How hard is it to get into Bio-nat Science at Cambridge

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Abigail.alex
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How competitive is Biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge
And what does the average applicant look like ?
Any statistics on their grades or the supercurriculars they did?
Just looking to see how i compare to them so I can decide whether I should apply depending on what I'm competing against.
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Interrobang
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
How competitive is Biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge
And what does the average applicant look like ?
Any statistics on their grades or the supercurriculars they did?
Just looking to see how i compare to them so I can decide whether I should apply depending on what I'm competing against.
Moved to the Cambridge forum
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by Interrobang)
Moved to the Cambridge forum
thanks!! has it already been moved?
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Interrobang
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
thanks!! has it already been moved?
Yes it has
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R T
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
How competitive is Biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge
And what does the average applicant look like ?
Any statistics on their grades or the supercurriculars they did?
Just looking to see how i compare to them so I can decide whether I should apply depending on what I'm competing against.
It's around 4 : 1 applicants : places. The majority of applicants get interviewed so its fair to say that the majority of applicants are predicted A*AA+.

I don't know if there is an "average applicant" profile. Of all the BioNatScis I knew at Cambridge (i.e. successful applicants who got in), most of them did Maths, Biology and Chemistry - I'd imagine this is probably what the most common combination is for applicants too. Outside of doing Maths/ Bio/ Chem there isn't really an "average" student - they are all unique people with varied interests, hobbies and personalities. Some of them were ultra keen on doing PhDs, some of them just decided to do biology because they found it easy/ interesting and they wanted to go to uni.

quick google on the grades statistics: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/reque...ons_statistics basically, it's what you expect. A lot of them have 5-12 A*s at GCSE, and the most common AS grade was an A. If you want to dig into the data or do a google to check the overall statistics then go ahead, but I don't think it'll be that useful. I really don't think you should decide to not apply if you dont have 5+ A*s at GCSE. The admissions tutors really will only care about how good your biology, maths and chemistry is - and they won't care if you got a C in GCSE french.

In terms of successful applicants who became students; pretty much everyone I knew got A*A*A or better, and the most common for bionatsci was probably A*A*A*. A lot of them had little-to-no supercurriculars or work experience/ shadowing etc. Perhaps a few had done some conservation work or entered a few essay competitions or done a few self-motivated projects relating to an area of biology - but most wouldn't have anything impressive to write about. It's hardly a requirement.



I recommend not overthinking applying vs not applying too much. If you are an A*AA+ predicted student then you will be getting offers from good universities. If you have aspirations to study at Cambridge - just do it. You aren't losing anything even if you are rejected before the interview.
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Theloniouss
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The most significant factor will be interview and assessment performance, so if you meet the required grades you have as good a chance as anyone.
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by R T)
It's around 4 : 1 applicants : places. The majority of applicants get interviewed so its fair to say that the majority of applicants are predicted A*AA+.

I don't know if there is an "average applicant" profile. Of all the BioNatScis I knew at Cambridge (i.e. successful applicants who got in), most of them did Maths, Biology and Chemistry - I'd imagine this is probably what the most common combination is for applicants too. Outside of doing Maths/ Bio/ Chem there isn't really an "average" student - they are all unique people with varied interests, hobbies and personalities. Some of them were ultra keen on doing PhDs, some of them just decided to do biology because they found it easy/ interesting and they wanted to go to uni.

quick google on the grades statistics: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/reque...ons_statistics basically, it's what you expect. A lot of them have 5-12 A*s at GCSE, and the most common AS grade was an A. If you want to dig into the data or do a google to check the overall statistics then go ahead, but I don't think it'll be that useful. I really don't think you should decide to not apply if you dont have 5+ A*s at GCSE. The admissions tutors really will only care about how good your biology, maths and chemistry is - and they won't care if you got a C in GCSE french.

In terms of successful applicants who became students; pretty much everyone I knew got A*A*A or better, and the most common for bionatsci was probably A*A*A*. A lot of them had little-to-no supercurriculars or work experience/ shadowing etc. Perhaps a few had done some conservation work or entered a few essay competitions or done a few self-motivated projects relating to an area of biology - but most wouldn't have anything impressive to write about. It's hardly a requirement.



