Natural Science at Cambridge without Chemistry A level

(54 Posts)
user1472910683 Sat 03-Sep-16 15:26:25

My DD wants to apply at Cambridge for Natural Science and she is doing maths, further maths and physics for A level. She wants to do physical science. Does she need chemistry for this course ?

OP’s posts: |
ImperialBlether Sat 03-Sep-16 15:34:16

This is what it says for Natural Sciences. She should really be looking this up on their website.

A Levels

Most students have at least three science/mathematics A Levels. The minimum requirement is two, but this will restrict your choice of Part IA options. In these circumstances you'll normally be expected to achieve A* in both of the science/mathematics subjects and encouraged to take an additional science/mathematics AS Level. The more useful combinations are:

A Level Biology, A Level Chemistry, and AS Level Mathematics or AS Level Physics
A Level Chemistry, A Level Mathematics, and AS Level Biology or AS Level Physics
A Level Physics, A Level Mathematics and AS Level Further Mathematics

ImperialBlether Sat 03-Sep-16 15:35:56


All applicants are required to take the pre-interview written assessment for Natural Sciences at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).

Assessment format

Section 1 content
Maths and Science MCQs (80 minutes)

Section 2 content
Science-specific longer questions (40 minutes)

PDF icon Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment Specification

You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment – the registration deadline is 15 October 2016. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment; you’re not able to register yourself. See the written assessments page for information about assessment centres and registration.

The pre-interview written assessment for Natural Sciences will be taken on 2 November 2016. Please check the Admissions Testing Service website for scheduled start times.

Please note that your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

In addition to the pre-interview assessment, applicants who are invited to interview are required to take a College-set written assessment at interview at the following Colleges (see individual College websites for details):

St John's
Mature students (aged 21 or over) applying to one of the mature Colleges should refer to the relevant information about pre-interview assessments on the written assessments page.

Specimen papers

A specimen paper has been produced to allow you to sample the written assessment format and practice under timed conditions. It is not expected that you will answer every question correctly; the written assessment is designed to be challenging. Even some strong candidates may not complete the paper in the time allowed; it is designed to distinguish across our field of high-calibre applicants.

Experience with similar assessments and from trials indicates that, on average, typical applicants to the most highly selective undergraduate courses (who are by definition academically very able) will gain approximately half of the available marks. The best applicants will score more highly, but only relatively few are expected to gain more than 80% of the available marks.

Written assessments help admissions tutors to assess whether candidates have the skills, aptitudes and any required subject knowledge and understanding required to study the relevant course at Cambridge. They are only one of the elements used in the admissions process. Others include a candidate’s academic record and forecast grades in school-leaving examinations; UCAS application form; examples of recent written work submitted to the College to which they are applying; and performance at interview, if invited to attend.

ImperialBlether Sat 03-Sep-16 15:36:32

There are sample papers available.

Here's the link.

boys3 Sat 03-Sep-16 15:37:54

most students will have at least 3 of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics to A level

Ca you DD take an additional science - chem or bio - and have further maths as a 4th A level?

user1472910683 Sat 03-Sep-16 16:03:00

According to the prospectus you can apply with maths, further maths and physics but she will be competing against students who are doing chemistry. Its too late to do additional science subject cos she has to apply by next month for next year. her 4th subject is economics.

OP’s posts: |
roundandroundthehouses Sat 03-Sep-16 16:08:47

Hi, OP - not sure whether you saw my reply on the other thread before you started it here, but here's the link to info on Maths with Physics. It's another option, where you start off doing a Maths degree with various Physics modules, then have the option to change to NatSci in second year, by which time there would be less of a requirement for Chemistry.


user1472910683 Sat 03-Sep-16 16:31:12

Thank you. This sounds the best option. I assume this requires the STEP test?

OP’s posts: |
haybott Sat 03-Sep-16 18:42:28

It is very rare to get into physical Nat Sci without chemistry. (Most successful applicants for physical Nat Sci have maths, FM, physics and chemistry.)

Beware that it is very competitive to get into Maths with Physics. (Most successful applicants will have four A levels and many/most offers will involve STEP maths papers.)

Why Cambridge rather than Oxford physics or physical natural sciences elsewhere?

user1472910683 Sat 03-Sep-16 19:10:55

Oxford physics is another option

OP’s posts: |
antimatter Sun 04-Sep-16 10:03:25

Someone I know had her offer based on 4 A levels and 3 of them had to be A* for this course, offer was for this year.

user1472910683 Sun 04-Sep-16 10:13:12

Do you know which subjects he/she did?

