A-Level choices for doing Natural Sciences at Cambridge

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aprocrastinator
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I'm in Year 11 and I'm in bit of a dilemma with my A level choices! In the title you can see that I'm aiming for Cambridge, especially Natural Sciences (and perhaps medicine) but I'm worried about my A-level combinations.

I've put down: Maths, Biology, Chemistry and History. I've heard the latter is good with science A-levels as it is an essay based subject and this is helpful for entrance exams and university courses itself (but if you wish to refute that, please do and tell me why).

The thing is, I haven't taken History for GCSE so I know I'll struggle somewhat at A-level at first, but the whole rule with humanities for A-level without GCSE is very different from science or language as it's mostly focused on the skills, rather than knowledge. Nevertheless, I would like to get very high grades considering this is Cambridge after all and I would like to know if anyone had any advice on that?

Another possible combination would be Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. A classic triple science and maths... would this be better and give me a better chance of getting place than the previous combination? I'm so worried, because I would like to take the combination I will enjoy the most, but if it hinders my chances would it be really worth it?

I'm also perhaps considering taking Further Maths A-level also but I most likely will not because I'm taking A2 Critical thinking in Year 12 and that would mean no free periods! And therefore a lot of inevitable stress.

Please tell me your thoughts!!
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Hi I'm Will
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Those choices are fine, although as said before if you wished to take the physical route then Physics would be a more sensible option. Further Maths would certainly aid your application although if you are definitely taking A2 Critical Thinking then that might not be the best idea.
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flipflap99
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doing history wont reap any benefits, only do it if youll enjoy it
if your hoping to do biological natsci, its fine, geography may be a better complement but it wouldnt make a remote difference to your application
if you want physical id say do physics or fm
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HenryD
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History is probably the humanity that requires the most pure knowledge at A level, bar possibly the languages and some philosophy courses. Plus you need excellent essay skills, just be aware of that
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aWildPidgey
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If you want to go down the physical route, do Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Chemistry.

If you want to go down the biological route, the 4 which you said would be fine
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navyspaces
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The perfect combination is Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. For obvious reasons really...!

Assuming you'll do four, it depends (as has been said) on which route you prefer. Medicine suggests biology/life sciences appeal to you, so as long as you have Maths, Biology and Chemistry as a core, you are set to do well.

Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry are definitely the best core for the physical route, and I would say that no subjects can compete with these (Computing or Engineering perhaps, if you were particularly interested in one of those..).

It's important to remember that doing something you love and showing a passion for it (on top of academic brilliance ) is one of the best things you can do. If you would absolutely love doing History and could talk for days about how you love the history of science etc, then you could use that as a 'unique selling point' later on Just keep your choice relevant...
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navyspaces
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Oh, get rid of Critical Thinking if you can. Further AS would be much more useful
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MomtaajRahman
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I would stick with the choices you made - History is a highly respectable and complementary subject choice to your other A Levels. You learn different skills in History at AS/A2 than during GCSE so you won't be at a disadvantage. It does however consist of a lot of information and is essay based - your sciences will seem more logical compared to it. Another thing, don't get too caught up in wanting to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge - keep your mind open to other universities. A lot of people make the mistake of choosing an Oxbridge institution purely because they're prestigious.
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Big-Daddy
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(Original post by MomtaajRahman)
I would stick with the choices you made - History is a highly respectable and complementary subject choice to your other A Levels. You learn different skills in History at AS/A2 than during GCSE so you won't be at a disadvantage. It does however consist of a lot of information and is essay based - your sciences will seem more logical compared to it. Another thing, don't get too caught up in wanting to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge - keep your mind open to other universities. A lot of people make the mistake of choosing an Oxbridge institution purely because they're prestigious.
Nonsense. I would guess you have very little experience of science applications.

The OP should not fall into the trap of thinking diversity is good. It is a significant disadvantage to apply for Physical Natural Sciences without Further Maths. Given that you're taking "only" 4 A-levels, you should a) for Biological Natural Sciences, take 4 sciences (or Chemistry, Biology, and Further Maths or Further Maths AS) or b) for Physical Natural Sciences, take Physics, Chemistry, Further Maths. If you were to take 5 then the 5th could be something else of your choice, though ideally it would complete your set of 3 sciences + 2 Maths.
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MomtaajRahman
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(Original post by Big-Daddy)
Nonsense. I would guess you have very little experience of science applications.