I recommend not overthinking applying vs not applying too much. If you are an A*AA+ predicted student then you will be getting offers from good universities. If you have aspirations to study at Cambridge - just do it. You aren't losing anything even if you are rejected before the interview.
Thank you so much, i have 3 9s 5 8s and 2 7s is it worth me applying and also i Have done a lot of workexperience which may boost my application?
Immerse Esaay Chemistry Competition
Headstart 2 week Cambridge Summer school
Cambridge chemistry challenge
Chemistry Olympiad
NHS pharmacy Work experience
GSK work experience
Biochemistry online course
BSMS medical online course
Cambridge lectures
and Volunteering
Would this make up for the bad Gsces?
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
Thank you so much, i have 3 9s 5 8s and 2 7s is it worth me applying and also i Have done a lot of workexperience which may boost my application?
Immerse Esaay Chemistry Competition
Headstart 2 week Cambridge Summer school
Cambridge chemistry challenge
Chemistry Olympiad
NHS pharmacy Work experience
GSK work experience
Biochemistry online course
BSMS medical online course
Cambridge lectures
and Volunteering
Would this make up for the bad Gsces?
Your GCSEs are considered equivalent to 8A*s, they're not bad
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by Theloniouss)
Your GCSEs are considered equivalent to 8A*s, they're not bad
yes i thought cause the average Oxbridge applicant has 10 a*s or that just may be Oxford
I'm trying to boost my application in any other ways possible... any suggestions?
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
yes i thought cause the average Oxbridge applicant has 10 a*s or that just may be Oxford
I'm trying to boost my application in any other ways possible... any suggestions?
There will be no difference at all between the treatment of 8A*2A and 10A* at Cambridge (especially considering many of those 10A* students will have done more than 10 GCSEs).

Unless I've missed it, you don't appear to have read any books or done any online courses? That's always a good idea.
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by Theloniouss)
There will be no difference at all between the treatment of 8A*2A and 10A* at Cambridge (especially considering many of those 10A* students will have done more than 10 GCSEs).

Unless I've missed it, you don't appear to have read any books or done any online courses? That's always a good idea.
I have done a bio chemistry course and a medical course
I could read a book altho i don't like reading i could still give it a go
Also is putting too much on my persomal statement spreading me too thim cause i would have to remember every thing for the interview?
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Paralove
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
I have done a bio chemistry course and a medical course
I could read a book altho i don't like reading i could still give it a go
Also is putting too much on my persomal statement spreading me too thim cause i would have to remember every thing for the interview?
You don't need to read a book and I'd really advise against doing something for the sake of a personal statement. It should be stuff you're genuinely interest in and would be happy to have a discussion about. Be selective with what you include, choose the things that are most relevant. Don't just list stuff either - try to find links between them (maybe there's a theme through your statement) and talk about why it was interesting to you, what you got out of it.
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
I have done a bio chemistry course and a medical course
I could read a book altho i don't like reading i could still give it a go
Also is putting too much on my persomal statement spreading me too thim cause i would have to remember every thing for the interview?
You'll probably have to do some amount of reading if you get in, so it makes sense to read some books.

No, they probably won't ask you much about your personal statement. It didn't even come up at my interview. Putting too much on your PS will prevent you from talking about any individual aspect in detail, though, so I wouldn't advise it.
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by Paralove)
You don't need to read a book and I'd really advise against doing something for the sake of a personal statement. It should be stuff you're genuinely interest in and would be happy to have a discussion about. Be selective with what you include, choose the things that are most relevant. Don't just list stuff either - try to find links between them (maybe there's a theme through your statement) and talk about why it was interesting to you, what you got out of it.
Thank you so much i thought since everyone reads the same books i would want to do something that stands out eg. a lecture
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Paralove
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
Thank you so much i thought since everyone reads the same books i would want to do something that stands out eg. a lecture
It's a personal statement for a reason. They genuinely want to know about what gets your going and impassioned when you talk about your subject. Ignore what others are including, and there's no like criteria or anything of 'must include 1x book and 2x articles' or whatever. I know scientists and mathematicians who didn't include or read any because that's not what interests them and that's absolutely fine. And, tbh, not everyone can afford to buy books nor has an accessible library. The internet has so much out there, for free and easy to use.
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R T
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
Thank you so much, i have 3 9s 5 8s and 2 7s is it worth me applying and also i Have done a lot of workexperience which may boost my application?
Immerse Esaay Chemistry Competition
Headstart 2 week Cambridge Summer school
Cambridge chemistry challenge
Chemistry Olympiad
NHS pharmacy Work experience
GSK work experience
Biochemistry online course
BSMS medical online course
Cambridge lectures
and Volunteering
Would this make up for the bad Gsces?
If you look at the FOI data I linked you would know those aren't bad GCSEs: they are probably above average. I can also tell you with confidence that the majority of my friends in BioNatSci had similar results to those (6-9 A*s with As in less science-y subjects was common). Overall I do get quite a strong feeling that tutors don't really care that much about GCSEs though.

