2021 Cambridge Natural Sciences Applicant Thread

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memestogenes
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Hey Everyone! I couldn't see one of these being made yet, so I thought I would make one. Good Luck to everyone applying to Cambridge for Natural Sciences this upcoming year, I thought it would be a nice idea to have a thread where everyone could discuss things and I could share some resources which I have collected over the years and helped me with my application

For reference, I am currently a second year NatSci at Cambridge so I can try and answer whichever questions you guys may have and I will work my way from there. I'll be adding some resources as time goes along so stay tuned, but I will start with some personal statement advice

My main tips for things to focus on include:
1: Structure
2: Relevance
3: Introduction and Conclusion
4: Write Analytically
5: Hyperbolise

I will expand on this as we get closer to the submission deadline.

Closer to the time I will also share some interview resources regarding interview questions but in the meantime check out this guide to highlight the main stages in preparing for your interview.

I'll leave you all with some ice breakers
What type of Natural Sciences are you interested in?
Why Cambridge, not oxford?
What subjects are you currently studying?
Feel free to add in any other information you want, such as extracurricular, what other courses you are applying for etc

For those of you interested about how intense course is check out this first year review running through a general timetable of a first year NatSci. It can be daunting but don't let that put you off because in reality this is something worth working for!



And for those of you who want to see a more indepth record of what a day in the life at cambridge is like check out the below video.

Last edited by memestogenes; 1 week ago
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hyewwwon
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Is there anyone who wants to reapply for natsci
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tigerdingo
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AAAH it's memestogenes!!! I love your youtube channel! I'm that Diya kid, who sometimes comments on your videos.
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.Callum
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Are my chances lower if I do a-levels maths chemistry and geography?
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Paralove
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(Original post by .Callum)
Are my chances lower if I do a-levels maths chemistry and geography?
Yes... From the natsci webpage:

"Most students have at least three science/mathematics A Levels. The minimum requirement is two, but this will restrict your choice of Part IA options. In these circumstances, you'll normally be expected to achieve A* in both of the science/mathematics subjects and encouraged to take an additional science/mathematics AS Level. The more useful combinations are:

A Level Biology, A Level Chemistry, and AS Level Mathematics or Physics

A Level Chemistry, A Level Mathematics, and AS Level Biology or Physics

A Level Physics, A Level Mathematics and AS Level Further Mathematics"
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.Callum
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(Original post by Paralove)
Yes... From the natsci webpage:

"Most students have at least three science/mathematics A Levels. The minimum requirement is two, but this will restrict your choice of Part IA options. In these circumstances, you'll normally be expected to achieve A* in both of the science/mathematics subjects and encouraged to take an additional science/mathematics AS Level. The more useful combinations are:

A Level Biology, A Level Chemistry, and AS Level Mathematics or Physics

A Level Chemistry, A Level Mathematics, and AS Level Biology or Physics

A Level Physics, A Level Mathematics and AS Level Further Mathematics"
Thanks
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R T
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I'm a NatSci graduate who is also happy to answer any questions - either in this thread or privately - that any applicants have.
If it matters; I did MathB, physics, chemistry, cells in first year -> Chem A, Chem B, BMB in second year -> Chemistry in third year.
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ayumie
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(Original post by R T)
I'm a NatSci graduate who is also happy to answer any questions - either in this thread or privately - that any applicants have.
If it matters; I did MathB, physics, chemistry, cells in first year -> Chem A, Chem B, BMB in second year -> Chemistry in third year.
I'm doing Maths, Biology, Physics and I taught myself AS Further Maths. I'm heavily, heavily interested in Physics. I've taught myself a lot of Quantum Mechanics, and read way too many John Gribbin and Feynman books. However, my teacher said it's unlikely to be offered a place for Physical Sciences if you're not doing Chemistry. It's a little disheartening, as the course, I thought, was really broad and thats what drew me to it. I'd love to learn some Biology alongside Physics, but focus mainly on Physics completely. I've done a lot of Physics at home, and taught myself Astrophysics Maths. Would these benefit my application at all, and will Chemistry completely ruin my chances? Thanks.
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R T
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(Original post by ayumie)
I'm doing Maths, Biology, Physics and I taught myself AS Further Maths. I'm heavily, heavily interested in Physics. I've taught myself a lot of Quantum Mechanics, and read way too many John Gribbin and Feynman books. However, my teacher said it's unlikely to be offered a place for Physical Sciences if you're not doing Chemistry. It's a little disheartening, as the course, I thought, was really broad and thats what drew me to it. I'd love to learn some Biology alongside Physics, but focus mainly on Physics completely. I've done a lot of Physics at home, and taught myself Astrophysics Maths. Would these benefit my application at all, and will Chemistry completely ruin my chances? Thanks.
You can definitely get in without chemistry and not studying chemistry is not a direct impediment. Particularly if your interest is very much "I love physics but I find biology interesting too" (this is actually not that unusual among successful applicants).