The OP should not fall into the trap of thinking diversity is good. It is a significant disadvantage to apply for Physical Natural Sciences without Further Maths. Given that you're taking "only" 4 A-levels, you should a) for Biological Natural Sciences, take 4 sciences (or Chemistry, Biology, and Further Maths or Further Maths AS) or b) for Physical Natural Sciences, take Physics, Chemistry, Further Maths. If you were to take 5 then the 5th could be something else of your choice, though ideally it would complete your set of 3 sciences + 2 Maths.
Considering the choices OP had originally intended to do, I'd have thought most people would choose to take Further Maths alongside Maths. Taking History would not put the OP at risk purely because it's considered diverse. For Natural Sciences at Cambridge, it is essential to have at least two science/mathematics A Levels. A third science/mathematics subject to at least AS Level is highly desirable.

Most students have at least three science/mathematics A Levels and having two would restrict your part IA (Year 1) subject choice. In these circumstances you'd be expected to achieve the A* grade in one of the two science/mathematics subject and would be encouraged to take an additional science/mathematics AS Level.
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Big-Daddy
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(Original post by MomtaajRahman)
Considering the choices OP had originally intended to do, I'd have thought most people would choose to take Further Maths alongside Maths. Taking History would not put the OP at risk purely because it's considered diverse. For Natural Sciences at Cambridge, it is essential to have at least two science/mathematics A Levels. A third science/mathematics subject to at least AS Level is highly desirable.

Most students have at least three science/mathematics A Levels and having two would restrict your part IA (Year 1) subject choice. In these circumstances you'd be expected to achieve the A* grade in one of the two science/mathematics subject and would be encouraged to take an additional science/mathematics AS Level.
I don't think you have much experience of science applications from what you're saying. The idea that "diverse" or "all-rounded" A-levels are a good thing is a myth for science applications. What they really like to see is lots of solid grounding in science. Other skills aren't worth a dime. The only reason History would be better than, say, Food Studies, is because it shows you don't take the easy way out. Not because it adds anything. What they want is as much science as you can cram into your daily schedule. That means physics for the biochemical sciences, and Further Maths for the physical sciences.

Trust me on this. I know what I'm talking about. I chose to "be diverse" and next year I will face the consequences for my decision as I attempt a conversion course to Further Maths that requires me to take 8 modules that year. Without this I would be significantly disadvantaged if applying to physical natural sciences.
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Llewellyn
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(Original post by aprocrastinator)
History. I've heard the latter is good with science A-levels as it is an essay based subject and this is helpful for entrance exams and university courses itself (but if you wish to refute that, please do and tell me why).

Another possible combination would be Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. A classic triple science and maths... would this be better and give me a better chance of getting place than the previous combination? I'm so worried, because I would like to take the combination I will enjoy the most, but if it hinders my chances would it be really worth it?
The Natural Science admissions tutors will not care about History, it's not nearly as relevant for the course as a Science is.

The second combination is better. I would strongly recommend doing Further maths, or Physics if you don't fancy Further maths. But Further Maths would be the better choice out of the two for various reasons (and that applies to both the Physical and Biological route).
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qgujxj39
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(Original post by aprocrastinator)
Another possible combination would be Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. A classic triple science and maths... would this be better and give me a better chance of getting place than the previous combination?
I would highly recommend doing this. Physics will be much more useful to you than History if you're sure you want to do NatSci (or any other science/maths degree subject).

Physics is listed as "Essential", "Highly Desirable" or "Useful" for 4 out of 8 of the options in the first year of Cambridge NatSci (excluding maths).

Physics will also complement your other subjects, because it's a similar style and there's at least a little bit of content overlap with Maths and Chemistry.

On the other hand, if you wanted to keep a few more options open (i.e. there's a chance you might have a massive chance of heart and study an arts subject), History might be something to consider. But it does sound like you want to do science.



Additionally, Critical Thinking will count for almost nothing in a Cambridge application. You'd be much better off doing another "proper" AS (Further Maths would be absolutely ideal).
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bellatrixb
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Maths, Biology and chemistry are fine, and if you really enjoy history, go for it, but you may find that essay-writing etc eats into your time (I was in a similar position, and took german as an additional subject, but I regret it- I didn't get that much out of it, and it took up so much more time than my other subjects. However, I did get an offer for Biological Natural Sciences this year from Cambridge, so it can't be all bad!). Do physics if you want to take it as a module, but otherwise I probably wouldn't bother. If I were you, I'd seriously look into further maths- the understanding you'll get is much better (plus it tends to be taught better, as classes are higher ability), and you get the chance to do much more statistics (very helpful for biology related modules, and also biology and chemistry A level coursework), and also mechanics- bear in mind that you can do the physics first year module at cambridge with 3 mechanics modules, even if you didn't do physics. Well, that's my two cents, although it's mainly based on my experience. If you have any other questions about applying, feel free to message me. Hope that helps!
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shamika
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One thing to consider is whether you fancy doing some of the more 'quantitative' subjects in NatSci. If so, Physics and/or Further Maths are key. If you already know you have little interest in Physical sciences, then your choices are absolutely fine.
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aprocrastinator
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Thank you all so much for your advice! Despite getting a bit mixed in opinion, this has been really helpful.

