vyper47
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Greetings,

I casually attempted a past NSAA paper (2018) yesterday, and, well, weird things happened.

I answered the math section all correct, and almost a perfect section II (attempted both the chem questions)

I'm not trying to brag or something, but why and how? Did I very much overestimate the NSAA, or is it a trick? Maybe I'm scoring fine now, but will get screwed in the actual test?

What's going on exactly?

Well, apart from that, what would be your advice on preparing for the NSAA?

Thanks, good people of TSR!!
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R T
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(Original post by vyper47)
Greetings,

I casually attempted a past NSAA paper (2018) yesterday, and, well, weird things happened.

I answered the math section all correct, and almost a perfect section II (attempted both the chem questions)

I'm not trying to brag or something, but why and how? Did I very much overestimate the NSAA, or is it a trick? Maybe I'm scoring fine now, but will get screwed in the actual test?

What's going on exactly?

Well, apart from that, what would be your advice on preparing for the NSAA?

Thanks, good people of TSR!!
I'd make sure any practice and preparation is done under time pressure, since a significant part of these assessments is the fact that you're usually quite rushed to finish in time.

As for you specifically - did you do all the required parts from 2018 in the allocated time? I vaguely remember that you have to pick 3 sections for part I, not just the maths section.

There isn't really any hidden misinformation about the NSAA. Keep in mind that 9/18 on a section is not 50%, since the results will be normalised to what is achieved. This means that to get 5.0/9.0 (it ranges from 1-9 for each section) you'll probably need to get 11/18 or 12/18. So the mark conversion is not fully linear, although I would imagine Cambridge attempt to set the difficulty so that the average candidate gets about 9-11 / 18 correct since this leads to the least variance in the score after conversion. This is a long way of saying: 14/18 might be a pretty typical score for a good candidate. And anything below 10 is probably going to put you firmly below above.

There aren't a lot of NSAA papers; the recommended substitutes and extra prep work aren't going to be surprising (I'd point at the senior maths kangaroo, the PAT, the ENGAA, the TMUA, the MCQ parts of the MAT, the Physics/ Chemistry Olympiads (mainly earlier rounds for the NSAA and then later rounds for the interview itself)). Basically; anything that is usually quite pressured in terms of time management, anything that heavily bases itself on GCSE and year 12 science/ maths knowledge. You can never do too much practice
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Interea
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(Original post by vyper47)
Greetings,

I casually attempted a past NSAA paper (2018) yesterday, and, well, weird things happened.

I answered the math section all correct, and almost a perfect section II (attempted both the chem questions)

I'm not trying to brag or something, but why and how? Did I very much overestimate the NSAA, or is it a trick? Maybe I'm scoring fine now, but will get screwed in the actual test?

What's going on exactly?

Well, apart from that, what would be your advice on preparing for the NSAA?

Thanks, good people of TSR!!
If I remember correctly from another thread you're sitting your A levels in this October series, right? If so, you've already covered nearly an extra year of content more than is expected at the point you sit NSAA, so I'm not surprised if it seems a little easier than you expected!
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vyper47
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(Original post by Interea)
If I remember correctly from another thread you're sitting your A levels in this October series, right? If so, you've already covered nearly an extra year of content more than is expected at the point you sit NSAA, so I'm not surprised if it seems a little easier than you expected!
You're right there. There was this lattice energy question in a chemistry section (not taught in AS) - it wholly introduced the concept in one page and set problems in the next page - I already knew what it was. This is a good reason!
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vyper47
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(Original post by R T)
I'd make sure any practice and preparation is done under time pressure, since a significant part of these assessments is the fact that you're usually quite rushed to finish in time.

As for you specifically - did you do all the required parts from 2018 in the allocated time? I vaguely remember that you have to pick 3 sections for part I, not just the maths section.

