Pembroke College (U of Cambridge) NatSci Physical Sciences Requirements

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Jroom144
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Hello, I'd appreciate any clarification on a point of confusion. I'm an international USA applicant to Pembroke College in the University of Cambridge. I've applied for Natural Sciences, in the Physical Sciences specialism. I know the minimum requirements are 5 AP tests at a score of 5, which I meet (if the 2 Physics tests count as separate, and AP Comp Sci Principles, not the harder Comp Sci A, counts as a full AP test).

I see on Pembroke's entry in this table for 2021 entry requirements for Physical Sciences within NatSci (https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....irements_0.pdf)
this information...

'Typical offer: A*A*A
A* in Mathematics or Further Mathematics, and A* in
Chemistry or Physics
A Level in Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics'

First off, typical offer? I thought these were minimum requirements, so does this mean if I meet this I am likely to get in?
Most importantly, why does it list A* in Maths or Further Maths and A* in Chem/Phys, but then again repeats itself when it says after that 'A Level in Maths and either Chem or Phys'? Is it just repeating what was already said or does this mean I need to do both? If I have to do both does this mean Chemistry is required? I only have Physics so that would be troubling.

I'm confused why they list it twice. In that link, some other colleges such as Fitzwilliam or Newnham don't list it twice. Newnham, for example, just says:

'Typical offer: A*A*A
A Level in Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics'

Very confused here. Are there additional requirements for Pembroke that Newnham doesn't have? Why does Pembroke say it twice? Should I be worried anyway since they say they make sure one's choice of college doesn't impact chances... or would I have a higher chance if I switched to Newnham?

I'd appreciate any guidance.
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Theloniouss
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Pembroke specifies that if your offer is A*A*A, the A*s will be in mathematics and [chemistry or physics], and that both mathematics and [chemistry or physics] are required to apply.

Newnham doesn't require A*s in those specific subjects, so they could be in different subjects or the subject could be unspecified.
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Jroom144
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(Original post by Theloniouss)
Pembroke specifies that if your offer is A*A*A, the A*s will be in mathematics and [chemistry or physics], and that both mathematics and [chemistry or physics] are required to apply.

Newnham doesn't require A*s in those specific subjects, so they could be in different subjects or the subject could be unspecified.
Thanks for the clarification. This difference only appertains to the conditional offer, and as for basic entry requirements that you must have completed to be admitted, they're all the same. Is this what you mean?

I have completed all qualifications, but I don't have a Chemistry exam. With the AP tests in both Physics C exams and Calculus BC, unless I'm somehow completely wrong, I believe I meet the requirements for A level Maths and Science. Even though I don't have AP chemistry might they still make a conditional offer forcing me to take the AP Chemistry exam? Otherwise, it seems that since I've met the initial requirements and I have no upcoming qualifications, I think I should be fine?
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Jroom144)
Thanks for the clarification. This difference only appertains to the conditional offer, and as for basic entry requirements that you must have completed to be admitted, they're all the same. Is this what you mean?

I have completed all qualifications, but I don't have a Chemistry exam. With the AP tests in both Physics C exams and Calculus BC, unless I'm somehow completely wrong, I believe I meet the requirements for A level Maths and Science. Even though I don't have AP chemistry might they still make a conditional offer forcing me to take the AP Chemistry exam? Otherwise, it seems that since I've met the initial requirements and I have no upcoming qualifications, I think I should be fine?
Yeah, you meet the requirements (assuming I've understood the US system correctly). If you don't plan on sitting more exams, they won't ask you to sit any.
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Sfiroozi
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(Original post by Jroom144)
Thanks for the clarification. This difference only appertains to the conditional offer, and as for basic entry requirements that you must have completed to be admitted, they're all the same. Is this what you mean?

