Natural Sciences

  • UCAS Code: BCF0 BA/NS
  • Campus Code: 4
  • Duration: 3-4 years
  • Places per year: c. 20

Natural Sciences offers a wide range of physical and biological science subjects from 16 departments in a unique and demanding course. A broad first year is combined with increasing specialisation in the second year and the possibility of total specialisation in the third year.

The breadth of the course reflects the blurring of boundaries between the different sciences and before committing yourself to one department you study a variety of subjects, some of which may be new to you. This means you can change your mind about which subject to specialise in. 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 Overview

The major strength of the Cambridge Natural Sciences Tripos lies in the wide range of options available to students from day one. First–year students will typically study three science courses plus a Maths option. In later years there is a wide range of science disciplines to choose from. Courses are chosen based on your interest, academic performance and discussion with your Director of Studies.

In the first year, you choose three science subjects from:

  • Behavioural Sciences
  • Cell Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Sciences
  • Evolution
  • Materials Science
  • Physics
  • Physiology

plus one Mathematics option from:

  • Mathematics
  • Mathematical Biology

Many students discover a passion for the new subjects that they start in the first year, such as Earth Sciences or Materials Science, and continue with these in subsequent years.

How You Learn

Depending on the courses chosen, our students would be taught primarily through lectures (3–4 per week) and practical classes in the appropriate University departments. For each course, a student would have one supervision each week and should expect to either prepare an essay or a problem sheet in advance of each of these.

In later years, a large component of the course comes from laboratory-based research projects, where students complete an original dissertation under the guidance of an academic researching in an area of their choice.


Natural Sciences at Trinity Hall

Trinity Hall is a fantastic environment in which to study Natural Sciences, having a dynamic team of academics who teach right across the spectrum of this course, whilst themselves carrying out world-leading research. Our students benefit from a close association with this supportive and inspiring team, who collectively put a strong emphasis on guiding our undergraduates’ course choices and enabling them to gain experience of cutting-edge research in their vacations. Many graduates go on to study towards higher degrees or take up research jobs in industry.

Due to the breadth of choices available, it would be impossible to recommend any specific preparatory reading. We look for students with a broad and passionate interest in science, however, so suggest that you read widely around the popular science and more accessible academic literature that interests you most.

Going beyond what you learn at school and engaging with super-curricular resources is a great way to develop your knowledge of your subject and demonstrate your passion at interview.

Watch this video of Dr Robert Asher and Natural Sciences students discussing the impact of European colonisation on the Natural Sciences to learn more about the subject.

Typical Offer Conditions




41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level


See the University’s Entrance Requirements page

Subject Requirements 


A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics and two other science subjects
(‘Science subjects’ refers to Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics. It does not include Psychology.)

Biology and Chemistry provide a good preparation for most of the biological options in Natural Sciences.
Physics and Chemistry provide a good preparation for most of the physical options in Natural Sciences.
Please also see the Course Outline for advice on specific subject requirements.


Written Work


Admissions Assessment

All applicants for Natural Sciences are required to take a written assessment, the NSAA, at an authorised assessment centre (usually their school or college), for which they must be registered in advance. The registration deadline is 29 September 2023. Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre. The NSAA will take place on 18 October 2023.

Please see the Cambridge Admissions Testing website for information about dates and registration deadlines, and check admission assessments for further details.

General Comments

When applying for Natural Sciences at Cambridge, you will be asked to indicate whether you wish to apply for Biological or Physical Sciences. This will determine what kind of questions you will be asked at interview. At Trinity Hall, Biological applicants will tend to be asked questions about Biology and Chemistry, while Physical applicants will tend to be asked questions about Maths, Physics and Chemistry.

Each interview will be tailored to the individual and the subjects they have studied at school. However, interviews will cover some new ground as well – we want to see how well you deal with new material and with the application of your background knowledge to new problems.