Finally, you’ve got an offer, and you’re getting ready to start a Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge. But how can you make sure you’re prepared?
Revise your A-level content!
It might sound unappealing after the intense period of A-level revision, but most of the subjects involved in a Natural Sciences degree follow on from A-Levels you will have studied. So you need to make sure you retain a good understanding of the relevant school content.
Revise A-level Maths and Further Maths
Furthermore, all the Physical Natural Sciences depend upon on a firm understanding of maths. The skills you learnt in A-Level Maths, as well as Further Maths if applicable, are important skills that will be of huge use throughout a Natural Sciences degree – not just from a theoretical angle, but also for practical analysis. After your labs you will be expected to write detailed lab reports, where you will use lots of statistical techniques to analyse the data. Although you will have lectures going through all these techniques, a firm foundation of mathematical skills will be presupposed.
Brush up on your general science skills
Many other skills that you have learnt whilst studying for science A-Levels will be applicable to a Natural Sciences degree. Even the subjects that do not directly follow on from an A-Level, such as Earth Sciences and Material Sciences, will have roots in skills you learnt at school. Some useful transferable skills that will serve you well at university include:
- Clear methods. As the problems you are solving become more involved, it is important to lay out your workings clearly. Often at university, most of the interesting science is done in the working out phase, and therefore it is important to be able to present your methodology as clearly as possible.
- Precision and Accuracy. Whether measuring results or applying formulae, precision is an important part of Science A-Levels and also a Science degree. Making sure your workings are correct, neat and precise will ensure you reach the correct answers.
- General Scientific Understanding. One of the aims of Science A-Level subjects is to provide you with a general understanding of science. For example, how to prepare and conduct an experiment, write a risk assessment and write an analysis. Also, how to present your findings, and how to use hypotheses and theories about the results. These skills form an important foundation for your university studies.
- Self-Study. Although you are mostly guided through the content at school, there is an element of self-study in solidifying concepts for yourself and also in preparation for the next lessons. All these skills will come in great use in your degree, as most of the learning will be done through self-study. As the contact hours are high in a Natural Sciences degree, you will learn to prepare well and make the most of them, and then fill in the blanks independently. Self-study in a Natural Sciences degree will include things like:
- Reading around the subject in textbooks,
- Revisiting lecture notes and rewatching them online (if possible),
- Watching videos on YouTube explaining key concepts,
- Working through problems on your set problem sheet and also any extra problems in textbooks.
Of course, you deserve to relax the summer after your A-levels. Enjoy the sun, and the new-found acres of free time. But do take a little time to get some academic work done: you’ll make the first few weeks of your degree much easier. And take a look at our guide to making the most of the summer before your Natural Sciences degree.