary course is the easiest to secure a place on
  • we do not require extensive work experience - we suggest ten working days, if possible
  • you do not have to have a 'veterinary background' - few of our students have parents who are vets, and many come from schools and communities from which few students have gone on to study veterinary medicine
  • a recent decision to apply for veterinary medicine is no disadvantage, and you do not need to be studying biology
  • over 70% of applicants are interviewed, usually in two simple-format, half-hour, conversational interviews
  • we welcome applications from candidates who have previously applied unsuccessfully to UK vet schools, including Cambridge, if they have since reached or exceeded the university's typical conditional offer (e.g. A*AA at A level)
  • we welcome applications from candidates with disabilities, specific learning disabilities or other health conditions

We realise there may be some concern that there could be fewer veterinary places available at Cambridge in 2022 due to students being deferred from previous admissions rounds, which are affected by changes to public exam grading systems.

However, we have not deferred any veterinary students whose had not asked to defer when they applied in October 2020, and our number of deferred offer-holders is within its usual range (less than four in most years - relatively few candidates apply for deferred places, as it happens).

Thus, Cambridge plans to offer its usual number of 2021 and 2022 undergraduate veterinary places to candidates who apply by the usual deadlines.


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 (free) admissions assessment, with the same deadline as for your UCAS application. Most applicants sit the assessment in their school. Please make sure you are registered, as every year we reluctantly have to de-select a few applicants who fail to do so. For more details on the assessment, see below. (Our applicants no longer sit the BMAT test.)

Although there is much discussion between them, it is the individual Cambridge 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 the 'open' option, you will be automatically allocated to a college which will consider your application as if you had applied to them directly - you will not be disadvantaged.

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 on the Cambridge vet course. 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 you should not worry about quota sizes when picking your college.

The quotas are: Churchill 2, Clare 4, Downing 2, Emmanuel 4, Fitzwilliam 3, Girton 9, Caius 2, Homerton 4, 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, 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 application questionnaire is sent to applicants in all subjects - thus, it is not veterinary-specific. However, you must fill it in!

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.

This questionnaire is not equivalent to the questionnaires sent out by some other vet schools, to which your answers may be extremely important in their selection processes.

Over seventy per cent of our applicants are called for interview, usually early in December.

EU applicants are interviewed in Cambridge, and non-EU applicants can also request this. The University also conducts interviews for non-EU applicants in a variety of locations around the world, but some of these may require candidates to apply early - see our webpage on 'Students from outside the UK'.

A common format is for candidates to have two interviews of thirty minutes each, conducted on the same day. See below for details.

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, usually 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 in UCAS 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 at least a few A*/8/9’s at GCSE, especially in science/maths subjects.

As data are analysed for the newer, more finely-subdivided '7/8/9' grading system, it is possible that we will use GCSE grades more than previously.


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 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 certainly welcome applications from candidates who are doing well in the physical sciences and maths.

We do not count Psychology and an enabling science subject. However, Further Maths may act as an enabling subject, support your application, 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.

Please note that Colleges may differ slightly in the offers they set - for example, some colleges may ask that the A* is in Chemistry or that applicants are taking three maths/science subjects. There is a detailed list of these on this page, under the 'entry requirements' link. However, you should feel free to contact individual colleges' admissions offices if you have any further queries.

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.

  • International Baccalaureate - the typical offer is a total of 40-42 and 776 in higher-level or science/maths subjects; applicants are encouraged to take Chemistry and two other science/maths subjects, with at least two at higher level
  • Scottish Advanced Highers - the typical offer is currently A1,A,A; similar subject choices recommended as for A-level applicants
  • Pre-U - the typical offer is D2,D3,D3
  • For other qualifications, you can find more information here, or on individual college admissions websites.

We sometimes receive queries and applications from candidates who have taken a variety of scientific access and foundation courses. If you have taken this route, you should read the general guidance for Cambridge applications at this link. In any case, you are advised to contact in advance the admissions office of 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 entrance exams in a wide variety of subjects – usually 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 please 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 70% 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. So do not feel you have to dress smartly!

Many applicants find their interviews enjoyable (yes - 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.

Applicants for all subjects at Cambridge are encouraged to undertake some preparatory supercurricular activities - going beyond their school curriculum, usually by reading/researching about scientific/clinical topics which interest them. It is important to emphasise that

  • this can include any biological science, physical science, mathematical or clinical topics
  • we do not recommend what to research, but prefer applicants to be guided entirely by what interests them
  • it can take any form, including printed books and magazines; online resources, videos and courses; trips, visits and competitions; and the University's own veterinary and non-veterinary HE+ pages

So - you may find that if you are the sort of person who like finding out about 'stuff', you may have been doing a this sort of thing already. Also, bear in mind that your supercurricular interests may or may not be discussed at interview, so don't worry if they're not - we will definitely have read what you've said about them on your personal statement!

Many candidates worry that they should have done some interview preparation, but please do not worry about this too much. You might want to have a couple of 20-minute sessions chatting with a school teacher one-to-one about some academic topics, but other than that, just briefly revise the content of your school maths/science subjects, and re-read your personal statement just in case we ask you about something on it.

Nothing else is needed - and please do not feel you have to pay money to a commercial company which claims to 'train' you for your Cambridge interview. Such training is of no help, and can indeed give candidates misleading advice and make them worry more. The interviews is a positive process - we want to see what you can do and how you think, and that's all!

“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.

Instead, we merely suggest that you should have done enough to (1) be able to discuss and analyse your experiences at interview and (2) 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 in a clinical setting 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 - including if you only recently decided to apply for Veterinary Medicine - you should 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 lives.

NEW: Reassurance for potential applicants who cannot gain work experience due to the 2020-1 coronavirus pandemic

We at Cambridge realise that some of you may be having trouble gaining work experience prior to your application for Veterinary Medicine, but our message to you is do not worry.

Although we recommend it in 'normal' years, we do not require you to gain work experience, and every year we receive applications from candidates who could not secure work experience for logistical or insurance reasons, or who decided to apply for Veterinary Medicine quite late, such that they could not gain experience before the UCAS application deadline or their interview.

Clearly, we would view the current pandemic as a valid reason not to have gained work experience. Lack of work experience for this reason will not affect your chances of being called for interview or made an offer to study Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge.

So try to get work experience if it is safe to do so, but please do not worry if you cannot. Certainly, do not put yourself or anyone else at risk to gain work experience.

You may of course wish to do some online research about the profession, and one resource we particularly recommend is this MOOC prepared collaboratively by all UK vet schools. Some schools may allow it to 'count' as some or all of their work experience requirement, but obviously do check this with the other schools! 



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. Your predictions should, however, indicate that you are approximately on course to achieve the academic results required to be admitted to a UK vet school.

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 - or if you are any good at them!

Most UCAS school reports are very complimentary about veterinary applicants, 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 very 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 or 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 for most people) so that if you are unsuccessful the first time, you can try again during your gap year.

Finally, a disability, specific learning disability or other health condition need not prevent you from studying with us and 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. The sooner we know about them, the sooner we can put additional measures in place to support you - during the application process, and on the course. 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