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The Cambridge interview process is often thought of as shrouded in mystery – but really, it’s not that complicated. We’ve answered all the key questions you might have.

What will they ask me questions about?

Your Natural Sciences interviews will be predominantly technical. Tutors will give you a problem and then work through it with you. You will either have paper in front of you, or you will be expected to work it out on a whiteboard.

Interviews for Natural Sciences will be predominantly technical. They’re not going to ask for your thoughts on the nature of the discipline; they want to see your problem solving ability.

How long will my interviews be?

Interviews tend to be between 20-30 minutes, and you will likely work through two questions, either on two different subjects that you are interested in, or solely focused on one. 

How many interviews will I have?

You are likely to have two interviews. If you’ve only focused on two sciences, you’ll tend to have one interview on each; if you’ve focused on three, they should all crop up across the two interviews. 

Will I be asked about maths?

A maths question may be incorporated into any physical science question, as a preliminary. For example, you may be asked to draw a graph, and then later to analyse what it would mean if this was the graphical representation of the results of a certain experiment. 

How hard will the questions be?

You are likely to have a simple question at the beginning of the interview, but this will later be developed. Some examples of preliminary questions you may get are: 

“Name the group 1 metals.” (Chemistry)

Write cos(pi/2) in terms of surds” (Maths)

“Explain Newton’s Law of Gravitation” (Physics)

Will I have to do anything else in my interviews?

You will probably have two interviews in one day, and you may also go through some questions from the NSAA in your interview. The tutors may ask you to redo a question you did wrong, with their guidance, or they may present a question and then extend it further. Some colleges may also make you do another pre-interview test the hour before your interview, which you will then go through in your interview. 

Natural Sciences Interviews Myth Busting: 

  • The interviewer will NOT try to catch you out. They will offer you advice and tips for solving the questions – do not ignore them. They want to see how you listen and react to their guidance. 
  • You will NOT get asked questions on sciences you have not studied. If you haven’t done Chemistry A-Level, you will not get Chemistry questions! The tutors aren’t monsters… 
  • The questions WILL be answerable. Although they will be taxing and more involved than those you get at A-Level, the tutors want you to be able to solve them. They are not going to make the questions so hard that they are impossible, don’t worry! 
  • Your interviews ARE marked. The system is simple, and the tutors who are in your interview (you may have up to 3) each give you a mark out of 10, in answer to the question ‘Can I see this student here next year?’ 

“Going into the interviews, I was expecting more of a general chat. Instead, it was very much, ‘Do this problem. Now do this problem,’ which I’ve come to realise is quite common for Physical Natural Science interviews.”

Harry S, Natural Sciences, Cambridge

Conclusion

As you can see, Natural Sciences interviews aren’t some great mystery. As long as you prepare well, and stay engaged with the interviewer, responding to any hints they might give you, you’ll be in a good position to do well. For more of an idea what to expect, why not check out our example Natural Sciences interview?

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