Your work experience really means almost nothing other than proving that you are interested, which is something everyone needs to prove in their PS (you prove it by giving direct examples of things you've done/ read/ participated in/ started). Keep in mind that some applicants may be unable to do summer schools or any kind of work experience due to family limitations, money problems, having less opportunities through friends and schools, etc. So it's great for you personally to have done these - but in terms of making you more or less likely to get an offer, they will be almost completely ignored.

The one thing which is good is the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and Chemistry Olympiad. Good results in these could get the attention of tutors. I will also say that the Olympiad, particularly in later rounds, is quite good preparation for interview as they focus on similar aspects of extended problem solving using A-Level as a basis of knowledge. I'd recommend you do some similar practice in Maths and Biology ahead of the NSAA (test) and potential interview.


I'll say it one more time to dispell any myths: your GCSEs probably don't really matter. You passed them (good) and you did well in them (good) but beyond that they don't mean much. Similarly, doing experience or summer schools, etc. is not going to affect your chances. Your chances of getting an offer will almost entirely be down to your performance in the test + the interview - with other factors (GCSEs, circumstances/ rewards specific to you) taking a backseat. I know a lot of teachers and parents have this idea that it's all about work experience and supercurriculars - but the simple fact is that it isn't.

Edit: Also going to agree with Paralove - the personal statement doesn't have to be anything specific. Just keep in mind that you want to make it mostly about the subject (and if you are applying for biology elsewhere - that's not an issue - Cambridge know that a lot of personal statements for Natural Sciences will be applying for a single subject somewhere else). You are trying to communicate interest, desire to learn, evidence of times you have taken a proactive approach to learning (and true, very often this means talking about books or courses or something - but it would be equally valid to talk about internet podcasts, documentaries, websites, or talking about hands on experience even if its something relatively simple like keeping a diary of what birds you see in your garden throughout the year).
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by R T)
If you look at the FOI data I linked you would know those aren't bad GCSEs: they are probably above average. I can also tell you with confidence that the majority of my friends in BioNatSci had similar results to those (6-9 A*s with As in less science-y subjects was common). Overall I do get quite a strong feeling that tutors don't really care that much about GCSEs though.

Your work experience really means almost nothing other than proving that you are interested, which is something everyone needs to prove in their PS (you prove it by giving direct examples of things you've done/ read/ participated in/ started). Keep in mind that some applicants may be unable to do summer schools or any kind of work experience due to family limitations, money problems, having less opportunities through friends and schools, etc. So it's great for you personally to have done these - but in terms of making you more or less likely to get an offer, they will be almost completely ignored.

The one thing which is good is the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and Chemistry Olympiad. Good results in these could get the attention of tutors. I will also say that the Olympiad, particularly in later rounds, is quite good preparation for interview as they focus on similar aspects of extended problem solving using A-Level as a basis of knowledge. I'd recommend you do some similar practice in Maths and Biology ahead of the NSAA (test) and potential interview.


I'll say it one more time to dispell any myths: your GCSEs probably don't really matter. You passed them (good) and you did well in them (good) but beyond that they don't mean much. Similarly, doing experience or summer schools, etc. is not going to affect your chances. Your chances of getting an offer will almost entirely be down to your performance in the test + the interview - with other factors (GCSEs, circumstances/ rewards specific to you) taking a backseat. I know a lot of teachers and parents have this idea that it's all about work experience and supercurriculars - but the simple fact is that it isn't.

Edit: Also going to agree with Paralove - the personal statement doesn't have to be anything specific. Just keep in mind that you want to make it mostly about the subject (and if you are applying for biology elsewhere - that's not an issue - Cambridge know that a lot of personal statements for Natural Sciences will be applying for a single subject somewhere else). You are trying to communicate interest, desire to learn, evidence of times you have taken a proactive approach to learning (and true, very often this means talking about books or courses or something - but it would be equally valid to talk about internet podcasts, documentaries, websites, or talking about hands on experience even if its something relatively simple like keeping a diary of what birds you see in your garden throughout the year).
Is there anything I can do other than Alevels to help my Cambridge application?
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R T
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
Is there anything I can do other than Alevels to help my Cambridge application?
The best thing you can do - by far - is to practice the kind of problem solving you will see in the NSAA and the interview.

