What GCE A level subjects should I take?
The most important thing is to choose subjects that excite your interest and enthusiasm. However, you will have an extremely limited choice of subjects in the first year unless you have done GCE A level Chemistry. Mathematics is essential in all the Physical Sciences and should be taken to as high a level as you can manage.
What about Further Mathematics? My school cannot provide the teaching for it.
Further Mathematics is very useful but not essential for study in the Physical Sciences. We find that students who have taken Further Mathematics tend to have an advantage in their first year, in that they can focus on the new concepts introduced in Physics or Chemistry rather than worrying about the Mathematics involved. Of course we are aware that schools vary in the teaching that they can offer, and we do our best to take into account your level of Mathematics at the interview.
What grades do you ask for?
In the Physical Sciences the offer is typically four A grades or two A* and one A grades at GCE A level or equivalent in Sciences and Mathematics. Please do not be put off by the offer - if we make you an offer it means we want to take you.
What can I expect at the admissions interview?
We interview almost all applicants who apply to read Physical Sciences and the interviews are usually held in the first or second week of December. You will have two 30 minute interviews, the first being a general interview and this is followed by the subject interview. In addition there will be a written test.
Why do you set a written test? and what does it involve?
Each student is different - some people excel at interview while others show their talent in a more reserved way. We find the combination of interview and test is a useful way of assessing a students capacity for problem solving together with their ability to simply "get on with it". We are looking for both at Robinson. The written test lasts no more than one hour and involves Maths, Physics and Chemistry. The questions are based on the Core GCE A level syllabus and so special preparation is not necessary.
What form does the Subject interview take?
You will be interviewed by two of our Teaching Fellows usually a Physicist and Chemist. The normal format is to work through a set of problems together.
Do you recommend a "year out" between school and university?
We are fairly neutral about this one. If you have a clear plan for your "year out" then it can help you broaden your outlook on life and for many people it proves to be very valuable. It does carry the risk of losing touch with the academic way of life, and many people find when they finally get to university that they have lost the habit of studying and forgotten some of their scientific knowledge. However, it rarely takes more than a term to get over this.
How much time does the course take up?
In the first year, there are twelve lectures a week and about eight or nine hours of practical work a week. In addition there are College supervisions - three hours a week on average - and the preparation for them, which should occupy another twelve hours a week or so. In addition you will need to work through your lecture notes, read the textbooks and so on. You can see that this adds up to at least 40 hour a week. But much of it can be done at times which suit you, so that you can keep appropriate afternoons free for sport, or evenings free for music or drama or other social activities.
You do need to be well organized to fit everything into eight week terms!
Director of Studies
Dr Bill Nolan. Bill completed his first degree at Imperial College, London and did his PhD in Organic Chemistry here at Cambridge. He is currently a Teaching Fellow at the Department of Chemistry. He organises the majority of the Chemistry practical courses and lectures Organic chemistry in the first and third years. Bill supervises in Organic Chemistry for all undergraduate years in Robinson and he will be your Director of Studies (DOS) during the first two years.
Prof David Ritchie – DOS in Physics & Astrophysics
Dr Rachel Oliver – DOS in Materials Science
Prof Richard Needs – Physics
Dr Melinda Duer – Chemistry
Dr Kevin Chalut - Physics
Dr Paul Griffiths - Chemistry
Dr Alex Chin - Physics
Dr Patricia Fara – History & Philosophy of Science (Clare College)
Dr Nick Butterfield – Earth Sciences (Selwyn College)
Updated June 2012