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Cambridge Natural Sciences Interview Questions & Overview

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Interview Essentials

Natural Sciences at Cambridge is an immensely competitive course. You’ll need to decide whether you’re interested in the Physical Natural Sciences or the Biological Natural Sciences – as, whilst both fall under the same course umbrella, you’ll face different interviews depending on the type of study that you plan on undertaking. Here, we’ve included a selection of questions covering primarily the Biological Natural Sciences. Remember that before getting to the interview, you’ll also need to sit the NSAA, or Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment. You’ll normally get two interviews, although some students will only receive one.

Admissions Statistics

Of 2922 applicants in the most recently available data, there were roughly 730 offers made, which resulted in 608 acceptances. This is just less than a 25% success rate in terms of application to offer, and closer to 20% in terms of application to then taking up a place. Typical offers are very high, with A*A*A at A level being the norm, or between 40-42 points at IB, with 776 at Higher Level. You should expect most students to have at least three science or maths A levels, although the minimum is two. Just remember that you’d need an A* in both science subjects if you only took two at A level. The typical combination expected of students who offer only two science A Levels is A Level Biology and Chemistry with AS Level Physics or Maths. 

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Interview Key Dates

Interview key dates are the same across all Cambridge courses – expect the majority of interviews to run throughout the first three weeks of December, with some at the end of November. There will be a small number of applicants who are asked to take an additional interview in January after the winter pool and the majority of decisions.

Interview Format and Purpose

The Natural Sciences interview will depend on the college, with some colleges doing both a general interview to check your fit for the university and college, and a technical interview to check your ability for the course itself. Expect the interview to be a back-and-forth between you and the admissions tutor, just as a tutorial would be when you’re actually being taught at the university. Whilst you may well be faced with some more challenging and left-field questions like those below, you should be prepared to principally field questions on subjects and interests listed in personal statement, so ensure that you have thoroughly revised it and its contents.

Additional Assessments

All applicants for Natural Sciences have to sit the NSAA, or Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment. This is designed so that those interested in both physical and biological routes can perform to their maximum potential. It is formatted as follows:

  • 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
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In Section 1, you must answer the mathematics questions, but then you can choose between Biology, Chemistry, and Physics – and as such answer a total of two subjects’ worth of questions. You are not allowed to use a calculator in Section 1.

In section 2, there are three parts – but you need only answer one. Each part has 20 multiple choice questions. Again, there are no calculators allowed. Once again, this means that you choose between Biology, Chemistry, and Physics and pick your strongest subject.

You will not have to submit any written work.

Previous Cambridge Natural Sciences Interview Questions

  • What is an amino acid and why are there only twenty?
  • What problems do fish face underwater?
  • How has the human diet changed in the last three decades and why?
  • What are the problems with the current taxonomy system?
  • What causes the common cold and why is there no cure?
  • Why do we need ATP, why not just release energy from glucose directly?
  • What techniques could be used to date how long a disease has existed in a population?
  • What would life be like without enzymes?
  • Why are explosions a risk in flour mills? What stops bags of flour exploding in the kitchen?
  • How does a glow-stick work?
  • What issues might there be if you wanted to create a metallic oxide that has good conductive properties but is also transparent?
  • What is the concentration of water?
  • Why does iron rust and how can rusting be stopped?
  • How does blood maintain its pH?
  • Discuss the bonding in benzene.
  • How would you differentiate between salt and sugar without tasting them?
  • How do amino acids bond to form a peptide?

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