For a BioNatsci applicant, I'd probably quite highly recommend things like the biology & chemistry Olympiads (1st round and later rounds), the Senior Maths Challenge, the NSAA past papers and anything else you can find which is of about the right level (that is 17-18 yo student like yourself who is doing well in their A-Levels and needs more of a challenge).


Books, documentaries, shows, websites, etc are not useless either - but they are mostly focused on interesting facts and knowledge, rather than problem solving. It's true that particularly for biology you can't ever know enough and when you do have exact knowledge that can be very impressive - but all the knowledge you need to do well is just A-Level and how well you are able to do is often just a function of how well you understand this and are able to apply it, as well as your general problem solving and analytical abilities (which will be greatly improved by doing the things I mentioned).

For example, a clever A-Level student could probably work through a genetics question on (anything from the order Hymenoptera ) and figure out that male bees are haploid, while queen bees are diploid. Doing this for the first time if you've never heard about it/ seen examples of it before would be quite impressive. On the other hand, someone who has done a lot of biology olympiad questions/ (similar level challenge exams) may have come across a very similar question before and will have a big advantage. Likewise any biology guru who reads/ watches/ has an active interest in wide parts of biology might already know that many insects with queen-based colonies use this aspect of reproduction.


You aren't going to impress tutors with anything else really. They are looking for realistic applicants (congratulations, you are already one because of your GCSEs) who do well in the NSAA, and then are able to participate well at interview.
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Abigail.alex
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(Original post by R T)
The best thing you can do - by far - is to practice the kind of problem solving you will see in the NSAA and the interview.

For a BioNatsci applicant, I'd probably quite highly recommend things like the biology & chemistry Olympiads (1st round and later rounds), the Senior Maths Challenge, the NSAA past papers and anything else you can find which is of about the right level (that is 17-18 yo student like yourself who is doing well in their A-Levels and needs more of a challenge).


Books, documentaries, shows, websites, etc are not useless either - but they are mostly focused on interesting facts and knowledge, rather than problem solving. It's true that particularly for biology you can't ever know enough and when you do have exact knowledge that can be very impressive - but all the knowledge you need to do well is just A-Level and how well you are able to do is often just a function of how well you understand this and are able to apply it, as well as your general problem solving and analytical abilities (which will be greatly improved by doing the things I mentioned).

For example, a clever A-Level student could probably work through a genetics question on (anything from the order Hymenoptera ) and figure out that male bees are haploid, while queen bees are diploid. Doing this for the first time if you've never heard about it/ seen examples of it before would be quite impressive. On the other hand, someone who has done a lot of biology olympiad questions/ (similar level challenge exams) may have come across a very similar question before and will have a big advantage. Likewise any biology guru who reads/ watches/ has an active interest in wide parts of biology might already know that many insects with queen-based colonies use this aspect of reproduction.


You aren't going to impress tutors with anything else really. They are looking for realistic applicants (congratulations, you are already one because of your GCSEs) who do well in the NSAA, and then are able to participate well at interview.
Thank you so much It reassures me ny Gsces are good i am so put off by Oxford where i originally wanted to apply i was predicted 11 a*s however due to teacher assessment i only got 7 and retaking 2
I am applying to Cambridge due to the wide courses available and able to specialise later
If i do Bio nat science would i need physics?
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R T
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(Original post by Abigail.alex)
Thank you so much It reassures me ny Gsces are good i am so put off by Oxford where i originally wanted to apply i was predicted 11 a*s however due to teacher assessment i only got 7 and retaking 2
I am applying to Cambridge due to the wide courses available and able to specialise later
If i do Bio nat science would i need physics?
Oh I see - you have just started year 12 then? If that is the case, the most important thing to do right now is just focus on doing well in your A-Level lessons at school. This is the most important thing and trumps everything else. If you have time and capacity to start doing Olympiad and Maths challenge practice early then great - but you may find that its tough to get into these papers before you even know a lot of A-Level theory.

In terms of GCSE resits - they really won't matter. But if you are unhappy its worthwhile to retake just for personal reasons and to prove the system/ teachers wrong.

Yes - that's the best reason to apply for Natural Sciences. There is flexibility at the start, but you retain the ability to specialise very hard into a specific area.

Bio NatScis dont need to do Physics. It's pretty rare for any to do so - I knew a few who did (less than 5% of them I'd say). Quite a lot of Bio NatScis dont bother with Chemistry (at university) either. I don't think having physics / not having physics would affect the application.
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