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Oxbridge Medical School

Interview question and model answer bank: Oxbridge

The Oxbridge medicine interview is a crucial aspect of the admissions process for medical schools at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. If you aren’t familiar with the medicine application process at the University of Cambridge, our “Applying To Medicine At The University of Cambridge” article provides an excellent summary! It's designed to test the candidates' aptitude for the demanding medical curriculum, as well as their communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The Interview Process

Oxbridge interviews are typically conducted by two academics in the field of medicine. The interview is usually around 30 minutes in length, with each academic asking a set of questions and making observations about the candidate's responses.

The Oxbridge interview questions can be categorised into:

  • Factual questions
  • Ethical questions
  • Logical questions
  • Methodological questions
  • Analytical questions

One of the unique features of the Oxbridge interview is their focus on lateral thinking questions. These types of questions are designed to test the candidate's ability to think creatively and outside of the box, rather than simply recalling factual information. This approach reflects the universities' belief that successful medical practitioners need to be able to think critically and solve complex problems, not just memorise information.

Preparation for the Interview

Our **“Top Tips To Prepare For Your First Medical School Interview” article provides various tips on how to prepare for interviews in general. However, the Oxbridge medicine interview is a unique and challenging experience. That said, with proper preparation, you can demonstrate your aptitude and skills to the interviewers. Here are some general tips to help you prepare:

  1. Prepare your answers for common questions: Research the types of questions that are typically asked in Oxbridge medicine interviews, such as ethical considerations, diagnosing a patient with a complex medical condition, or recent medical advancements. Prepare your answers for these questions, but don't over-rehearse them. Instead, try to approach each question with a fresh perspective.
  2. Draw on your experience: Whenever possible, draw on your previous experiences, whether it's from your academic studies, work experience, or extracurricular activities. This will help you to demonstrate your abilities and provide evidence for your responses.
  3. Think holistically for patient-focused questions: Think holistically and consider the patient's well-being, autonomy, and the impact on their loved ones.
  4. Don’t jump straight to an answer for lateral thinking questions: It's important to remember that the interviewer is not just looking for a correct answer, but rather how you approach the problem and how you think through the solution. It's tempting to jump straight to an answer, but taking the time to explain your thought process shows the interviewer your critical thinking skills and problem-solving ability.
  5. Use the STARR and CAMP structures: To structure your responses, consider using the STARR (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection) and CAMP (Clinical, Academic, Management, Personal) structures. This will help you to provide clear and concise answers.
  6. Be engaged and smile: Be engaged and smile throughout the interview. This will help you to build a connection with the interviewers and show your enthusiasm for medicine.

Question Bank

Have a go at answering the questions on your own before looking at the sample responses! Remember that the sample responses offered are only suggestions and should be expanded upon for your actual interviews.

Example Factual Questions

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by introducing a harmless piece of a pathogen, such as a protein or a weakened or dead bacteria or virus, into the body. This triggers an immune response, where the body produces antibodies against the pathogen. If the person encounters the actual pathogen in the future, their immune system will recognise it and respond more quickly and effectively, preventing the person from getting sick.

Why does your heart rate increase with exercise?

During exercise, the body's demand for oxygen increases, and the heart rate increases to pump more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. This is achieved by an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, which stimulates the heart to beat faster, and by the release of hormones such as adrenaline, which increase the heart rate.

How does the body try to remove or recognise toxic substances?

The body has several mechanisms for removing or recognising toxins, including the liver, which detoxifies harmful substances, and the kidneys, which filter waste from the blood. Additionally, the immune system can recognise and eliminate harmful substances through processes such as phagocytosis, where white blood cells engulf and destroy pathogens.

Example Ethical Questions

Should the NHS treat smokers for free?

This is a complex ethical question, and there are valid arguments on both sides. On one hand, smokers contribute to the burden on the NHS and their conditions are largely preventable through lifestyle changes. On the other hand, the NHS is a publicly funded healthcare system and has a duty to provide care to all those in need, regardless of the cause of their condition. Ultimately, this is a question of balancing the principles of fairness and equity with the need to allocate limited resources effectively. I believe that the NHS should treat smokers otherwise we would be infringing on an individual’s autonomy to make decisions regarding their own health.