Keep in mind that, realistically, you will decide between biology and physics in year 2. Although it's possible to keep mixing& matching subjects after 1st year, it is somewhat discouraged if you want to properly specialise in 3rd year and beyond (for example, all serious 2nd year physicists will be expected to do both physics options and maths). It's not quite as strict in Biology, and you could potentially do 2 biology modules and 1 physics or maths module - but doing this would lock you into 3rd year biology modules which extend from those biology modules.

If you truly want to do a full mix&match natural sciences degree, it's better to study elsewhere (for example, I think durham, UCL, etc have natural sciences courses where you keep quite a broad selection of subjects). Cambridge's Natural Sciences course, although it starts broad, prefers to have people also specialise - meaning that they will study the equivalent of a complete undergraduate physics degree as well as some other earlier modules.


If you are very focused on Physics as a subject this is not an issue for admissions - in the admissions test you will likely choose to do the further maths and physics sections (although you could choose to do biology) - not doing chemistry doesn't matter here. Then in the interview itself, they will simply adjust your interview. It's possible you could get tested on GCSE chemistry or (more likely) they will give you more physics/ maths instead of chemistry or simply teach you some chemistry, and then ask you a question which applies this knowledge.

If you have time over the summer, it might be worth studying some AS chemistry. Not necessarily the organic / reaction chemistry parts, but the inorganic and physical chemistry (things like hess' law, basics of entropy, electron orbitals, mole calculations but also I'd say learning basics of IR and NMR spectroscopy is worthwhile) - would be good to be familiar with going forward. A lot of this should be relatively interesting for someone who likes Physics anyway (thermodynamics, entropy, and the more quantum-y parts of chemistry all have heavy physics overlap anyway). This is because although you can't be assumed to know something you don't study, it's possible that they will want to discuss topics like these at an interview and it will be a lot easier and more comfortable if you already know some background. For example, a question about the symmetry of a molecule in NMR could be expected to be answered after just a quick 2 minute introduction, but if you've never done any NMR before it will be a lot harder compared to someone familiar with what NMR is and how it works.
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ayumie
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(Original post by R T)
You can definitely get in without chemistry and not studying chemistry is not a direct impediment. Particularly if your interest is very much "I love physics but I find biology interesting too" (this is actually not that unusual among successful applicants).

Keep in mind that, realistically, you will decide between biology and physics in year 2. Although it's possible to keep mixing& matching subjects after 1st year, it is somewhat discouraged if you want to properly specialise in 3rd year and beyond (for example, all serious 2nd year physicists will be expected to do both physics options and maths). It's not quite as strict in Biology, and you could potentially do 2 biology modules and 1 physics or maths module - but doing this would lock you into 3rd year biology modules which extend from those biology modules.

If you truly want to do a full mix&match natural sciences degree, it's better to study elsewhere (for example, I think durham, UCL, etc have natural sciences courses where you keep quite a broad selection of subjects). Cambridge's Natural Sciences course, although it starts broad, prefers to have people also specialise - meaning that they will study the equivalent of a complete undergraduate physics degree as well as some other earlier modules.


If you are very focused on Physics as a subject this is not an issue for admissions - in the admissions test you will likely choose to do the further maths and physics sections (although you could choose to do biology) - not doing chemistry doesn't matter here. Then in the interview itself, they will simply adjust your interview. It's possible you could get tested on GCSE chemistry or (more likely) they will give you more physics/ maths instead of chemistry or simply teach you some chemistry, and then ask you a question which applies this knowledge.

