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Why study Natural Sciences at Christ's?

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.


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

Christ's fellows in Natural Sciences


What do our students think?

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

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.

  • For students who apply for Natural Sciences in Oct 2023 (for 2024 or deferred 2025 entry) there's an admissions assessment to take that you'll need to register for. See NSAA Written Assessment

Biological or Physical Sciences? 

You should select Natural Sciences on your UCAS form (code BCF0). You’ll then be asked in  the additional questionnaire 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?

If you are applying for Biological Natural Sciences at Christ's, you must be taking the following subjects at A level, IB Higher, Scottish Advanced Higher or equivalent.

  • Mathematics (for IB students, you must take the Analysis and Approaches Maths option).
  • Chemistry
  • One further subject out of Biology and Physics

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.


If you are applying for Physical Natural Sciences at Christ's, you must be taking the following subjects at A level, IB Higher, Scottish Advanced Higher or equivalent.

  • Mathematics (for IB students, you must take the Analysis and Approaches Maths option).
  • Two further subjects out of Chemistry, Physics and Further Mathematics

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. For both Biological and Physical sciences, we require students taking science A-levels to complete and pass the practical assessment.

If you are taking Scottish Advanced Highers please see the Natural Sciences page in our Scotland section, and we also welcome applicants with a range of other qualifications - see our international entrance requirements page and please contact the Admissions Office for advice on the subject combinations to take.

NSAA Assessment (pre-registration required)

All applicants for Natural Sciences at Cambridge sit an admissions assessment called the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA). This takes place in your school, college or local testing centre and registration is required. The 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:

1 Sept 2023 NSAA registration opens
29 Sept 2023 (18:00 Uk time)* Natural Sciences applicants must be registered to take the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA). See how to be registered. You should ask for your candidate number before the deadline as proof that you are registered.
18 October 2023 Natural Sciences applicants sit the NSAA at schools and Test Centres around the world.

* 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.

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.


If we select you for interview, the interviews usually take place in early December. For the last three years interviews have been online and students have been interviewed either at home (in most cases) or at school (if easier). Those selected for interview are normally interviewed for 35-50 minutes in total. At Christ’s, we usually split the time into two interviews with academics in Natural Sciences, during each of which you are likely to be asked one or more problem-solving 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.

Natural Sciences 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, and it's worth also having a look at supervisions (short film here), as interviews are similar to what you do every week as a Cambridge student.


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. Please note that we require A-level students to complete and pass the practical assessment in science subjects.

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. Almost all successful NSP applicants who take A level Further Mathematics also achieve an A* in this subject.

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

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
NSAA preparation materials

Scroll down this page to find details of the format, the specification (including a list of the assumed scientific and mathematical knowledge that NSAA questions can draw upon) and specimen papers. The NSAA must be taken by all Natural Sciences applicants and it's essential to be registered by the deadline. See the NSAA section above.

Yourgenome Website about DNA, genes and genomes by the Wellcome Genome Campus:
Big Picture Biology collection Wellcome Trust Biology resources
IntoBiology website Science news, careers guidance, and study skills support.
iBiology US website featuring Biology talks
Biology podcasts Teach Me Biology (revision podcast), The Infinite Monkey Cage, Genetics unzipped; Big Biology, The Natural Selection; Bio eats World
Covid-19 reading suggestions

COVID-19 vaccines: where we stand and challenges ahead
SARS-CoV-2 evolution and vaccines: cause for concern?

Chemistry demonstration lectures Demonstrations to illustrate particular concepts, with many experiments never seen before.
Cambridge Chemistry Race Chemistry Competition for teams of Sixth Form students
Periodic table resources

Royal Society of Chemistry materials including interactive table, app, articles, teacher view.

A future in Chemistry Royal Society of Chemistry careers website
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, events and opportunity to earn a summer school place.
Isaac Physics video lesson archive These lessons cover the core syllabus for A level Physics. 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).

Collections in the Cambridge Museum of Zoology and highlights from the collections
Zoology podcasts (ZSL Wild Science)

Watch Cambridge Festival recordings

You can see a selection on Youtube from the 2021 festival including ones on organoids, developing Medicines in the pandemic, what we've learned about science communication in the pandemic and Marine Biology. There are also podcasts available from previous festivals
Gresham College Science lectures Free lectures online including individual lectures such as Covid-19 and series such as
Cosmic Concepts; The Unexpected Universe, The Nature of Reality, or Cancer: A fight we are steadily winning. You can search by topics e.g. Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Astronomy or Physics.
Oxford Physics public lectures Looking at topics as diverse as the creation of the universe to the science of climate change.
Competitions Quantum on the clock; Big Bang Competition; Schools' Analyst Competition; Newnham College Biological Sciences prize
Crest (Gold) Awards Complete a project that makes an original contribution to a STEM field of study and submit your findings.

Inside Science
Leading Edge

In their element
The letters of Dorothy Hodgkin
How to vaccinate the world

The science of temperature
Putting science to work

HE+ Biology, HE+ Chemistry, HE+ Physics

Webpages for secondary school students who would like to explore science.
Finding out about research after the undergraduate degree. Hear from students from different departments. Zoology - ZooCasts series 1 & ZooCasts series 2; Life Sciences - a day in our lives PhD students & a young person's guide to life sciences (aimed at younger children, but worth a watch by all!)
Darwin resources
USA Advanced Placement resources Khan Academy resources: High School Biology; AP Biology; High School ChemistryAP Chemistry; High School Physics; AP Physics 1; AP Physics II; AP Calculus BC
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

Natural Sciences (Physical) departments
  You can explore the science departments in the
  Cambridge University Virtual Tour

Online events: Our open days and events page advertises regular online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge. If you can, sign up for a College Open Day (these have online and optional in-person elements and include a subject meeting) and if you are from a state school and interested in Natural Sciences (Biological), apply for our Biological Sciences Taster Series to find out more about the College and the Natural Sciences course in person.

Further subject-specific opportunities you might wish to consider include Subject Masterclasses organised by Cambridge Admissions Office, Cambridge Physics Lectures and Natural Sciences-specific talks in the July Cambridge Open Days. Do also look out for the Cambridge Festival in March, as although it's not specifically for prospective students, there are a lot of science events. If you are a UK student from a background where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education, you can apply to attend a Sutton Trust Summer School in Natural Sciences or to shadow a current Natural Sciences undergraduate via the Cambridge SU Shadowing

Chandra Bose statue in Christ's College
  Bust of Christ's alumnus Jagadis Chandra Bose
  near New Court, Christ's

Scheme (do be aware that there's a high proportion of applicants to places for both of these last two opportunities so please don't be discouraged if you don't get a place).

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 and we’ll help however we can.


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