Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences is the framework within which most science subjects are taught at Cambridge. If you want to study any of the biological and physical sciences, this is the course for you. The Natural Sciences course offers a wide range of physical and biological science subjects from 16 departments in a unique and demanding course. The flexibility of the course makes it possible to take purely biological sciences, purely physical sciences or a combination of both, according to your interests.

Course Structure

The Natural Sciences course (or Tripos as we call it here), is a broad-based and flexible course that allows students a tremendous degree of choice in the subjects they study. The aim is to produce scientists and not merely ‘physicists’, ‘biologists’ or ‘chemists’.

In the first year students study three subjects, choosing from Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Computer Science, Evolution and Behaviour, Earth Sciences, Materials and Mineral Sciences, Physics, and Physiology of Organisms; and students will also study Mathematics (one of two courses at different levels). In the second year there are twenty subjects to choose from, with students usually studying three, and in the third year there are seventeen possible subjects to study, with most students focusing on one. Students who specialise in this way, even only in their third year, will get a superb education in their chosen subject, reaching a level as high, or higher, than at any equivalent University. For some subjects there is also the option of a fourth year, leading to an M.Sci. degree.

All experimental subjects have associated practical classes in the relevant departments, and there are supervisions for each subject every week in College for the first two years, and thereafter in the departments.

Natural Sciences at Cambridge

Undergraduate students and staff talk about studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. To find out more about this course, see Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this video is accurate at the time it was uploaded, changes are likely to occur. It is therefore very important that you check the University and College websites for any updates before you apply for the course by visiting…

Natural Sciences at King's

The Fellowship at King’s is strong in Natural Sciences, with several members of the Royal Society. The large number of Fellows in the Sciences combined with a thriving graduate community make King’s a vibrant place for undergraduates.

Many of the Fellows are actively involved in teaching both in the College and in the various departments. They also organise various other activities for ‘NatScis’ such as the Seminars for Biologists or the King's Maths-Physics Colloquium, both of which occur twice a week, and involve all levels of King’s scientists coming together for an intellectually stimulating and sociable evening.

There is also a King's Undergraduate Maths and Physics Society, which was set up by students to encourage undergraduate research. Each event has three fifteen-minute talks by current undergraduates. They present work to other students and academics, followed by discussion over drinks. The events are chaired by a member of the teaching staff, and the atmosphere is supportive and not too formal, with most of the audience being undergraduates who share interests and a similar level of knowledge. The society is also very helpful to students who want to do internships, putting them in contact with others who already have experience of how to find places and funding.

Fellows in Natural Sciences at King's:

Professorial Fellow

Biochemistry; neurotransmission-gated ion channels; chemical transmission of nerve impulses at synapses; neuronal disorders.

Research Fellow

Nanophotonics and soft matter physics; self-assembled metamaterials and metasurfaces; science communication; science improv

Ordinary Fellow

Theoretical physics; theory of condensed matter; biological evolution; algorithmic complexity; network analysis.

Ordinary Fellow

Solid earth geophysics; geodesy; seismology; continuum mechanics of planetary bodies; inverse theory; rotational dynamics.

Professorial Fellow

Cell biology; immunology; genetic disease; cytotoxic T-cells; lymphocyte secretion; molecular biology; 3D live imaging.

Emeritus Fellow

Elementary and experimental particle physics; high energy physics; antimatter differences in kaon particles; Large Hadron Collider.

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Ordinary Fellow

Genetics; molecular biology; bioinformatics; plant organ development; animal sex determination; human food security.

Research Fellow

Plant sciences; biodiversity; environmental protection; climate change; environmental policy; regeneration ecology.

Life Fellow

Developmental neurobiology; neuromuscular development; embryonic development; neuronal circuitry; genetics.

Professorial Fellow

Astrophysics; cosmology; large-scale structure in the Universe; galaxy formation; dark energy; cosmic microwave background radiation.

Life Fellow

Mathematical biology; epidemiology; soil-borne plant disease; non-linear estimation; agricultural epidemics.

Life Fellow

Materials science; metallurgical engineering; joining of materials; potential applications of new materials; environmental sustainability.

