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Unlike some of the other Oxbridge admissions tests, you have to be familiar with a LOT of content before sitting the NSAA. You must make sure you have revised and are confident with the entire Yr 12 syllabus, and some Yr 13 material, for 2 or 3 A-level subjects. As with all the Oxbridge admissions tests, the tutors are most interested to see how you apply your knowledge, instead of how much you know. Having said that, you need to know all the information to apply it correctly.

Having revised the syllabus fully (laid out in full in our free NSAA guidebook), here is what you can do to prepare yourself for the NSAA. 

Past Papers

The past papers, which you can find online here, are the best way to prepare: do the papers thoroughly, perhaps with your notes at first and then in exam conditions. Although each paper will bring something unexpected, putting in enough practice will lead you to expect the unexpected and hone the necessary skills! 

It is also worth practising the questions you wouldn’t do. For example, if you are intending to answer one physics and one chemistry question in Section 2, try and do all the physics and chemistry sections in the section 2s you do. This means that if you have a dodgy paper, you will be more prepared for questions that do not completely suit your skill set. 

If you have other friends doing the NSAA, or teachers who are willing to help, it is also worth doing the papers with them, or at least discussing them afterwards. Everyone will have different ways of approaching the questions, and it is useful to see other people’s methods of thinking, as they may give you different options and help you out in a sticky situation in an exam! 

Our Courses

At STEPMaths we also run in-person courses that prepare you for the NSAA. We even have courses dedicated to NSAA maths and time-saving tricks. The NSAA is a time-pressured exam, and the latter course teaches invaluable techniques to get you through all the questions at a good pace. You will get one-on-one advice from expert tutors and opportunities to meet and work with people preparing for the same exams for you, which can be an invaluable experience.

Remember, the NSAA is all about testing how well you think about the content. So the most important thing to do is to improve your scientific understanding. You can do this by practising lots of online problems, as well as the NSAA, and actively engaging in science – for example, by listening to lectures and reading journals. Although knowing the syllabus is important, the admissions tutors are most interested in how you apply your knowledge.


This should all have given you a good idea of how to prepare for the NSAA. But what about actually sitting the exam? Take a look at our carefully refined technique for making the most out of your time in the exam room, and maximise your NSAA score.

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