Part B: Section 1 of the NSAA

Welcome to Part B of Section 1 of the NSAA! Here we are going to cover the next two available topics you can choose from for Section 1 of the NSAA. All of them are optional, but the idea is to give you a good understanding of the type of questions that await you so that you can make a decision.

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The NSAA will be sat on the 19th October 2022 rather than the usual first week of November. 

Welcome to Part B on Section 1 of the NSAA!

Here we’re going to cover the next two available subjects that you can choose for Section 1 of the NSAA. All of these are optional but the idea is to give you a good understanding of the types of questions to expect so you can make a more informed decision on your choice on test day.

The topics we will cover are Chemistry and Biology.



Section 1C: Chemistry

Most students don’t struggle with NSAA chemistry – however, there are certain questions that even good students tend to struggle with under time pressure e.g. balancing equations and mass calculations. It is essential that you’re able to do these quickly as they take up by far the most time in the chemistry questions.

Balancing equations

For some reason, most students are rarely shown how to formally balance equations – including those studying it at A-level. Balancing equations intuitively or via trial and error will only get you so far in the NSAA as the equations you’ll have to work with will be fairly complex.

To avoid wasting time, it’s essential that you learn a method that solves these questions in less than 60 seconds consistently. Consider this example below;




The Method

Step 1: Pick an element and see how many atoms there are on the left and right sides.
Step 2: Form an equation to represent this. For Cu: b = d
Step 3: See if any of the answer options don’t satisfy b=d. In this case, for option E, b is 8 and d is 10. This allows us to eliminate option E.

Once you’ve eliminated as many options as possible, go back to step 1 and pick another element.
For Hydrogen (H): a + c = 2f

Then see if any of the answer options don’t satisfy a + c = 2f.

  • Option A: 5 + 25 is equal to 2 x 15
  • Option B: 5 + 20 is not equal to 2 x 15
  • Option C: 5 + 20 is not equal to 2 x 15
  • Option D: 2 + 10 is not equal to 2 x 15

This allows us to eliminate option B, C & D. Since E was eliminated earlier, A is the only possible solution. This method works best when you get given a table above as this allows you to quickly eliminate options. However, it is still a viable method even if you don’t get this information.



Section 1D: Biology

Thankfully, the biology questions tend to be fairly straightforward and require the least amount of time. You should be able to do the majority of these within the time limit (often far less). This means that you should be aiming to make up time in these questions. In the majority of cases – you’ll either know the answer or not i.e. they test advanced recall so the trick is to ensure that there are no obvious gaps in your knowledge.

You should ensure you are comfortable with the following topics;

  • Structure of animal, plant and bacterial cells
  • Osmosis, Diffusion and Active Transport
  • Cell Division (mitosis + meiosis)
  • Family pedigrees and Inheritance
  • DNA structure and replication
  • Gene Technology & Stem Cells
  • Enzymes
  • Aerobic and Anaerobic Respiration
  • The central vs. peripheral nervous system
  • The respiratory cycle
  • The Cardiac Cycle
  • Hormones
  • Basic immunology
  • Food chains and food web
  • The carbon and nitrogen cycles

If you find yourself getting less than 50% of Biology questions right when practising, make sure you revisit the syllabus. This is the best way to improve your efficiency; there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get the majority of Biology questions right.

Try this question on for size – the answer is available at the end of the blog post here.




Taken from The Ultimate NSAA Guide which is a complimentary resource provided with the Cambridge Natural Science Programme.



The Biology Answer




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