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If you want to study science, and your heart’s set on Cambridge, then you’ll have to get to grips with Natural Sciences. Most of the sciences at Cambridge are taught within the framework of Natural Sciences – including the physical Natural Sciences. But what exactly is Natural Sciences, and what are the ‘physical’ Natural Sciences?

What is Natural Sciences?

Natural Sciences is a broad course offered at most universities across the country. It is an umbrella course under which the majority of science-based subjects are taught. For example, in the first year of studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, you choose three science subjects from: 

  • Biology of Cells
  • Chemistry 
  • Earth Sciences 
  • Evolution and Behaviour
  • Materials Science
  • Physics
  • Physiology of Organisms

On top of this, you’ll take one maths option (either Mathematics or Mathematical Biology).

What are the physical natural sciences?

This series of blog posts will focus on the physical natural sciences (not the biological ones), and advise you on the application process. At Cambridge, the flexibility of the course makes it possible to take either: 

  • Purely biological sciences
  • Purely physical sciences
  • Or a combination of the two. 

As a result, this series will be useful for you if you are interested in taking physical sciences or a combination of the two. 

The physical natural sciences are:

  • Chemistry
  • Earth Sciences
  • Materials Sciences
  • Physics
  • Maths

The Earth Sciences and Materials Science courses begin from scratch, whereas the Maths, Physics and Chemistry courses push quickly on from A-Level. 

Natural Sciences is a popular course as it offers so much scope for study, and you don’t have to specialise until later on. Even further into the degree, you can still study up to three sciences; at Cambridge, you can keep your degree broad throughout or specialise in your third year in a wide variety of subjects, including astrophysics, biochemistry, and history and philosophy of science. 

How many places does Cambridge have for Natural Sciences?

Cambridge offers about 650 Natural Science places per year, and 400 of these are for the Physical Natural Sciences.

What do I need to get into Cambridge Natural Sciences?

The offer is usually A*A*A, with A*s in Science or Maths A-Levels. Some colleges request you have done three Science or Maths A-Levels, and although some may accept you with only two, this will limit the options you can take throughout your degree. Cambridge asks for 40-42 IB points with 7, 7, 6 in higher level, with two 7s in Maths or Science subjects. Although Further Maths is not requested, it can put you at a great advantage throughout the course and can potentially lead to an easier offer. 

Where else can I study Natural Sciences?

Natural Sciences is not offered at Oxford, but it is offered at a variety of UK universities as well as Cambridge, such as: 

  • Durham 
  • Leeds
  • Bath
  • Exeter
  • UCL 
  • Birmingham

“I applied to Natural Sciences because of its interdisciplinary nature. At A-Level I was unsure what type of science I wanted to specialise in, so this course seemed like the natural choice. Cambridge seemed the best place to do this degree because of its immense research output as well as unique supervision system, allowing for the learning to be tailored.”

Jake C, Natural Sciences, Cambridge

“When applying to university, I was torn between Physics, Chemistry and Maths. I didn’t want to commit to a single subject in case I changed my mind once I started. Natural Sciences was very appealing as I could start broad and specialise in my later years. It also had the benefit of giving me the chance to study a wide range of subjects, which I found helped me see problems from several perspectives.”

– Harry S, Natural Sciences, Cambridge


As you can see, Natural Sciences is a fantastically broad degree. You aren’t forced into immediate specialisation, but instead get to explore a wide range of subjects. If you’re interested in a Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge, why not read more about the content of the course?