If you wanted to know, I'm definitely more interested in chemistry/biology than physics so I would be going for those modules there.

I was all set for doing A2 Critical thinking, since I'm going to have the AS at the end of Year 11, but if Cambridge and other top universities won't really value it, I may do Further Maths instead. My teacher said I would be fine doing it (and got a little mad when I said I wasn't taking it 0_0) so I'll most likely change my subjects.

The History choice... since I've never done it at GCSE I basically have no idea how it will be at A-level. I do enjoy it, as a general thing quite a lot but of course I have to be good at it too! So I'm definitely reconsidering my options.

Thanks again!
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lostpenny
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Hi, I'm sorry to hijack the thread from the dead but how sure are you that diversity doesn't matter in sciences applications? I'm exactly the same as OP rn, I want to go to Cambridge and do Natsci, but I don't know if I should do the 'social life killer' combo of A2 for triple science, maths and FM or drop a science and take a humanity or language for diversity. Or, if I should take the afforementioned subjects plus a GPR (small version of EPQ)? I don't know if I want to do physical or biological yet, so dropping a science is really difficult. (It's between Natsci then grad med, or simply med school/ another uni for aeronautical engineering if I don't get in).
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black1blade
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(Original post by lostpenny)
Hi, I'm sorry to hijack the thread from the dead but how sure are you that diversity doesn't matter in sciences applications? I'm exactly the same as OP rn, I want to go to Cambridge and do Natsci, but I don't know if I should do the 'social life killer' combo of A2 for triple science, maths and FM or drop a science and take a humanity or language for diversity. Or, if I should take the afforementioned subjects plus a GPR (small version of EPQ)? I don't know if I want to do physical or biological yet, so dropping a science is really difficult. (It's between Natsci then grad med, or simply med school/ another uni for aeronautical engineering if I don't get in).
A sticky situation indeed because biology is the second most important subject for medecine but you couldn't do engineering without physics. I think you are allowed to apply for physical natsci but do a biology module as your third and you don't need to do a-level biology for the biology options. Then again it may be best to drop physics and do 3-5 mechanics modules as a part of maths instead which would keep natsci physics open but again I don't know how that would bode for engineering...
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black1blade
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Also ffs next time make a new thread!
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StealingThunder
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(Original post by lostpenny)
Hi, I'm sorry to hijack the thread from the dead but how sure are you that diversity doesn't matter in sciences applications? I'm exactly the same as OP rn, I want to go to Cambridge and do Natsci, but I don't know if I should do the 'social life killer' combo of A2 for triple science, maths and FM or drop a science and take a humanity or language for diversity. Or, if I should take the afforementioned subjects plus a GPR (small version of EPQ)? I don't know if I want to do physical or biological yet, so dropping a science is really difficult. (It's between Natsci then grad med, or simply med school/ another uni for aeronautical engineering if I don't get in).
You really don't need diversity. I got an offer for phys natsci, and I did chem phys maths and latin. On open days I asked every admissions tutor I could find whether latin would count for anything and basically all of them said "we only care about the sciences and maths". However they did end up specifying it in my offer, but I think it was to stop me dropping it. Most of my other unis didn't care about latin at all. (I applied for Chem elsewhere.)
You're gonna have to work out if you like physics or biology more, from the looks of your choices? A friend of mine couldn't decide whether to apply for physical or biological so she didn't apply this year, and is gonna apply during gap year. (She did triple science and maths.)
I've hear further maths is super useful, but you should also note that it's one of the a-levels unis can't realistically make as an entry requirement as not all sixthforms offer it or have the resources. (Unless you're applying for maths I guess? Idk, haven't looked into that path.) Physics obvs is important for engineering and phys natsci but I think you could get away dropping that. The only thing I'd say about not doing bio is that a lot of medical schools want it, so research!
Basically, look carefully at courses and whether the content excites you, and then try to narrow it down to bio or physical stuff. That's what I did, I ended up knowing I didn't want to go down bio route so yeah, I worked out the rest later πŸ˜‚
Good luck πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘
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