What is the NSAA?
The Natural Sciences Admissions Asesment (NSAA) is a 2-hour written exam for prospective Cambridge natural sciences and veterinary sciences applicants.
Why is it used?
Cambridge applicants tend to be a bright bunch and therefore usually have excellent grades. For example, in 2013 over 65% of students who applied to Cambridge for Natural Sciences had UMS greater than 90% in all of their A level subjects. The NSAA helps split the good applicants (which almost everyone is) from the excellent.
When is the NSAA?
The NSAA takes place in the first week of November every year, normally on a Wednesday Morning.
Where do I sit the NSAA?
You can usually sit the NSAA at your school or college (ask your exams officer for more information). Alternatively, if your school isn’t a registered test centre or you’re not attending a school or college, you can sit the NSAA at an authorised test centre.
How is the NSAA scored?
Section 1 – each question carries one mark and there is no negative marking.
Section 2 – marks for each question are indicated alongside it. Unless stated otherwise, you will only score marks for correct answers if you show your working.
How is the NSAA used?
Each Cambridge college will place a different weight on different components of your application. You can find out more information by emailing your preferred college’s admissions office. Cambridge tends to interview many candidates so your NSAA score isn’t vital for the interview shortlist, but it can play a massive part in the final decision after your interview.
When should you start revising?
It is much easier to prepare if you practice little and often. Start your preparation well in advance; ideally by mid September but at the latest by early October. This way you will have plenty of time to complete as many papers as you wish to feel comfortable and won’t have to panic and cram just before the test, which is a much less effective and more stressful way to learn.
Where can I start revising for the NSAA?
The NSAA is a very new exam so there aren’t many sample papers available. Specimen papers are freely available online here.
For this section you are not permitted to use a calculator. All candidates are required to complete Part A (Maths), then you can choose two further parts from Part B (choice of Physics, Chemistry, Biology & Advanced Mathematics and Advanced Physics). This section is only positively marked, meaning you won’t lose marks for wrong answers – that means you should at least attempt everthing!
Section 2 questions are designed to stretch you by putting you out of your comfort zone. In addition to the core knowledge required for section 1, you will need to apply core scientific principles in unfamiliar contexts.
All section 2 questions require you to have the knowledge from section 1A maths as well as the corresponding subject knowledge from section 1. For example biology section 2 questions require 1A maths and 1D Biology. Similarly, physics Section 2 questions require 1A maths, 1B physics and 1E advanced maths/physics. Each question is out of 25 marks.