I have completed all qualifications, but I don't have a Chemistry exam. With the AP tests in both Physics C exams and Calculus BC, unless I'm somehow completely wrong, I believe I meet the requirements for A level Maths and Science. Even though I don't have AP chemistry might they still make a conditional offer forcing me to take the AP Chemistry exam? Otherwise, it seems that since I've met the initial requirements and I have no upcoming qualifications, I think I should be fine?
My understanding was that Chemistry is an absolute requirement for Natsci
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Sfiroozi)
My understanding was that Chemistry is an absolute requirement for Natsci
Nope, not for physical or biological.
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R T
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(Original post by Jroom144)
Hello, I'd appreciate any clarification on a point of confusion. I'm an international USA applicant to Pembroke College in the University of Cambridge. I've applied for Natural Sciences, in the Physical Sciences specialism. I know the minimum requirements are 5 AP tests at a score of 5, which I meet (if the 2 Physics tests count as separate, and AP Comp Sci Principles, not the harder Comp Sci A, counts as a full AP test).

I see on Pembroke's entry in this table for 2021 entry requirements for Physical Sciences within NatSci (https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....irements_0.pdf)
this information...

'Typical offer: A*A*A
A* in Mathematics or Further Mathematics, and A* in
Chemistry or Physics
A Level in Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics'

First off, typical offer? I thought these were minimum requirements, so does this mean if I meet this I am likely to get in?
Most importantly, why does it list A* in Maths or Further Maths and A* in Chem/Phys, but then again repeats itself when it says after that 'A Level in Maths and either Chem or Phys'? Is it just repeating what was already said or does this mean I need to do both? If I have to do both does this mean Chemistry is required? I only have Physics so that would be troubling.

I'm confused why they list it twice. In that link, some other colleges such as Fitzwilliam or Newnham don't list it twice. Newnham, for example, just says:

'Typical offer: A*A*A
A Level in Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics'

Very confused here. Are there additional requirements for Pembroke that Newnham doesn't have? Why does Pembroke say it twice? Should I be worried anyway since they say they make sure one's choice of college doesn't impact chances... or would I have a higher chance if I switched to Newnham?

I'd appreciate any guidance.
Pembroke is basically saying out of the subjects: Maths , Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry - they want their applicants to have 3 out of these 4, and to achieve an A* in a "Maths" (maths or further maths) subject and an A* in a "Science" (Chemistry or Physics) subject, while getting at least an A in another one. This would be a typical offer since most UK students will offer 3/4 of these. Other colleges will do something very similar.
If someone applied to Pembroke without 3/4 of those subjects they could still get in but their offer would be atypical - very likely it would be A*A* in the 2 maths or science subjects they are doing, and an A in whatever else. An applicant with only 1/4 of these subjects would just get rejected from every college.

As for you personally - you can get in without any Chemistry. But if your physics isn't able to cover things like basic gas laws, orbitals, non linear change in models and systems (i.e. an abstraction of a basic reaction profile) and the behaviour of electrons in molecules then this might be a problem. With the exception of spectroscopy (NMR/ IR) and organic chemistry (both of which are probably forgivable things to not know a lot about), I would think a basic high school education in physics should either directly cover this or give enough background to work things out. If someone goes into the interview without any idea about how to calculate the volume a certain number of molecules of gas takes up (or something similarly simple for a physical system) then they'll probably wonder why and reflect on whether or not this candidate is actually knowledgeable or interested in the subject at all. Given that the NSAA specification is freely available and linked on their applicant page, and given 17+ year old students should be expected to be able to do a bit of self teaching and research independently, I don't think "I didn't learn this in school" would be a valid excuse if ""this"" is referring to something sufficiently straightforward.

If you don't know any materials or chemistry, then really you should apply for the Maths + Physics or Engineering course (which would exclusively interview on maths and physics) instead of natural sciences (which is going to interview for a slightly wider set of topics). Although I do sympathise that the way Cambridge operates is not really designed for US applicants and that this does represent a reasonable additional barrier.
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Jroom144
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(Original post by R T)
Pembroke is basically saying out of the subjects: Maths , Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry - they want their applicants to have 3 out of these 4, and to achieve an A* in a "Maths" (maths or further maths) subject and an A* in a "Science" (Chemistry or Physics) subject, while getting at least an A in another one. This would be a typical offer since most UK students will offer 3/4 of these. Other colleges will do something very similar.
If someone applied to Pembroke without 3/4 of those subjects they could still get in but their offer would be atypical - very likely it would be A*A* in the 2 maths or science subjects they are doing, and an A in whatever else. An applicant with only 1/4 of these subjects would just get rejected from every college.

