• Natural Sciences at Cambridge

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Natural Sciences at Cambridge

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What about Natural Sciences at Cambridge?

In order to read Physics at Cambridge, one can apply in two ways:

1. Apply to read Natural Sciences (Physical)- the science degree offered at Cambridge - where you would study Physics, Mathematics and two other sciences in your first year. These other options can be entirely physical sciences (i.e. Chemistry and Materials Science), biological or a mixture of both. Then one could continue into the second year, electing to study Physics, Advanced Physics and one other course, which would most probably be Mathematics.

2. Apply to read Mathematics (it would be best to choose the option with Physics) for your first year and then switch over to Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos in the second year, where you must study Physics and Advanced Physics, as two of your three courses, in order to graduate with a Physics degree. You are not restricted in the choice of your other course, although it would seem suitable to choose Mathematics, given your mathematical background and its appropriateness to Physics.

More information can be found at the University of Cambridge website. [1]

Please note: Oxbridge may call their degrees BAs, but this is only due to their tradition. Don't think that doing an Oxbridge BA has a reduced quantity of mathematics. In fact, being Oxbridge, it is quite the opposite!


Natural Sciences at Cambridge

What is Natural Science?

The University of Cambridge does not offer degree programmes in single scientific disciplines in the first year. You will graduate with a specialised degree (one of Astrophysics, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Genetics, Geological Sciences, History and Philosophy of Science, Materials Science, Neuroscience, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physics, Physiology, Neuroscience and Development, Plant Sciences, Psychology, Zoology), but your first two years will be broader. During these years all sciences come under the Natural Sciences Tripos. In your first year, it is expected that you will study Mathematics and three experimental sciences (of which Physics is one, Earth Sciences another, as is Chemistry, Materials Science etc.). Therefore, if you want to study Physics at Cambridge, in your first year, you will have to take two other science courses from a range, which could include Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, Chemistry, Materials Science, Physiology or Biology of Cells. Therefore, in your first year, you will study a broad range of science and discover the connections between them, including how your Physics or Chemistry is used in other scientific areas.

Applying for Natural Sciences at Cambridge

Can I do Physics at Cambridge?

In Natural Sciences you can study Physics in the first year alongside two other experimental sciences. There are many options in the first year that expect no prior knowledge of the subject, that can be taken alongside Physics, for example Earth Sciences and/or Materials Science. This gives you a broad understanding of the applications of physics across science more generally.

There is only one way that you can apply to Cambridge to eventually read Physics, studying only mathematics and physics during your time there, without studying any other experimental sciences or computer science. To do this, you should:

  • Apply to read Mathematics with Physics:With this option, you can study 75% of the Part I Mathematics course, and the Physics course from the Part IA of the Natural Sciences Tripos in your first year. After your first year, provided you enjoy the Physics course, you can swap to Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos in your second year and continue your studies from here. In Part IB of the NST, you can specialise in Physics, opting to sign up for a maximum of three courses; which, in this case, is most likely to be Mathematics, Physics and Advanced Physics, provided you do not want to study any other experimental science and enjoy mathematics. You can then progress into your third year where you choose to focus in either Experimental and Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics, up to BA or MSci level.
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