Physical Natural Sciences interview advice

InsideUni Team
Created: 4 weeks ago
Last modified: 4 weeks ago

So you’ve got an interview for Physical 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. If you are interviewing for Biological NatSci you can find advice here.

- Use Isaac Physics 🔗 🌟 to help you prepare (almost all of the testimonials we receive for Phys NatSci mention using this)
- Practise graph sketching and solving math problems without a calculator
- -Being confident with A Level/GCSE formula can be helpful
Don’t stress yourself out at the last minute by cramming; it’s better to spend the time relaxing and getting into a good headspace!
- Try to do mock interviews if you can - they don’t need to be with your relevant A Level teachers to be helpful (e.g. you can get your parents, friends, teachers from other departments to help!)

How to Prepare

“For problem solving, physics skills, and graph sketching, Isaac Physics was by far the most useful resource…. I tried to keep up to date with scientific topics, in part so I could discuss recent discoveries if asked” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Christ's College | Full interview here 🔗.

“I made sure I was comfortable with all of the topics I have said I will have covered before the interview in the SAQ. “ - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Peterhouse College | Full interview here 🔗

“I made sure I was confident in my subjects. I practiced drawing graphs of unusual, but not too crazy, functions… My advice would be to do lots of practice NSAA papers and isaac physics questions whenever you have spare time. Make sure you are confident with the content you’ve already done at college/sixth form… The important thing is to be engaged and make an intelligent attempt at solving the problem even if you get it wrong.” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Christ's College | Full interview here 🔗

“I read over my personal statement and identified any key areas the interviewers could ask me about to make sure I understood them and could talk about them fairly confident” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗

“I prepared by going over my physics notes from the previous year, making sure my maths and further maths skills were up to scratch, and practicing common graph sketching problems (they really like those!).” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Robinson College | Full interview here 🔗.

What to Expect

“Prepare yourself to sit in silence if you need to think for a moment before you explain what you are thinking: it feels really awkward but if that's the way you need to think then you might as well (also, one second will feel like ten but it's really not that long)." - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Gonville & Caius College | Full interview here 🔗.

“It is very important to think carefully during the interviews and also to discuss your ideas with the interviewers so they know what you are thinking. It is also crucial to listen very carefully to the interviewers and understand what they are asking of you - you shouldn't be afraid to ask them to clarify a question if you didn't understand it the first time!” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Girton College | Full interview here 🔗.

“The problems were long and one part led to another. If I was unsure, the interviewers would provide hints to keep my thinking going.” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Christ's College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Things go wrong in interviews (they did in mine!) and just because you get stuck on one question doesn’t mean you’ve done badly. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling- the question will probably be difficult and needing a hint won’t ruin your chances of an offer.” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Queens' College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Try to always say out loud your thought process and WRITE DOWN stuff. Don't miss out important lines of working trying to go quicker than is expected and then make a silly mistake. Try to stay as relaxed as possible (I realise this is hard) as your thoughts will be clearer and better if you are. Also, if you are really stuck then don't be afraid to ask for help but as you do, say what you're thinking e.g. My initial thoughts are this but I'm not sure about how this thing will affect the problem." - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Pembroke College | Full interview here 🔗.

General Advice

”I think perhaps the best thing an applicant can do is to relish the experience of applying to Oxbridge as another outlet to express your passion for your chosen subject.” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Downing College | Full interview here 🔗.

“My advice would be don't panic when you think you've made a mistake or haven't got the solution the interviewers were looking for. They are there to guide you and help you to find the right path in order to see your thought process rather than a 'perfect answer'. Also try to remain confident in yourself between interviews, it's often easy to over-analyse your previous interview and psyche yourself out for the next one. Rather just take on board what you think could have been better in the previous interview and treat the next one, as much as possible, as a fresh attempt with lots of willingness and enthusiasm.” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Newnham College | Full interview here 🔗.

“Cambridge is extremely tough and plenty of people who do get in find that they would enjoy their university experience more in a less high pressure environment. I haven't got a single friend who goes to any other Russell group university who isn't really glad they ended up going there and made great friends there. Wherever you end up, you'll enjoy it. Just see a Cambridge application as a "why not, if I get in that's amazing and if not, there's so many other amazing places to go as well".” - Natural Sciences (Physical) | Robinson 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. Physical Natural Sciences testimonials can be found here 🔗 🌟, and those for Biological Natural Sciences 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!