Natural Sciences at Cambridge combines a broad first year with increasing specialisation in the second year and total specialisation in the third and, in some disciplines, fourth years. It is a busy, intense course and moves quickly.
The greatest benefit of the Natural Sciences Tripos is that you do not choose one science in which to specialise until you have explored several at the University level. Hence you gain an exceptionally broad scientific base.
The first year will involve choosing three (out of a possible seven) basic experimental subjects, plus an appropriate course in Mathematics. This will give you a thorough and broad foundation, on which to build your chosen speciality. Second year students choose three subjects, giving them the opportunity to become more specialised in a particular subject, or to retain a broad approach. By the third year you will be specialising in one of sixteen subjects, chosen from a list that runs from Astrophysics to Zoology and includes Biochemistry, Chemistry, Materials Science, Plant Sciences, Psychology and Physics.
In all Natural Sciences subjects it is possible to graduate with the BA Degree after three years. Four-year courses leading to the degrees of BA and MSci are available in eight subjects including Biochemistry, Chemistry, Geological Sciences, Materials Science, Physics and Systems Biology, subject to appropriate examination performance.
Detailed information on all available subjects within the Natural sciences course can be found here.
As a guide, we expect our successful applicants to achieve at least two A* grades and one A grade in the scientific and mathematical subjects taken at A-level.
On your application form, you are asked to specify 'physical' or 'biological' as well as Natural Sciences, although this does not constrain your final choices of subjects - it ensures that your interviews will be appropriate to your interests.
The breadth of the Natural Sciences course means that the best preparation for the degree is to develop your knowledge base across a wide range of science and mathematics subjects at A Level (or equivalent). The majority of applicants take at least three science / mathematics subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Further Mathematics). As a minimum, we require two of these at A Level, but this will limit your choice of options in the first year of the course.
For the Physical Sciences, A Level Mathematics is essential, and if you are intending to study Physics we strongly recommend that you also take A Level Further Mathematics.
A Level Chemistry is essential if you wish to study Chemistry, and very useful for subjects such as Materials Science and Earth Sciences.
For the Biological Sciences, A Level Mathematics is not essential, but is strongly recommended. Chemistry is essential if you wish to take the Biology of Cells option in the first year. A Level Biology is not essential for any of the biological science options, but is very useful.
Detailed information about requirements for the different Natural Sciences options can be found on the university's admissions webpages and the Natural Sciences Tripos course website.
Applicants to Wolfson College will not be required to sit a pre-interview assessment for Natural Sciences. Applicants invited for interview will be asked to sit a written assessment on the day of their interviews. This assessment will be similar in content and format to the assessment used by other colleges prior to interview. Specifications can be found here.
At interview, engagement with and enthusiasm for the subject will be explored by the course Director of Studies and Admissions Tutor. The interviews are partly technical. We do not expect you to know all the answers but you should be able to "think on your feet" and apply your knowledge to new situations. We are looking for the ability to think clearly and critically, to apply principles correctly to unfamiliar areas, and to relate mathematical models to specific situations; you need to be able to show competence in basic mathematical manipulations; and finally for enthusiasm for your subject and determination to master its details.