Natural Sciences Undergraduate Interview Questions (Cambridge University)

Cambridge Natural Sciences Undergraduate Interview

Trinity Hall, Interviewed by Florian Hollfelder and Nick Bampos

  1. The admissions tutor (Richard Miles) and Senior Tutor (Nick Bampos) both made it clear that they were looking at HOW you thought and solved problems, not WHAT you knew.

  2. The idea of the interview was to push you out of your comfort zone and find out how you dealt with complex new material, not test you on what you already knew.

The first interview was a subject interview and was mainly about biology (I was applying for biological Natural Sciences) – I was asked to draw an amino acid and consider how it would react, then I was asked what I thought the biggest discovery in biology of the 20th Century was and why.

I chose antibiotics and was then asked to explain how I thought they worked – something I hadn’t previously learned.

The second interview was called the general interview although after a cursory chat about my personal statement it quickly became a technical conversation about chemistry – It was about the shape of orbitals.

There was also a Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) which was a critical thinking test.

Advice for future candidates:

Listen carefully to what you are being asked – they will start with some facts you should know to relax you, then start to stretch you with stuff you shouldn’t know – make sure you realise when this is and think logically, critically and imaginatively. DON’T interpret the question as something you should already know and waffle about stuff you learned at A level. The idea of the interview is to see how you cope with new, complex material.