There isn't really any hidden misinformation about the NSAA. Keep in mind that 9/18 on a section is not 50%, since the results will be normalised to what is achieved. This means that to get 5.0/9.0 (it ranges from 1-9 for each section) you'll probably need to get 11/18 or 12/18. So the mark conversion is not fully linear, although I would imagine Cambridge attempt to set the difficulty so that the average candidate gets about 9-11 / 18 correct since this leads to the least variance in the score after conversion. This is a long way of saying: 14/18 might be a pretty typical score for a good candidate. And anything below 10 is probably going to put you firmly below above.

There aren't a lot of NSAA papers; the recommended substitutes and extra prep work aren't going to be surprising (I'd point at the senior maths kangaroo, the PAT, the ENGAA, the TMUA, the MCQ parts of the MAT, the Physics/ Chemistry Olympiads (mainly earlier rounds for the NSAA and then later rounds for the interview itself)). Basically; anything that is usually quite pressured in terms of time management, anything that heavily bases itself on GCSE and year 12 science/ maths knowledge. You can never do too much practice
Thanks for taking the time to explain all that stuff

As for the time constraint, I did them on my desk, and took just a bit less than an hour. In the real test, I get 80 minutes (the 2018 test was like that; 2020 will prolly be different).

I've decided to do PATs and ENGAAs for the physics/math sections. My own curriculum (national, non-ALevel) is very heavy on math MCQs - I'll practice from there. Could you elaborate on "Olympiads"? In my country, Olympiads are very rigorous tests mainly for sending teams to the IMO/IPhO - do you mean something similar? UK Chemistry Olympiad?
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R T
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(Original post by vyper47)
Thanks for taking the time to explain all that stuff

As for the time constraint, I did them on my desk, and took just a bit less than an hour. In the real test, I get 80 minutes (the 2018 test was like that; 2020 will prolly be different).

I've decided to do PATs and ENGAAs for the physics/math sections. My own curriculum (national, non-ALevel) is very heavy on math MCQs - I'll practice from there. Could you elaborate on "Olympiads"? In my country, Olympiads are very rigorous tests mainly for sending teams to the IMO/IPhO - do you mean something similar? UK Chemistry Olympiad?
Fair enough - it sounds like you are in a good position for the NSAA already then, but I'd still recommend some practise.

The IPhO is overkill for preparation - I was originally thinking UK Chemistry/ Physics Olympiad rounds 1 (which is only a bit beyond a-level) and 2 (which is probably pushing what most good applicants are capable of without help). But if your country does similar kinds of exams for (early round) selection then that's probably similar in level. Later rounds in these kind of exams (rounds where a single question might take 30 minutes or more) are more interview preparation focused than MCQ focused, which is probably obvious.

There will be quite a few natscis who have experience in their countries national Olympiad finals and then perhaps IMO/IPhO/etc - you dont need to be intimidated by them, there are still a lot of places. Anyone on their level will typically walk the NSAA and interview.
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vyper47
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(Original post by R T)
Fair enough - it sounds like you are in a good position for the NSAA already then, but I'd still recommend some practise.

The IPhO is overkill for preparation - I was originally thinking UK Chemistry/ Physics Olympiad rounds 1 (which is only a bit beyond a-level) and 2 (which is probably pushing what most good applicants are capable of without help). But if your country does similar kinds of exams for (early round) selection then that's probably similar in level. Later rounds in these kind of exams (rounds where a single question might take 30 minutes or more) are more interview preparation focused than MCQ focused, which is probably obvious.

There will be quite a few natscis who have experience in their countries national Olympiad finals and then perhaps IMO/IPhO/etc - you dont need to be intimidated by them, there are still a lot of places. Anyone on their level will typically walk the NSAA and interview.
Of course I won't make that same mistake I made years back of not practicing despite knowing stuff!
I've been looking at the UK Chem Olympiad (my choice sub is chem) - seems nice! My country doesn't do IChO. I've been into mainly math Olympiad (did national camps) and some regional PhO

I'm fighting the october A levels while all this. I have the physics and chem paper 5 (planning, analysis, evaluation) on Nov 3 and 4 respectively, and NSAA is on Nov 5

Let's hope all the best for all the candidates out there!
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