Should someone sell their kidney?

The sale of organs, including kidneys, is a highly controversial issue, and there are valid arguments on both sides. On one hand, selling a kidney can provide financial compensation for the donor and improve the quality of life of the recipient. On the other hand, it raises concerns about exploitation of the vulnerable and the possibility of creating a market for human organs. Ultimately, the ethical considerations surrounding organ sale are complex, and a nuanced approach is needed to ensure that the rights and well-being of both the donor and recipient are protected. Given that the sale of organs is often done exploitatively, I believe that it should be criminalised. Doing so would protect vulnerable groups significantly.

Is the health of a child more important than the health of an adult?

This is a complex ethical question, and there are valid arguments on both sides. On one hand, children are often seen as more vulnerable and deserving of protection. On the other hand, adults also have the right to access healthcare and may have dependants who rely on them. Ultimately, this is a question of balancing the principles of fairness and equity with the need to allocate limited resources effectively. I believe that the health of an adult and a child are equally important; justice must be implemented, regardless of age.

Example Logical Questions

If urine was emptied into the intestine instead of the bladder, what would happen?

If urine was emptied into the intestine instead of the bladder, it would mix with the digestive contents and be transported to the colon for elimination. This would result in a change in the acid-base balance and fluid balance of the body, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, the urine may contain harmful substances that could damage the intestinal lining and cause inflammation, potentially leading to serious health issues.

At what point is a person "dead"?

The determination of death is typically made by clinical criteria, such as the absence of a heartbeat, respiration, and brain function. However, there is ongoing debate in the medical community about the definition of death, particularly with advances in medical technology and the potential for resuscitation. Some consider death to occur when the brainstem is no longer functioning, while others consider it to be a complete cessation of all brain activity. I agree with the UK’s definition of death in that it is when an individual’s brainstem is no longer functioning, as the brainstem is responsible for several vital life-supporting functions, for example, the control of breathing.

Why don't we just have one ear in the middle of our face?

Our two ears are positioned on opposite sides of our head to allow us to locate the source of sound and determine its direction. Having one ear in the middle of our face would not provide the same ability to locate sounds and would negatively impact our ability to locate and respond to potential threats. Additionally, having two ears allows us to perceive stereo sound, creating a more immersive audio experience.

Example Methodological Questions

How would you solve the AIDS crisis in South Africa?

To solve the AIDS crisis in South Africa, a multi-faceted approach would be necessary. This could include increased access to antiretroviral therapy for those living with HIV, education and prevention efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, and addressing societal factors such as poverty and stigma that contribute to the high rates of HIV in the country. Collaboration between the government, healthcare providers, NGOs, and the international community would be crucial to effectively address the crisis.

What leaves you drier if it's raining: running or walking?

Neither running nor walking will leave you drier in the rain, as you will still get wet from the raindrops. However, running may leave you more exposed to the rain for a shorter amount of time, as you will reach your destination faster. Additionally, running may cause you to generate more body heat, leading to quicker evaporation of raindrops on your skin.

Example Analytical Questions

Explain the following curve:

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The oxygen-haemoglobin dissociation curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between the partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and the binding of oxygen to haemoglobin in red blood cells. The curve shows that as the PO2 increases, haemoglobin binds to more oxygen. This allows haemoglobin to pick up oxygen from the lungs, where the PO2 is high, and deliver it to the tissues, where the PO2 is low. The curve also shows that haemoglobin releases more oxygen to the tissues as the PO2 decreases.

Explain the following test:

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The disc diffusion test is a method used in microbiology to determine the susceptibility of bacteria to various antibiotics. The test involves placing a filter paper disc impregnated with a specific antibiotic on a culture of the bacterial strain being tested. The disc is then incubated overnight, and the area of inhibition around the disc is measured. The size of the inhibition zone indicates the sensitivity of the bacteria to the particular antibiotic. A larger inhibition zone indicates a more susceptible strain, while a smaller zone indicates resistance. The disc diffusion test is a simple, cost-effective way to screen for antibiotic resistance and guide treatment decisions in the clinical setting.

Written by Syed Maqbool

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