The structure of the Natural Sciences Tripos is unique among science courses in British universities. It provides a very broad training in the first year (Part IA), in which you have to take three experimental subjects and one of the Maths options. The second year (Part IB) allows some degree of specialisation, but the third (Part II) and possibly fourth (Part III) years are usually devoted to a single area of science, sometimes one that the student may not even have met before coming to Cambridge, such as Astrophysics for example. With seven sciences available in Part IA, and nineteen (plus Mathematics) in Part IB, the range of possibilities is huge.
Each year, students select their subjects through discussion with their Director of Studies. Students may want to change their main subject as their interests develop, especially between the first and second year of the degree. Your Director of Studies, consulting with relevant teaching staff, will let you know if this is a change you can make given your existing knowledge and your grades. This is important in order to ensure that all students achieve the best possible preparation and thrive on the Natural Sciences degree.
Trinity has a very strong tradition in Natural Sciences. From Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton onwards, many famous scientists have studied or taught here, among them 29 winners of Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, or Medicine. The traditions of the past are reflected today in the size of Trinity’s teaching staff and its breadth of scientific interests. Those currently teaching Natural Sciences in the College are listed below, together with the subjects for which they are responsible.
Each applicant is asked in advance of their interview about their subject interests. This is done only to guide us in arranging which interviewers you will see. Everyone who is selected for interview will take a short test of fluency in mathematics, usually taken a few days before the interview. If your main interest is in the Biological Sciences, you will be asked to take a test in Biology immediately after the mathematics fluency test.
You can expect to have two interviews. Although the interviews are likely to focus on your declared particular interests you must be prepared to talk about any of your A level subjects. As in other subjects at Trinity, the interview is strongly academic in character.
Before one of the interviews, you will sit an interview preparation paper – a series of questions that you will then have the chance to talk through in the interview itself. The purpose of the interview preparation paper is to give you time to think through the questions before the interview starts, to see what you can do without any help and what needs to be discussed with your interviewers to help you reach an answer.
Sample versions of the mathematics fluency test, the Biology test, and questions from the interview preparation paper are available here:
(Updated June 2021)
There is further information in that guide about how the interviews work.
The typical conditional offer for Natural Sciences is A*A*A; we may also ask for a high grade in a relevant subject being taken only at AS-level; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations. We expect to admit roughly 30 people for Natural Sciences each year.
All applicants should take Maths A-level (or equivalent). For candidates with a main interest in Physics or Chemistry, we strongly recommend A level Further Maths and two other sciences (including your main subject interest) as well as Maths. Physics students are advised to take the Mechanics modules in Further Mathematics. If Further Maths A level is not available at your school, Further Maths can be taken at AS level alongside A Level Maths. Those intending to study subjects in the first year that are primarily on the Biological Sciences side should ideally take two out of the Chemistry, Biology and Physics A levels, although applications from those with only one of these three are not discouraged.
In each case, other qualifications at an equivalent standard to A levels are welcome. If in doubt about the suitability of your choice of subjects to studying Natural Sciences, you are very much invited to seek advice from the Admissions Office before submitting an application.
All applicants are required to take the written assessment for Natural Sciences at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).
- Section 1: Multiple choice questions in mathematics plus one science (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) (60 minutes)
- Section 2: Extended multiple choice questions in Biology, Chemistry or Physics (60 minutes)
You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment – the registration deadline is 30 September 2022. 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.
Further details about the format of the assessment and preparatory materials can be found on the written assessments page.
The pre-interview written assessment for Natural Sciences will be taken on Wednesday 19 October 2022.
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.
- Paul Brakefield (Evolutionary Biology)
- Jason Chin (Biochemistry and Chemical Biology)
- Milka Sarris (Physiology, Development and Neuroscience)
- Marta Zlatic (Neuroscience)