Randomusername5
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Any application advice?
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Reality Check
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
Any application advice?
In what sense? It's quite a broad question!
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by Reality Check)
In what sense? It's quite a broad question!
apologies, I meant is there any advice on how to prepare for the admissions test? And are there any key things that they are looking for in the personal statement?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
apologies, I meant is there any advice on how to prepare for the admissions test? And are there any key things that they are looking for in the personal statement?
The personal statement is not really that important as I gather; just talk about why you are interested in the the subject and want to study it at uni. They also realise that many applicants will be applying to single honours science so they don't expect you to discuss the broader nature of the NatSci course at Cambridge in your personal statement; you could just write about physics. If you like though, you can write a supplementary personal statement in the SAQ which addresses elements of the course that are unique to Cambridge that interest you. This is optional though.

Look at the NSAA practice paper on the admissions page for NatSci and work through the problems and think about them. Bear in mind the average mark for the NSAA is something like 50% as I recall (so I imagine most with marks around that would probably get interviewed). The PAT (and maybe MAT) might have similar problems and will have more past papers available, so those could be worth working through too.
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
The personal statement is not really that important as I gather; just talk about why you are interested in the the subject and want to study it at uni. They also realise that many applicants will be applying to single honours science so they don't expect you to discuss the broader nature of the NatSci course at Cambridge in your personal statement; you could just write about physics. If you like though, you can write a supplementary personal statement in the SAQ which addresses elements of the course that are unique to Cambridge that interest you. This is optional though.

Look at the NSAA practice paper on the admissions page for NatSci and work through the problems and think about them. Bear in mind the average mark for the NSAA is something like 50% as I recall (so I imagine most with marks around that would probably get interviewed). The PAT (and maybe MAT) might have similar problems and will have more past papers available, so those could be worth working through too.
Thank you! Would you say that doing an epq is a significant advantage? Also do you have any interview advice?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
Thank you! Would you say that doing an epq is a significant advantage? Also do you have any interview advice?
It can be a way to demonstrate your interest in the subject, but I don't think many, if any, colleges make the EPQ part of any offer. If you have some topic you want to explore out of your own personal interest then that's a good reason to do an EPQ. Just doing it because you think it'll give you a leg up on admissions isn't (and probably won't be that enjoyable or go that well as a result)!

I don't know anything about the interview process that isn't already on the internet generally; it seems basically that it's a mock tutorial, and the point is more to see how you could learn in that environment using what you know, than testing what you do know. They want to see how you reason through problems, and how you respond to new information that the interviewer adds to a question as you work through it, and how you integrate that into your reasoning.

So basically just, know the material from your A-level studies very well, and ready to think about it in unfamiliar contexts. Also remember the interview isn't a test of social charm, and they realise most candidates will be nervous - just focus on communicating your ideas as clearly as possible
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R T
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
apologies, I meant is there any advice on how to prepare for the admissions test? And are there any key things that they are looking for in the personal statement?
There is a huge amount of material of roughly the right standard. This is the best and most relevant prep you can do for the NSAA and the interview itself (the entire interview is usually just a collection of questions, or perhaps 1 question if they can subdivide it sensibly). Apart from dealing with overcoming nerves and talking to strangers ( many people don't need help here, but this can also be practised) - everything else is to some extent a waste of time unless it directly involves your performance on these kinds of questions (for this reason, revising trig formulae isn't a waste of time for example).

All NSAA papers, PAT, MAT, all physical science olympiads, senior maths challenge/kangaroo/ BMO1, STEP I Mechanics, if you dig deep enough you may even find some very old S papers or STEP papers on physics or chemistry. Beyond this a lot of popular "riddles" or "brainteasers" employ common problem solving tactics which can potentially form a similar question to what might come up in a mathematical reasoning scenario (I also think improving at problem solving is just a more general skill). To this end a lot of the more academic but fun (and clearly aimed at bright kids) websites and even youtube videos are not a waste of time. An example of such: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qmN6pYhi0 - a question like this could easily be used in a Maths interview, or computer science, or engineering, or natural sciences. Unless the candidate already knew the question, it would take around 10-15 minutes. It also would probably require a few hints from the interviewers.

There's no way you'll have time to exhaust all these resources in 4-5 months. And this shouldn't be your aim either, it's just meant to be exposure to harder problem solving than you will get at A-Level maths. Some of this material is slightly too hard/easy (many early chem/physics Olympiad questions are easy, STEP I Mechanics is harder than what you'd get at interview) - but it's all extremely helpful if it's a non-trivial question where solving it would require not only quite a lot of time to work through the algebra, but also might require you to actually think about how you'd even start to solve it. Anything that takes less than 5 minutes or more than 30 minutes is probably the wrong style of question, but there's no doubt that being sharp on quickfire application questions is helpful for some parts of the NSAA.

Also, hopefully it goes without saying - but the most important part of this kind of prep is that you don't look at any answers until you 100% know you are stuck and can't do it (typically means being stuck for more than 30 minutes and also having a day to stew over it) - and at that point you look up the answer but try to use as little of it as possible, and see if you can do the rest. Likewise, once you are finished with answering a question, ideally you check the solution to see if there's something you missed or a better method. Whether the answer was actually right is less important than the overall process or method being right.
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
It can be a way to demonstrate your interest in the subject, but I don't think many, if any, colleges make the EPQ part of any offer. If you have some topic you want to explore out of your own personal interest then that's a good reason to do an EPQ. Just doing it because you think it'll give you a leg up on admissions isn't (and probably won't be that enjoyable or go that well as a result)!

I don't know anything about the interview process that isn't already on the internet generally; it seems basically that it's a mock tutorial, and the point is more to see how you could learn in that environment using what you know, than testing what you do know. They want to see how you reason through problems, and how you respond to new information that the interviewer adds to a question as you work through it, and how you integrate that into your reasoning.