As for you personally - you can get in without any Chemistry. But if your physics isn't able to cover things like basic gas laws, orbitals, non linear change in models and systems (i.e. an abstraction of a basic reaction profile) and the behaviour of electrons in molecules then this might be a problem. With the exception of spectroscopy (NMR/ IR) and organic chemistry (both of which are probably forgivable things to not know a lot about), I would think a basic high school education in physics should either directly cover this or give enough background to work things out. If someone goes into the interview without any idea about how to calculate the volume a certain number of molecules of gas takes up (or something similarly simple for a physical system) then they'll probably wonder why and reflect on whether or not this candidate is actually knowledgeable or interested in the subject at all. Given that the NSAA specification is freely available and linked on their applicant page, and given 17+ year old students should be expected to be able to do a bit of self teaching and research independently, I don't think "I didn't learn this in school" would be a valid excuse if ""this"" is referring to something sufficiently straightforward.

If you don't know any materials or chemistry, then really you should apply for the Maths + Physics or Engineering course (which would exclusively interview on maths and physics) instead of natural sciences (which is going to interview for a slightly wider set of topics). Although I do sympathise that the way Cambridge operates is not really designed for US applicants and that this does represent a reasonable additional barrier.
Thank you for the advice. I am self-studying and recognise that I am responsible for learning it even if not in school. I suppose I will have to start reviewing Chemistry after the NSAA. I took the highest level Physics available, AP Physics C, and it didn't go as deep as orbitals which you note. US education is broader but at the expense of depth.

Another reason to apply for NatSci instead of Engineering or Maths and Physics (assuming it has the same acceptance rate as Maths) is the lower acceptance rate. Sounds naive, maybe it is, but I saw NatSci accepts around 26% and Maths and Engineering are both in the 10s. Don't remember exactly where I saw this though. I saw the NatSci info on one of their course information pages.

Edit -- forgot to note; they told me they won't make a conditional offer based on subjects I haven't indicated as Incomplete on my application, and this includes Chemistry so I suppose they wouldn't test me on it. I have other AP scores in non-STEM fields like English so hopefully that'll suffice.
Last edited by Jroom144; 1 month ago
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Theloniouss
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(Original post by Jroom144)
Thank you for the advice. I am self-studying and recognise that I am responsible for learning it even if not in school. I suppose I will have to start reviewing Chemistry after the NSAA. I took the highest level Physics available, AP Physics C, and it didn't go as deep as orbitals which you note. US education is broader but at the expense of depth.

Another reason to apply for NatSci instead of Engineering or Maths and Physics (assuming it has the same acceptance rate as Maths) is the lower acceptance rate. Sounds naive, maybe it is, but I saw NatSci accepts around 26% and Maths and Engineering are both in the 10s. Don't remember exactly where I saw this though. I saw the NatSci info on one of their course information pages.

Edit -- forgot to note; they told me they won't make a conditional offer based on subjects I haven't indicated as Incomplete on my application, and this includes Chemistry so I suppose they wouldn't test me on it. I have other AP scores in non-STEM fields like English so hopefully that'll suffice.
Maths has a 17% acceptance rate, engineering 15% and Natural Sciences 21% (in 2019). Those numbers aren't corrected for the quality of applicants and are therefore pretty much worthless in determining which course you'd be more likely to get onto.
Importantly, however, the acceptance rate of all of those courses is 0% when you only consider students who want to be doing a different course. Apply for the course you want to do, gaming the system doesn't work.
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Jroom144
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(Original post by Theloniouss)
Maths has a 17% acceptance rate, engineering 15% and Natural Sciences 21% (in 2019). Those numbers aren't corrected for the quality of applicants and are therefore pretty much worthless in determining which course you'd be more likely to get onto.
Importantly, however, the acceptance rate of all of those courses is 0% when you only consider students who want to be doing a different course. Apply for the course you want to do, gaming the system doesn't work.
Natural Sciences is the course I want.
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