Medicine

Molly Nichols

I only really decided to do medicine when I had to choose my options and found that I gained the most from the sciences. Medicine incorporates many different skills from a range of subjects producing an incredibly diverse degree. The social aspect of medicine — the challenge of dealing with a variety of patients — also attracted me. There is never a boring day studying medicine. With so many different components, the course it is always interesting and stimulating, and learning about amazing aspects of human life, and applying them in theory in practicals is fascinating.

Holding an isolated, beating heart in my hands, following a rat dissection, was one of the best experiences of the year – what better way to witness the myogenic properties of a heart than that!

Molly, Queen's, 3rd year
Jennie Han

I chose medicine at Oxford because I loved the idea of having tutorials in small teaching groups, and developing a strong scientific foundation before I started clinical school. Looking back at my two years so far, I can definitely say that I’ve made the right choice. The course itself is so interesting, and spans such a wide range of topics that you’ll definitely love at least one (if not all) the modules. In third year, there is also the opportunity to conduct research and specialise in an area of Medicine that interests you, which I’m really looking forward to!

It can be challenging at times, but tutors will always give you enough academic support, and the medical student community is so incredibly friendly… and where else can you say that you've held a brain, played with your friends' urine (for a practical!), and discussed neurodegenerative disorders with an expert in the field, all on the same day?

Jennie, Christ Church, 4th year

I personally chose to study at Oxford because I knew that small-group tutorials would keep me on my toes and I wanted a good scientific grounding before attempting to apply my knowledge in a ward. My expectations have been hugely exceeded, both in an academic and a social sense. From eating chocolates in tutorials to scrutinising overflowing pots of urine in practicals, I have truly loved every minute of medical school, making a number of close friends with my coursemates. I’m really looking forward to the ability to specialise in my areas of study and carry out research work in third year and am unbelievably excited about the years to come!

The most bizarre experience I’ve encountered has undoubtedly been in the Dissection Room where we do prosection – less slicing and dicing and more prodding and poking. It definitely acts as a better learning aid than impossible pre-dissection anatomy quizzes.

Rhys, Worcester, student from 2012

The preclinical degree is based around scientific principles and is taught mainly through lectures and tutorials. Seminars are common, and although they may initially seem a bit scary, students find them really useful. Practicals vary in style and substance: from the fun of electrocuting your peers, to a lot of not-so-exhilarating pipetting. Anatomy teaching is comprehensive but not excessive. Specialisation in the Medical Sciences degree occurs in your third year – a fairly relaxing time before starting the clinical part of the degree in the fourth year. At this stage, some students may go elsewhere for their clinicals, but those who remain with Oxford will probably spend a significant amount of time in the John Radcliffe Hospital (just outside the centre of town), become acquainted with real-life medicine, and very quickly pick up all those important clinical skills.

What makes Oxford different?

Firstly, you will write essay after essay after essay – even Arts students will sympathise. However, unlike the situation at many medical schools, 9 to 5s are unheard of during preclinical. Some days you may have just one lecture! Finally, during the final year, you get to go on an elective – working in a hospital outside of Oxford, in the rest of the UK or abroad.

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Don't try to read anything academic. Instead, look at good popular science books, such as "Phantoms in the Brain" by Sandra Blakeslee and Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. Keeping up to date with the NHS and medicine is wise, and BBC Health offers great information and updates.

Alec, Merton, student from 2008
Molly Nichols

The Khan Academy: on the MCAT section there are many wonderful videos about different aspects of medicine.

You can subscribe to the student BMJ for free and access many interesting medical articles. At The Lancet, you'll find discussions and stories at a higher level.

Atul Gawande's book "Being Mortal" wonderfully displays how important the role of doctors can be in the outcome of people’s lives. It pays attention to the less obvious aspects of medicine which make up many of the essential skills of a doctor, such as empathy and compassion, and the enormous differences these skills can make. 

Molly, Queen's, 3rd year
Jennie Han

I would definitely recommend the books "Phantoms in the Brain" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat". Both are very accessible books on neuroscience and contain fascinating case studies, and learning about the wide-ranging consequences of brain disorders and how we still don't understand much of it, is what really made me want to study medicine here, due to the emphasis on research and ability to specialise in neuroscience in third year!

Jennie, Christ Church, 4th year

Tell us about your interview?

Mixture of academic and ethics questions. Some examples: Should a man in chronic pain be able to use cannabis to relieve it? Are humans still evolving? Compare how V=IR describes the flow of electricity to the factors that affect blood flow. I was asked to calculate the concentration of a solution given a number of grams of a substance and a volume of water. I had one where I was given some imaging which showed the stages of the cell cycle. Another was a microscopy slide and I had to describe what I could see. The one slightly off the wall question I got was 'you are in a boat on a lake. You have a bowling ball, which you drop into the water. Does the level of water in the lake go up or down?'

The interviewers were nice and did not expect immediate, or indeed any, answers, and walked you through the questions when you were stuck. I had three interviews at Merton and two at Keble. I stayed at Merton and the whole process was pretty fun.

Alec, Merton, student from 2008

Applicants that might be offered a place are invited for interview in December. See Medicine interviews for more information.

Find out more

Course length: 3 years (pre-clinical); 6 years (pre-clinical and clinical)
Students per year: 145
Typical weekly contact time in first year: around half the week is spent in lectures and practicals

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Human Sciences, Chemistry or Biochemistry (or even consider applying for those courses!).