So, you’re considering applying to study Biological Sciences at Cambridge or another top university – what comes next? The most important thing you can do is to make sure you choose subjects that give you the best chance of being accepted onto the course you want. Certain subjects provide an advantage for university entry; these subjects are referred to as facilitating subjects, and are particularly important for success to Russell Group universities, including Oxbridge.
We generally prefer applicants to have taken certain subjects, or combinations of subjects, because we believe that they are more likely to provide an effective preparation for study at the University – University of Cambridge
To study Biological Sciences within the Cambridge Natural Sciences Tripos, the main facilitating subjects are Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. Other useful subjects are Physics and Further Mathematics. It is recommended that you study at least two of these core subjects at A level, but most applicants to Cambridge will have studied at least 3 facilitating subjects.
Only 33% of bright but disadvantaged students took one or more A-level exams in facilitating subjects when compared to 58% of bright but more advantaged students. – Sutton Trust
Although it isn’t currently a formal entry requirement of the University, most Cambridge colleges will not accept students for Natural Sciences (Biological) without some mathematics post-GCSE – even AS level Maths will strengthen your application considerably, but it is recommended that you do the full A level Mathematics course. It is less important which combination of maths modules you do – doing any of Pure/Core, Statistics, Mechanics or Decision maths will give you a good basis for an application to Natural Sciences at Cambridge.
For more information on subject choice:
- Cambridge University has put together the ‘Subject Matters‘ guide for post-16 choices, which is discussed by the Director of Admissions in this useful article ‘Why A level subject choices matter’.
- A guide from the Russell Group on ‘Informed choices‘ to help you with your post-16 choices.
- The Society of Biology also has a careers guide called ‘Becoming a Biologist‘ that has useful information specific to Biological Sciences.