Natural Sciences

If you’re fascinated by science and keen to explore the subject before you specialise, this fast-moving course is for you. Learn from leaders in their field at a university internationally recognised for top quality research in the physical and biological sciences.

 

Why study Natural Sciences at Christ's?

The Young Darwin sculpture in New Court. Photo credit: Sir Cam
The Young Darwin sculpture in New Court.
Photo credit: Sir Cam

Christ's College has an illustrious history in Natural Sciences. Many top scientists have studied and worked here, including the legendary Charles Darwin, three Nobel Prize winners and many of today's most influential researchers. Enter Christ’s today and you join a vibrant science community of undergraduates, graduate students and Fellows.

The Darwin Society, our undergraduate science society, arranges a lively social calendar which includes an annual dinner and a garden party. On the scientific side, the society holds days to help local sixth-formers understand evolution and arranges interesting talks in College. It also created the fascinating Charles Darwin and Evolution website. You’ll also find plenty of Christ's students at university-wide clubs such as the CU Biological Society.
 

Course content and structure

Natural Sciences at Cambridge lets you study a wide range of subjects before you go on to specialise in a single topic in the later years. This means you get to explore a broad spectrum of interests as well as develop expertise in one aspect of science, which can be a real advantage for your future career.

The Natural Sciences course (or ‘tripos’) is a three or four-year degree. Please visit the University website for full details of the Natural Sciences course content and structure.
 

Teaching

Christ’s central location is very handy for Natural Scientists, as most of your lectures take place a short walk or bike ride away. As well as lectures, practical classes and field trips organised by the University, you have weekly ‘supervisions’ here at College. These small-group tutorial sessions give you the advantage of personally-tailored tuition from active scientists researching a diverse range of subjects.

You have the chance to work in a real research laboratory and pursue exciting discoveries of your own. And if your work is very high quality, your name might end up listed on a published paper.

Directors of Studies

Dr Tom Monie Director of Studies for Biological Natural Sciences

Dr Mike Housden Director of Studies for Physical Sciences

We also appoint a specialist Director of Studies for each subject in the Natural Sciences course.

Christ's fellows in Natural Sciences

 

Student Q&A film
  Watch the Christ's student Q&A film

What do our students think?

Read about the experiences of students who are studying Natural Sciences here at Christ’s:

If you’d like to hear from other Christ's students, please watch the Christ's student Q&A film, and visit our Student Profiles page.
 

What are we looking for? 

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated, gifted science students from all backgrounds. The admissions process is designed to provide all applicants with a level playing field. While we do expect you to have a good understanding of the syllabus you are studying, we are more interested in your enthusiasm and your ability to reason and think for yourselves.
 

How to Apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you’re applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

News

27 Aug: The date of the pre-interview Admissions Assessment for Natural Sciences has changed from 4 Nov to Thursday 5 November as part of the Covid 19 updates. See updates on the Cambridge Admissions website.

July: University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can.

At Christ's we have a page for Coronavirus disruptions and applying this year - we recommend reading and then keeping an eye on it.


Biological or Physical Sciences? 

You should select Natural Sciences on your UCAS form (code BCF0). You’ll then be asked on the SAQ form (or COPA form if you apply from outside the EU) which option you wish to study:

  • Biological Natural Sciences
  • Physical Natural Sciences

Read more about these choices at Undergraduate Natural Sciences admission information.

Please note that both Biological and Physical Sciences students can choose from the full range of first year options. If you intend to specialise in Chemistry, you can follow either the Biological or Physical Sciences pathway.

Subjects: What do you need?

Almost all successful applicants for Biological Natural Sciences at Christ's have three Science/Maths A-levels (or equivalent), including Mathematics and Chemistry. We will in principle consider applicants without A-level Chemistry, and applicants offering only two Science/Maths A-levels, but would expect such applicants to provide a clear rationale for their A-level subject choices. We have not in recent years accepted an applicant without A-level Maths. Note that A-level Biology is not a pre-requisite for the study of Biological Natural Sciences, and that students intending to specialise in Chemistry can follow either this pathway or the Physical Natural Sciences pathway on entry.

In recent years, all successful applicants for Physical Natural Sciences at Christ's have had three Science/Maths A-levels (or equivalent), including Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics. We would expect you to achieve an A* in A level Mathematics, or for IB students a Grade 7 in Higher Level Mathematics (Analysis and Approaches). Whilst we do not require any formal qualification in Further Mathematics, applicants who have undertaken either AS-level Further Mathematics or some equivalent study of Mathematics beyond their A-level curriculum are likely to be more competitive than those who have not. Note that students with A-level Chemistry will have a broader choice of options during the first year of the degree programme than those offering Physics as their only experimental Science.

NB. We require students taking science A-levels to complete and pass the practical assessment.

If you want to apply for Natural Sciences and are studying for qualifications other than A-levels, please contact the Admissions Office for advice on the subject combinations to take.

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All applicants for Natural Sciences at Cambridge must sit a pre-interview admissions assessment called the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA). For students applying in 2020, this will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 5 November 2020. The Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All Natural Sciences applicants applying in 2020 must be registered to take the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2020. See how to be registered.

    Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
     
  • All Natural Sciences applicants applying in 2020 sit the assessment on 5 November 2020 (updated date).

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year, and further advice is available in the resources section below.

Interviews

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can. This does mean that there may be changes to the details of interviews below (which sets out what normally happens).

If you are invited for interview in Cambridge, you will have two 20-30 minute interviews with different subject specialists, in which you are likely to be asked one or more problem-solving questions in addition to more general questions. The aim of the interviews is to determine applicants' potential to benefit from the Natural Sciences course. This is not the same as factual knowledge, or even necessarily past scholastic achievement: interviewers are more concerned to identify motivation and intellectual potential. The interviews have no fixed format but might include, for example, discussion of aspects of school coursework, or being presented with a science question in an unfamiliar guise and being encouraged to think it through. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section

Offers

Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, Christ's aim is to admit around 24 to 30 students each year in Natural Sciences.

You need to be academically ambitious: conditional offers are likely to be minimum A*A*A at A-level, and for IB candidates 42 points overall, with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects, but the majority of Christ’s students arrive with higher grades. If you are applying for Natural Sciences (Physical), we would normally ask you to achieve an A* in A-level Mathematics, or a Grade 7 in Higher Level Mathematics (Analysis and Approaches) if you are doing the IB. Please note that we require A-level students to complete and pass the practical assessment in science subjects.

If you are studying in another system we would expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range. The international students section has information about typical offers for other qualifications.

If you will have already finished school when you apply, we recommend that you read the page for post-qualification applications
 

Helpful resources

Additional in Coronavirus times MEI (Maths Education) resources for students studying at home
Additional in Coronavirus times NRICH Maths at home
Additional in Coronavirus times Resources for A level Biology, A level Chemistry, A level Physics on Seneca
Additional in Coronavirus times

Khan Academy resources for USA curriculum: High School Biology; AP Biology; High School ChemistryAP Chemistry; High School Physics; AP Physics 1; AP Physics II; AP Calculus BC

Additional in Coronavirus times Science shorts (revision films - mainly Physics)
Reading suggestions Book / resource suggestions for all areas of the Natural Sciences course. Some of the student profiles also recommend books or say what they read. See for example Stratis, Charlotte, Arqum
Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment preparation Notes to guide students preparing for the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (required for all Natural Sciences applications)
Christ's Darwin & Evolution website For Biological Sciences: a website made by Christ's students a few years ago celebrating the life, work and impact of Charles Darwin
HE+ Biology Resources for students who would like to explore Biology beyond the school curriculum.
Yourgenome Website about DNA, genes and genomes by the Wellcome Genome Campus:
Big Picture Biology colllection Wellcome Trust Biology resources
IntoBiology website Science news, careers guidance, and study skills support.
iBiology US website featuring Biology talks
HE+ Chemistry Resources for students who would like to explore Chemistry beyond the school curriculum.
Isaac Chemistry Website to help you develop problem-solving skills in Chemistry from GCSE to A-level through to the transition to university.
Chemistry demonstration lectures Demonstrations to illustrate particular concepts, with many experiments never seen before.
Isaac Physics  Website to help you develop problem-solving skills in Physics from GCSE to A-level through to the transition to university. See A-level resources and student support. There is also a mentoring scheme
HE+ Physics Resources for students who would like to explore Physics beyond the school curriculum.
Physics.org Science news website
NASA STEM Engagement website Enrichment resources from NASA
CERN Resources Photos, films, reports etc.
Advanced Mathematics Support Programme Advanced Mathematics Support Programme
See in particular A level Mathematics resources and A level Further Mathematics resources. If you are studying independently, Integral offers an online Further Mathematics course. See studying an Advanced Maths option independently
NRICH Mathematics Free online resources to help you to develop the advanced applied mathematical skills needed to make the most of the study of sciences at university. See in particular BioNRICH, ChemNRICH, PhysNRICHAdvanced Scientific Mathematics and prepare for university, and live problems
HE+ Mathematics Resources for students who would like to explore Maths beyond the school curriculum.
Earth Sciences introduction Earth Sciences is one of the new sciences that you can study in first year - worth a look!
History and Philosophy of Science introduction Another of the course options  - you can take this from second year if you want to (see routes).
Zoology podcasts ZSL Wild Science
Cambridge Science Festival event recordings Listen to some of our talks or lectures from the Cambridge Science Festival
Gresham College Science lectures Free lectures online
Oxford Physics public lectures Looking at topics diverse as the creation of the universe to the science of climate change..
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you would be working

 

Come to an Open Day or Online Event

Online events: Our open days and events page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge.

If you can, come along to a College Open Day or take part in our annual Biological Sciences Taster Day to find out more about the College and the Natural Sciences course in person.
 

Need more information?

For more detail of what the course involves, read Undergraduate Natural Sciences admissions on the University website, and look at the Natural Sciences Tripos website and overview booklet for prospective students too.

If you have any other queries, please send them to admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk and we’ll help however we can.
 

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