Biological Natural Sciences interview advice

InsideUni Team
Created: 2 years, 11 months ago
Last modified: 2 years, 11 months ago

So you’ve got an interview for Biological Natural Sciences (NatSci) at Cambridge, congratulations! To help you prepare we’ve compiled some of the best advice from real NatSci applicants who went to interview so you can get all the top tips in one place.

- Recap A Level material (particularly topics you mention on your SAQ
- Be ready to elaborate on your personal statement and know it inside out!
- Practice talking through Biological problems and concepts out loud (get your friends/family/teachers to help if you can)
- Try to enjoy the experience - it is a massive achievement to get an interview and a great opportunity to learn from academics!

How to Prepare

“My advice is just to go over A Level content as much as you can, especially the things you've made it clear from your personal statement you're interested in, as because natural sciences is so broad they focus on what you have said you want to study. Ask teachers/family/friends to practice any possible questions with you, just to get the hang of thinking on the spot and talking through it aloud because it feels very different to writing an answer on an exam.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I revised everything from my A Levels that I had studied so far, I used flash cards for this because I found that was the quickest method to cover all the content. I read over my personal statement and recapped summaries of any books I had read/essays I had written.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I think the most useful thing to do to prepare would just be to the over your A Level content (or whatever course you’re taking). You don’t need to know everything in detail for your interviews as you’re being assessed on your ability to learn and process information rather than your memory. However it’s always handy to know the main topics for your course as it’ll be easier to link ideas together and help you follow what you’re interviewer is saying. I would also advise going over your biological math skills especially graphs!!”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Re-read your personal statement - if you mention any key areas (like an EPQ, work experience placement) try to recap any material relating to those. Even if your personal statement just says 'I attended x placement', its worth having a think about how you would respond if they asked you what you learned while you were there! When I completed the SAQ they asked for a list of topics that I had covered at A level, keep a note of these and revise any you're particularly uncomfortable with as these may be used to decide what topics to discuss in your interview. Try to get the basics down, it's unlikely you'll be asked a question that requires really specific knowledge but if you have the basic principles that will help with tackling questions.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I prepared answers for any question I could think of to do with my personal statement and current research etc, and practised speaking answers to random A level questions out loud to get used to explaining the thought process.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Sidney Sussex College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Re-read your personal statement - this is very important as they might ask some specific questions from it. Break down each sentence and try to elaborate outside of what you said in your personal statement.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Trinity Hall College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I came up with my own interview questions about the topic - for biology, try to come up with pros and cons of different mechanisms (like negative vs positive feedback, using passive or active transport etc - this will get you thinking about the subject). If you can get someone to listen to your explanations (a friend, a family member), this definitely helps, but is not essential - the most important thing is to be able to just say it out loud. It was quite difficult for me to start speaking in English, as it is not my first language - I would advise to talk to someone or yourself in English, just to adjust to it, if you don't use it daily at home or at school.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Emmanuel College | Full interview here 🔗.

What to expect on the day

”I had to explain where I got my answers from the whole way through which was actually very helpful as it made the interview seem more like a discussion than an examination.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“An important point: the interviewers know what they're talking about inside and out so if you don't know what something means or the questions just ask or tell them what you think it means. That is so much better than struggling and pretending you do know. I don't know about others but i was never asked any questions like the weird/incredibly abstract ones you see in articles.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Don’t worry too much about sounding intelligent straight away, in my second interview there were times where I would sit in silence trying to figure out what to say but as it went on I found out that it was much better to talk aloud as it lets them know how you think and they can guide you more easily.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | King's College | Full interview here 🔗.

”In the interview, if you made a mistake, then that's fine. Just relax and have fun. They know we're just students and they won't really mind if we can't answer some questions or are confused. Just say what you're thinking and it doesn't matter whether your answer is right or wrong, they just want to know how you tackle harder questions that you haven't come across before (they're meant to be challenging).”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Trinity Hall College | Full interview here 🔗.

“The interviewers are looking for you to work with them through a problem, they are not expecting you to get everything right so as long as you communicate with them through the interview and tell them your thought process you're doing the right thing! It will most likely be a stressful time but once it's over you'll be able to look back at it and think that it wasn't as bad as you thought it was going to be!”
Natural Sciences (Biological) Downing College | Full interview here 🔗.

”If you get stuck you can say stuff like ‘I’m not sure but based on what you said before it could be ...’.”
` Natural Sciences (Biological) | Sidney Sussex College | Full interview here 🔗.

“In the interview itself, do take time to consider the question, but try not to stay silent. If you are really stuck, try speaking about why you're stuck i.e. 'well I know it definitely isn't y because of x', or 'it could be x but y doesn't support that'. It's much better to show your thinking, even if you're sure it is all wrong, than show nothing at all! Definitely don't prepare what you're going to say as such, but if there are some things from your application you think they may ask about then maybe have a think about a few points you could mention… having some ideas ready can help you feel a little less nervous.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Try and just seem enthusiastic; my first interviewer seemed happiest with me when I spoke at the end about what I wanted to study in the course and what I thought I'd end up doing, as I had a clear idea of where I wanted my studies to take me.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗.

”The interviewers want you to do well, and if you get stuck they will help you or give you a hint, so it's important to communicate with them. Make sure you tell them what you are thinking when you are working out the question - it also makes it easier to spot your own mistakes this way.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Emmanuel College | Full interview here 🔗.

“The interviewers aren’t out to get you. They’ll encourage you to the right answer, and just genuinely want to see how you think (talk through what you are thinking)."
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Downing College | Full interview here 🔗.

“If you have an idea, say it! Even if you think it is wrong, it’s better to speak your thoughts and explain yourself than sit there in silence. Sometimes the answer is much simpler than you’d think so don’t try to overthink things, take it steady and just enjoy it :)”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Gonville & Caius College | Full interview here 🔗.

General advice

”My advice would be to revise your A level content and know it well, if anything this gives you the confidence you need in the interview. Also don’t panic if you get a question wrong - I went off on completely the wrong lines on one of my questions and it didn’t really matter it just led the conversation in a different direction.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I’d say my best advice is to have confidence in yourself, you’re not expected to know everything and that’s not what the admissions teams are looking for. Don’t try and mould yourself into what you think the perfect student is, it’s better that you just be yourself and show what you’re really passionate about than what you think your university want you to be.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗.

“My advice is to enjoy the interview. You are speaking to top academics in a subject that you are both interested in. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn. I think the interviewers were looking for a willingness to learn, but also the ability to take in new information and use it to develop your answers.”
Natural Sciences (Biological) | Murray Edwards College | Full interview here 🔗.

If you would like to read the accounts of Natural Sciences applicants in full, we have thousands of testimonials in the Interviews section of our website. Biological Natural Sciences testimonials can be found here 🔗. You can find non-course specific information about the interview and how to prepare a Cambridge application here 🔗, and the Cambridge University YouTube channel also has a video 🔗 about the interview process.

Good luck!