Professorial Fellow

Philosophy of science; nature of scientific expertise; automation and artificial intelligence; economic models; measurement of well-being.

Life Fellow

Behavioural neuroscience; mammalian brain evolution and function; genomic imprinting; epigenetics; animal behaviour.

Life Fellow

Physical chemistry; surface science; photocatalysis; molecular assembly; heterogeneous chemistry of tropospheric mineral aerosols.

Life Fellow

Earth sciences; geodynamics, geophysics and tectonics; igneous, metamorphic and volcanic studies; planetary lithospheres.

Life Fellow

Experimental high-energy particle physics; nuclear, quantum, particle and atomic physics; proton-anti-proton collisions.

Applying for Natural Sciences at King’s

We welcome candidates from all backgrounds, from all over the world. All candidates applying for Natural Sciences will be asked to choose between Natural Sciences (Biological) and Natural Sciences (Physical). We usually take fifteen to twenty students per year, broadly divided between those with ‘biological’ and ‘physical’ interests.

Subject Requirements

You must have at least two A-Levels (or equivalent) in science or maths subjects and most applicants have at least three of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics to A Level. If you have only two science / mathematics A-Levels (or equivalent), your choice of Part IA subject options will be restricted. In these circumstances, you will normally be expected to achieve an A* grade in one or two of the two science / mathematics subjects.

If you will be applying for Biological Natural Sciences without Maths at A-level, IB Higher or equivalent, there will be some maths work to do over the summer before you start the course. More information can be found on the departmental website.

Candidates applying for Physical Natural Sciences and thinking they might wish to specialise in Physics often take Mathematics and, where offered by their school, Further Mathematics, but this is not a requirement for the course and we very much welcome applications from students who have not studied Further Maths.

Pre-registered Assessment

All candidates for Natural Sciences are required to take the pre-registered written admissions assessment for Natural Sciences, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment.

Written Work

You will not be asked to submit any written work as part of your application.


Most (but not all) candidates are invited for interviews in Cambridge, which take place in early December. Candidates have two interviews, each with two members of the teaching staff in either Biological Natural Sciences or Physical Natural Sciences. The interviews may include discussion of some of your own experimental work in science. If you are applying for Biological Natural Sciences, you will be asked to bring to the interview a note book detailing some recent experimental work you have undertaken, or an account of project work or of a field trip (this is not needed for Physical Natural Sciences).

The subject choices that you make at school can have a significant impact on the course options available to you at University - find out more.
Find out about how to register for your written assessment and see specimen papers from previous years.
Candidates for some subjects are required to submit written work as part of the application process - see more here.
It's completely normal to be nervous about coming to interview, but here's some practical advice about how to prepare for the process.

Student Perspectives

Joanna and Mie have written about their experiences studying Natural Sciences, including what they have enjoyed, the transition from school and how to prepare. These accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what it is really like to be a 'NatSci' at King's.

Mie is from Madrid, where she took both the IB and Spanish Titulo de Bachiller. She studied Natural Sciences at King's from 2014-18.
Joanna is from Oxford, and took A-levels in Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths. She studied Natural Sciences at King's from 2015-18.

Reading, Resources and Events

There is no required reading material for applicants, but you may find the faculty's introductory reading suggestions below useful. Many universities have admissions tests and interviews that involve solving problems. In the area of physics and mathematics the Isaac Physics website provides an opportunity to practise the necessary skills for such problems.

The ability to link Physics and Mathematics knowledge in developing mathematical models or descriptions of physical situations is fundamental to the study of Physics at Cambridge. This skill is often underdeveloped at school but there are excellent resources available on the NRICH website. See in particular the article about mathematical issues and physNRICH. NRICH also has excellent resources to support and enhance the study of Biology and Chemistry.

A-level Mathematics is essential for some first year options if you choose them. If you are studying in a different qualification system and wish to consult an A-level textbook, we suggest L. Bostock and S. Chandler (2013) Core Maths for Advanced Level, 3rd edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes. If your school does not offer Further Maths, you may be able to get support through the Further Mathematics Support Network. See the flowchart below.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, CU Masterclasses, Cambridge Science Festival, Physics lectures, Headstart, CU Senior Physics Challenge, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

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