Oxbridge Medicine Interview: Academic Scenarios

The Oxford and Cambridge Medicine Interviews are notoriously difficult, and are quite different in style to your typical undergraduate medicine interview. 

Oxbridge medicine interview questions tend to be more academic and challenging in general. They will tend to focus less on extracurricular activities (“e.g. how do you manage stress?”) and personality questions (e.g. “give me an example of when you showed teamwork”), which are often staples of MMI interviews at most UK universities. Instead, Oxbridge interviewers will grill you on your interest and knowledge in science and medicine. 

Preparing for an Oxbridge medicine interview can be quite overwhelming. The key thing to bear in mind is that you cannot know all of medicine before an interview – there is a reason you are an applicant not a qualified doctor! It can help to be aware of some common conditions and topical scientific topics, but do not stress too much about reading lots of textbooks on science and medicine.

Oxbridge interview questions will focus less on your knowledge, but instead on your ability to think outside the box and build on your knowledge

The Oxbridge medicine interview questions will focus less on your knowledge, but instead on your ability to think outside the box and build on your knowledge. For example, if a scenario focuses on Covid-19, the Oxbridge medicine interviewer may begin with some simple questions about Covid-19. They would expect you to understand the science behind the virus, some knowledge of viruses as organisms, and insight into the mechanism of vaccines. However, the conversation may soon lead to some rather tricky follow up questions into areas of science you have never come across before. The key is not to panic in your Oxbridge medicine interview, as the scenario is often not testing your knowledge, but instead your ability to use the little knowledge you do have to make logical assumptions and conclusions.

In this article we have some mock Oxbridge interview scenarios. We would recommend giving them to a friend or family member, and then re-enacting a proper Oxbridge medicine interview. The questions start off easier, and slowly become more and more tricky, which is similar to how Oxbridge medicine interview scenarios develop. 

If you would like to have some mock Oxford and Cambridge medicine interviews with our expert Oxbridge tutors, then feel free to get in touch with us – https://www.medicmind.co.uk/oxbridge-interview-tutors/

Oxford and Cambridge Medicine Interview Scenario 1: Haemoglobin

Describe the graph 

  • As the partial pressure of oxygen increases, so does the haemoglobin saturation. 
  • Sigmoid shape 

Why is the graph this shape? 

  • Results from changes in the binding ability of haemoglobin as oxygen binds 
  • Each haemoglobin can bind 4 oxygen molecules, with the 2nd and 3rd molecules being the easiest to bind- this results in the steep gradient in the middle section of the graph 

Why is this advantageous for humans? 

  • The flat upper portion- if the alveolar PO2 falls, the loading of oxygen will be unaffected 
  • Steep section- assists oxygen diffusion into tissue, allowing tissues to withdraw enough oxygen without big changes in P02 

Draw / Describe the effects of carbon dioxide on the shape of the graph

  • Bohr effect 
  • High carbon dioxide- binds and shift curve to the right enhancing O2 unloading. Helpful in respiring tissues 

How might this graph be different in a foetus? 

  • Fetal haem has a higher affinity for oxygen- right shift 
  • Important as it allows oxygen to be taken up at lower partial pressures of oxygen from maternal blood to fetal blood 

What other factors affect the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood?

  • Amount of red blood cells (and therefore the amount of haemoglobin). Can be increased at altitude, where oxygen in the atmosphere is lower 
  • Oxygen dissolved in the plasma

Oxford and Cambridge Medicine Interview Scenario 2: Vaccines 

How do vaccines work? 

  • Administer antigens in various forms to elicit an immune response and develop memory. 
  • Production of antibodies (B cells) and T cells 
  • Formation of memory cells which can mount a faster and more specific immune response upon reinfection 
  • They protect an individual against the harmful symptoms of infection and prevent that person transmitting the pathogen to someone else (herd immunity)

Can you name any types of vaccine? 

  • Live attenuated vaccine- weakened form of pathogen 
  • Inactivated- dead pathogen 
  • Subunit/polysaccharide- just the antigenic part 

What are the risks of live vaccines? 

  • Revert to virulence- cause disease 
  • Mutation of pathogen 
  • Severe reactions 

Why are live vaccines more effective? 

  • Active replication stimulates the immune response more efficiently- more likely to develop long-lasting immunity 
  • Get both an antibody and T cell response 

What types of vaccines do you know are being used for COVID?

  • RNA vaccines- use the body’s cells to produce the antigen. No risk of reversion to virulence 
  • Vector vaccine (oxford)- common cold virus with instructions to make COVID proteins

How would you design an ethical study to test how effective a vaccine was?

  • Randomised, double blind trial 
  • Half participants get placebo (What is the importance of a placebo-control?) 
  • Challenge trials- ethical issue if people get disease and get seriously ill
  • Alternative is wait for natural infection and see what % was in placebo group 

Can you think of any viruses or other infectious disease that we don’t have a vaccine for yet, and suggest why this might be? 

  • HIV- infects immune cells and kills them. Also rapidly mutations so antigens change 
  • Malaria- natural infection does not elicit immune protection. Lack of funding as it doesn’t affect many higher-income countries.

Oxford and Cambridge Medicine Interview Scenario 3: Antibiotics 

What is the arrow labelled 1 pointing at? 

  • Bacterial growth 
  • Agar plate contains the nutrients needed for bacteria to grow at the correct temperatures 

What is the arrow labelled 2 pointing at? 

  • Zone of inhibition (area with no bacterial growth) 

Why is there no bacteria growing here? 

  • Antibiotic is killing the bacteria, by preventing their growth, division and replication 

Which of these is the best antibiotic and why? 

  • C, because it has the largest zone of inhibition, meaning that this bacterial is more susceptible to this type of antibiotic 

What makes a successful antibiotic? 

  • Selective toxicity against bacteria and not host cells 
  • Target bacterial function that is essential 
  • Wide therapeutic index (not highly toxic) 
  • Minimal impacts on host flora 

Why is there no zone of inhibition around A? 

  • Could be a control soaked in saline solution 
  • Could be a type of bacterial that has developed resistance to the antibiotic and therefore cannot inhibit its growth

What do you understand by the term antimicrobial resistance, and by what mechanisms might a bacteria be resistant? 

  • Bacteria is no longer susceptible to a particular antibiotic 
  • Bacterial become resistant via mutations and changes in the genetic material that allow; efflux of the drug, inactivation of the drug e.g. by enzymatic degradation, modification of the protein or process that the drug targets 

How can we combat antimicrobial resistance? 

  • Decrease use of antibiotics e.g. in agriculture 
  • Use only for bacterial infections 
  • Make sure patients finish their course of antibiotics 
  • Use combinations of drugs- more effective 
  • Develop new antibiotics 

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