If you're applying for Natural Science at Cambridge after you've submitted your UCAS application in October, there are a few more hoops you need to jump through. Before interview you’ll need to pass the Cambridge Natural Science Admissions Assessment or the NSAA. The content of this is going to be based on A-Levels and the most common A-Level combinations. These are A-Level biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths. Psychology does not count as a science for Cambridge and most people are going to be taking four maybe three A-Levels and an AS out of the sciences and the maths. Some colleges, Magdalene, Trinity, and St. John's are going to require you to do a further written assessment at an interview, but the Natural Science Admission Assessment is before an interview. This is done in early November, a couple of weeks after your UCAS applications needs to be in. You have to be registered for this in advance, and you can't do this yourself. Your school, your college, the exams officer there has to register you for this, you can't register yourself. This is a proper exam and has to be done under exam conditions.
What they are looking at Cambridge are people that know the A-level specification inside out but can apply it and go above and beyond because you need to differentiate yourself from everyone else who's getting A*s in maths, everyone else who's getting those A*s in chemistry or physics and biology. Let's assume that everyone sitting the assessment on that day can get those A*s and knows the A-level specification perfectly. What we need to do in this evaluation is being able to take a little knowledge that you have and be able to apply it in different ways to different things. Looking at different situations, combining parts you might not have thought of combining before and loads of applications of logic. There are two sections for this assessment, section one which is multiple choice and section two which is a long answer. Section one is xxxxxx minutes of multiple choice. There are five sections; A is maths, B is physics, C is chemistry, D is biology, and then E is like tough maths combined with physics. You have to do section A (maths) and then two others from physics, chemistry, biology or further maths. Three sections in total. Each section has xxxxx questions about it, so you're going to need to do xxxxx questions in total. You are not allowed a calculator for this, and it is multiple choice question. These questions are meant to be hard. Even the best, the brightest, the A* students are expected to struggle with these questions, and it's not just whether you can get the answer right or not, it's whether you can try and how you try to answer the question. In section two you have to answer two questions from a list of six questions, two biology, two chemistry, two physics. You get xxxxx minutes to do these questions, and these are long questions. There's going to be diagrams; there's going to be graphs, you are allowed a calculator for this and write down all of your workings because remember, they're interested in the process of you getting to the answer as well as you just coming up with the solution.
The content for this is going to be mainly based on year 12 A-Level. There is a long list over on the website if you haven't done A-Levels, way too long for me to include here. There isn't going to be any negative marking, so it's worth you trying every single section. For example, if you can't do part A, then you can go on and maybe try part E, D, C, you don't have to do it in order as well. Some of the bits link but some of the bits don't link, if you can't do the first part of the chemistry questions and you want to do the chemistry questions, then try and do some of the other ones.
Remember, this assessment is meant to be hard, so you're going to have to know all of your content well but be prepared to do some out-of-the-box thinking, be ready to be challenged and try not to stress it so much.
The Cambridge Natural Science Admissions Assessment specimen papers and past papers are available on their website. These are worth doing as are Olympiad papers for each subject and the Cambridge Lower Sixth Chemistry Challenge (C3L6) papers.