OP’s posts: |
haybott Sun 04-Sep-16 10:38:37

If you are taking 4 A levels you will often be asked for specific grades in all 4. If however you are only taking 3 A levels, because this is all that is offered at your school, then it is still possible to get an offer, but harder, when most other applicants are offering 4+ A levels.

Beware of looking at specific offers and trying to draw conclusions from them. Offers can and do vary by college/type of school of applicant. Sometimes Cambridge gives very high offers to borderline candidates, and rather lower offers to candidates who are very strong. I don't particularly agree with this approach, as it puts the borderline candidates into a difficult position - do they take the very high offer, knowing that they may well miss it, or do they turn it down and firm an easier offer?

WorkingItOutAsIGo Sun 04-Sep-16 13:13:14

My DC was in similar quandary as didn't want to do a level chemistry, but rang some colleges before making final choice and was told whilst chemistry wasn't listed as an essential, they couldn't remember when they last admitted someone without it. So DC switched to chemistry away from something they really wanted to do.

So do think your DD sadly needs to look at some other subject.

catslife Sun 04-Sep-16 14:23:06

I would suggest looking at Oxford instead for Physics. They would be OK about A levels in Physics, Maths and FM.

user1472910683 Sun 04-Sep-16 16:15:58

Its too late to look at other subjects now cos she is doing A2. Maths and physics in Cambridge would have been ideal but its one of the toughest course and competitive to get into. Will have to consider Oxford for physics.

OP’s posts: |
WorkingItOutAsIGo Sun 04-Sep-16 16:21:37

Sorry that's what I meant ie different from Nat sci.

TikTakTok Sun 04-Sep-16 16:42:49

You could look through freedom of information requests. HERE is a FOI request on WhatDoTheyKnow.Com that looks like it might be interesting to you. You can have a look at similar requests.

TikTakTok Sun 04-Sep-16 16:44:24

That info was for Trinity College.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Sun 04-Sep-16 17:26:06

TTT wow - what amazing insight and goodness what incredible candidates don't get places...sad. Interesting to see the actual data rather than just have a general view. Thanks!

goodbyestranger Sun 04-Sep-16 17:29:15

OP why shy away from a course simply because it's competitive? You say your DD is doing four A2s so that box is ticked. And presumably to be considering NatSci her grades in maths and further maths ASs this summer were perfect, or near perfect?

user1472910683 Sun 04-Sep-16 17:48:43

She got 11 A* at GCSE and 5 As in her AS. She did 5 subjects for AS including Latin cos Further maths is only allowed as 5th option in her school so yes her grades are perfect. She was undecided what she wanted to do when she chose her subjects and didn't want to do chemistry for some reason.

OP’s posts: |
Boleh Sun 04-Sep-16 17:52:07

I did NatSci back in the mists of time so the course options may well have changed but I'm surprised to see the prospectus saying just physics, maths and further maths is OK because I can't think of 4 course options she could take for the first year without either chemistry or biology, she's obviously be fine with maths and physics, then history and philosophy of science has no specific requirement but I'd have thought chemistry, geology or materials and minerals would all require, or at least benefit from chemistry and I assume the biological sciences side (which I wasn't into) would all require biology. It's possible the courses on offer have changed significantly though so a good dig through the prospectus and maybe even contacting some of the departments she'd be looking at could help answer the question?
NatSci is a great course for giving you a broad science base and the ability to specialise once you have experienced a couple of subjects at degree level. I went intending to study physics/astrophysics and left a geologist - that's not unusual!

goodbyestranger Sun 04-Sep-16 17:58:59

I meant more the actual scores in maths and further maths OP which is what Cambridge has historically been interested in. Clearly she's at a school where they're taking stand alone ASs too so I was really talking about the actual scores in the subjects which are unreformed. Aren't Cambridge using pre-tests this year, rather than STEP at the end? haybott will know!

haybott Sun 04-Sep-16 18:18:12

Cambridge maths has an exemption from pre-tests - they are still using STEP.

I agree that if the grades are in the right ballpark students shouldn't be put off by it being too competitive. The profile described above isn't the best fit for maths with physics though i.e. she doesn't seem to be interested primarily in theoretical physics, but more generally in physical sciences (which to me would include experimental physics, as well as earth sciences, materials, etc).

The subject options for Nat Sci have changed over the years, so may not be what pp remembers. It has always been possible to take bio options without having done biology A level - I remember physical Nat Scis in my college doing physics, chemistry and biology of cells (plus maths) at IA. Nowadays there are more options at IA so one could put together a group of options for physical Nat Sci without chemistry - using computer science, earth sciences, material science etc. But nonetheless it is very unusual for Nat Scis not to have chemistry at A level.

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