So basically just, know the material from your A-level studies very well, and ready to think about it in unfamiliar contexts. Also remember the interview isn't a test of social charm, and they realise most candidates will be nervous - just focus on communicating your ideas as clearly as possible
thanks so much!
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by R T)
There is a huge amount of material of roughly the right standard. This is the best and most relevant prep you can do for the NSAA and the interview itself (the entire interview is usually just a collection of questions, or perhaps 1 question if they can subdivide it sensibly). Apart from dealing with overcoming nerves and talking to strangers ( many people don't need help here, but this can also be practised) - everything else is to some extent a waste of time unless it directly involves your performance on these kinds of questions (for this reason, revising trig formulae isn't a waste of time for example).

All NSAA papers, PAT, MAT, all physical science olympiads, senior maths challenge/kangaroo/ BMO1, STEP I Mechanics, if you dig deep enough you may even find some very old S papers or STEP papers on physics or chemistry. Beyond this a lot of popular "riddles" or "brainteasers" employ common problem solving tactics which can potentially form a similar question to what might come up in a mathematical reasoning scenario (I also think improving at problem solving is just a more general skill). To this end a lot of the more academic but fun (and clearly aimed at bright kids) websites and even youtube videos are not a waste of time. An example of such: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qmN6pYhi0 - a question like this could easily be used in a Maths interview, or computer science, or engineering, or natural sciences. Unless the candidate already knew the question, it would take around 10-15 minutes. It also would probably require a few hints from the interviewers.

There's no way you'll have time to exhaust all these resources in 4-5 months. And this shouldn't be your aim either, it's just meant to be exposure to harder problem solving than you will get at A-Level maths. Some of this material is slightly too hard/easy (many early chem/physics Olympiad questions are easy, STEP I Mechanics is harder than what you'd get at interview) - but it's all extremely helpful if it's a non-trivial question where solving it would require not only quite a lot of time to work through the algebra, but also might require you to actually think about how you'd even start to solve it. Anything that takes less than 5 minutes or more than 30 minutes is probably the wrong style of question, but there's no doubt that being sharp on quickfire application questions is helpful for some parts of the NSAA.

Also, hopefully it goes without saying - but the most important part of this kind of prep is that you don't look at any answers until you 100% know you are stuck and can't do it (typically means being stuck for more than 30 minutes and also having a day to stew over it) - and at that point you look up the answer but try to use as little of it as possible, and see if you can do the rest. Likewise, once you are finished with answering a question, ideally you check the solution to see if there's something you missed or a better method. Whether the answer was actually right is less important than the overall process or method being right.
Thanks very much! This helps a lot! Would the interview questions be on both sciences if you're opting to study 2, or just one of them?
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R T
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
Thanks very much! This helps a lot! Would the interview questions be on both sciences if you're opting to study 2, or just one of them?
If you're studying both at A-Level, you'll definitely be asked questions related to both. The fact that you're "intending" on studying one in later years won't matter. There will be applicants who are applying for Materials Science or Geology to specialise in - they will also just be tested on maths, physics, chemistry.

Even if you don't study Chemistry, they'll probably just info dump what you would need to know to answer a question. e.g. a question about burning coal to turn a turbine - they would just tell you the natural gas laws, any molar equations, etc. You'll be assessed on your problem solving ability.

Also worth noting: you really need to do at least 3/4 of physics, chemistry, Maths, Further Maths - since these are the topics that come up on the NSAA (you will need to choose 3 sections). Biology is also an option, but I really think a candidate who does Biology A-Level and not both Further Maths and physics should be applying via biological natural sciences
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by R T)
If you're studying both at A-Level, you'll definitely be asked questions related to both. The fact that you're "intending" on studying one in later years won't matter. There will be applicants who are applying for Materials Science or Geology to specialise in - they will also just be tested on maths, physics, chemistry.

Even if you don't study Chemistry, they'll probably just info dump what you would need to know to answer a question. e.g. a question about burning coal to turn a turbine - they would just tell you the natural gas laws, any molar equations, etc. You'll be assessed on your problem solving ability.

Also worth noting: you really need to do at least 3/4 of physics, chemistry, Maths, Further Maths - since these are the topics that come up on the NSAA (you will need to choose 3 sections). Biology is also an option, but I really think a candidate who does Biology A-Level and not both Further Maths and physics should be applying via biological natural sciences
Thanks. Do you mean learn 3/4 of the A level course of all those subjects?
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R T
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(Original post by Randomusername5)
Thanks. Do you mean learn 3/4 of the A level course of all those subjects?
No, I mean doing at least 3 of them for A-Level. e.g. Studying Chem, Maths, Further Maths or studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths. It's best to study all 4 but fine to be doing 3. To only do 2 is something that might get you rejected.

You don't need to learn or read ahead unless you are far behind in a way that is unexpected - e.g. (for whatever reason) you haven't done FP1 or S1 before the interview, you should learn the basic theory. They will assume your AS-Level modules in all your subjects have been completed
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Randomusername5
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(Original post by R T)
No, I mean doing at least 3 of them for A-Level. e.g. Studying Chem, Maths, Further Maths or studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths. It's best to study all 4 but fine to be doing 3. To only do 2 is something that might get you rejected.

You don't need to learn or read ahead unless you are far behind in a way that is unexpected - e.g. (for whatever reason) you haven't done FP1 or S1 before the interview, you should learn the basic theory. They will assume your AS-Level modules in all your subjects have been completed
Ah alright that makes sense. Thanks a lot!
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Sophhhowa
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Half of admissions tutors say they don’t or they barely read personal statements.

For the NSAA try: https://youtu.be/d0bU0M31Rl0
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