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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
All candidates for Natural Sciences are required to take the pre-interview 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.
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).
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.