If you have time over the summer, it might be worth studying some AS chemistry. Not necessarily the organic / reaction chemistry parts, but the inorganic and physical chemistry (things like hess' law, basics of entropy, electron orbitals, mole calculations but also I'd say learning basics of IR and NMR spectroscopy is worthwhile) - would be good to be familiar with going forward. A lot of this should be relatively interesting for someone who likes Physics anyway (thermodynamics, entropy, and the more quantum-y parts of chemistry all have heavy physics overlap anyway). This is because although you can't be assumed to know something you don't study, it's possible that they will want to discuss topics like these at an interview and it will be a lot easier and more comfortable if you already know some background. For example, a question about the symmetry of a molecule in NMR could be expected to be answered after just a quick 2 minute introduction, but if you've never done any NMR before it will be a lot harder compared to someone familiar with what NMR is and how it works.
Thank you! That's really helpful, and nice to know I still have options. I am completely focused on Physics, but after looking at the course I liked the option to study a biology molecule to begin with, but my focus, and aspiration has always been entirely Physics. Thank you so much again.

It's all very daunting
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memestogenes
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(Original post by tigerdingo)
AAAH it's memestogenes!!! I love your youtube channel! I'm that Diya kid, who sometimes comments on your videos.
Oh Hey! Thanks so much for watching and subscribing, I really appreciate all the support I hope you are doing good!
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memestogenes
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(Original post by R T)
I'm a NatSci graduate who is also happy to answer any questions - either in this thread or privately - that any applicants have.
If it matters; I did MathB, physics, chemistry, cells in first year -> Chem A, Chem B, BMB in second year -> Chemistry in third year.
Oh great, thanks so much for offering your help here! You did wildly different options to me
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R T
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(Original post by memestogenes)
Oh great, thanks so much for offering your help here! You did wildly different options to me
Haha - you're doing a great job! I have seen a few of your YT videos too, keep it up. Hope your studies aren't being too badly disrupted!

And yes there are a silly number of permutations for NatSci options. Without going into detail, I had a very tough time deciding on 2nd year options
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memestogenes
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(Original post by R T)
Haha - you're doing a great job! I have seen a few of your YT videos too, keep it up. Hope your studies aren't being too badly disrupted!

And yes there are a silly number of permutations for NatSci options. Without going into detail, I had a very tough time deciding on 2nd year options
Oh thanks for watching! The online assessment thing has been an interesting change (not one i like at all) but I guess its only a few more weeks now

Sorry to hear that - yeah for sure the whole NatSci dichotomy is weird. I'm currently having the same problem deciding a part II choice
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leigh2911
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Hey everyone,

I'm interested in studying physical natsci, but I feel like I'd be disadvantaged in the admissions process for not having further maths, my school just doesn't offer it which is annoying. My a levels are chemistry physics and maths. I know they say on the website that further maths isn't essential, but does anyone know if anyone actually gets in without it, bc at the masterclass I went to, the lecturer made a huge emphasis that having further maths is preferred?
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Justice24
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Hello,
I am currently studying Maths, Chemistry and economics. I know it isn't 3 science a-levels but I was originally thinking I would apply for an economics degree but I have decided that it isn't really the degree for me. What are my options to make my application stronger? Do I ask my school to let me take on physics AS level or am I going to have to take a gap year to fast-track physics a level in one year?
Any help is appreciated. This whole situation has been depressing for me.
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R T
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(Original post by leigh2911)
Hey everyone,

I'm interested in studying physical natsci, but I feel like I'd be disadvantaged in the admissions process for not having further maths, my school just doesn't offer it which is annoying. My a levels are chemistry physics and maths. I know they say on the website that further maths isn't essential, but does anyone know if anyone actually gets in without it, bc at the masterclass I went to, the lecturer made a huge emphasis that having further maths is preferred?
Further Maths is the most important subject for PhysNatSci (even for physics, it's more important than physics is). The only reason it isn't marked as essential is because they know not every school teaches it (there is nothing that can be done without this).

I heavily recommend self teaching as much of it as possible. That's what I did. I think it shows a good proactive approach to learning and also some recognition of whats important for physical sciences (maths is very important). Ideally you might have a maths teacher who can support your self teaching (again, I was somewhat luckily to have an older maths teacher who was keen to help outside of lessons) but if not the infrastructure to self-teach exists online and I believe its very good.
https://amsp.org.uk/
I realise financial situations might complicate matters slightly, but it may also be possible/ plausible to do a few tutoring hours for further maths outside school time. You don't have to do it weekly, but perhaps 10-20 lessons over the year focusing on what you are struggling with would help. Rates can vary, but since a lot of tutoring can be done online, it is at least readily available.

On top of that I will say that Maths is the most heavily supported subject I've seen on TSR or any website really (even places like reddit seem like they are full of passionate maths teachers eager to help in their free time). I think with enough free time and motivation (self teaching an A-Level is hard work, no question) you can do it.

I will also add that - assuming you are a strong mathematician (which seems likely since most year12 students thinking of oxbridge are AAA+) - Further Maths is less work than another "full" A-Level is.
(Original post by Justice24)
Hello,
I am currently studying Maths, Chemistry and economics. I know it isn't 3 science a-levels but I was originally thinking I would apply for an economics degree but I have decided that it isn't really the degree for me. What are my options to make my application stronger? Do I ask my school to let me take on physics AS level or am I going to have to take a gap year to fast-track physics a level in one year?
Any help is appreciated. This whole situation has been depressing for me.
My above post heavily applies to you also. More than I recommend simply doing AS Physics with the year 12s, I would recommend trying to squeeze the entire Further Maths course into year 13. I think the support is there and although an entire A-Level in a year may seem daunting, the reality is that this is pretty much the pace schools will work at anyway (e.g. a lot of people doing M+FM will do the entire M course in year 12, then the entire FM course in year 13). I'm not sure how much your school would be willing to help out with FM - but if you are keen and say "I need this for Oxbridge" - you're likely to find that you can get a Maths Teacher on your side (which does make the whole thing easier - from getting an actual predicted grade, to sorting out exam entrances later, to asking for specific help). My experience with most schools is that they love to flaunt their successful Oxbridge applicants and therefore you'd probably get quite significant high-level support from the head of departments.

It is definitely not necessary to do a lot of science A-Levels, but the reality is almost everyone I knew in first year did Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics, and if not they did 3 out of those 4. I don't think I knew anyone in PhysNatSci who did less than 3. But while its not impossible, the reality seems to be that there is a very heavy connection -either correlative or casuation.

The people who got in, but didn't study those 4 subjects typically struggled a bit in some aspect. Those who lacked FM did quite a lot of catching up and self teaching anyway (the speed at which Cambridge gets through content would be similar to doing the entire FM course in 1-2 months or so). Those who lacked Chemistry or Physics typically found it a bit rough choosing modules - but I think both Chemistry and Physics A-Level are pretty basic and only really scratch the surface, so there is much less catchup to do. There's nothing you learn in Chemistry or Physics A-Levels which can't be summarised and explained in a few hours to someone bright and with a strong background in Maths.
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memestogenes
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(Original post by leigh2911)
Hey everyone,

I'm interested in studying physical natsci, but I feel like I'd be disadvantaged in the admissions process for not having further maths, my school just doesn't offer it which is annoying. My a levels are chemistry physics and maths. I know they say on the website that further maths isn't essential, but does anyone know if anyone actually gets in without it, bc at the masterclass I went to, the lecturer made a huge emphasis that having further maths is preferred?
Hey Leigh, R T said everything I could say and more.

One thing I would say if finances are a struggle, is that at the moment due to Covid, many university students are donating their time to teach subjects for those who are missing out on education. If you are in this situation it may be worth looking into one of these initiatives. I personally taught myself maths a level and further maths as, and although it was definitely difficult, it was not impossible! I didn't finish further maths since I had decided I wanted to go into the biological side, but had I decided that I wanted to do Phys NatSci, I would have continued to teach it to myself no doubt.

Thanks again R T for a great answer
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memestogenes
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(Original post by Justice24)
Hello,
I am currently studying Maths, Chemistry and economics. I know it isn't 3 science a-levels but I was originally thinking I would apply for an economics degree but I have decided that it isn't really the degree for me. What are my options to make my application stronger? Do I ask my school to let me take on physics AS level or am I going to have to take a gap year to fast-track physics a level in one year?
Any help is appreciated. This whole situation has been depressing for me.
Again, just echoing R T, but for Phys NatSci you really should focus on further maths for getting into the course. It's not necessary but it makes tackling problems at interview easier, and also adapting to the intensity of the course a lot easier as you will not have to catch up on a lot of stuff. The Cambridge term is very short, and there is a lot of assumed knowledge (more than most students actually know) and so as RT said, there ends up being a correlation.

That being said its not impossible, and taking a year out to study physics and maths is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of colleges (particularly now) encourage gap years and so as long as you use this time to enrich your education you could create a really strong application with a gap year, equipping yourself with further maths and physics.
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zoeybo
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Would A levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics be fine for physical natural sciences in terms of tackling the course?
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