skip to content

Mathematics for the Natural Sciences Tripos (NST)


The level of mathematics involved in the study of the Natural Sciences is high and it helps to arrive well prepared. You can start thinking about the mathematics involved in science well in advance of submitting your application.

What A-level modules should I take?
Your offer will not specify which modules you should take. However, knowledge of mechanics will be very useful and so, whether or not it is part of your A-level, familiarity with Mechanics 1 (M1) and, if possible, Mechanics 2 (M2) is recommended.

How should I prepare mathematically?
It is very important to be mathematically fluent, as you will regularly meet calculations where complicated numbers, formulae and several deductive steps are involved. You will need to be able to formulate scientific problems in the language of mathematics and carefully, clearly and accurately solve these problems. To be apply successfully to apply your knowledge, it is important to see the links between different topics, which may cross A-level module boundaries.

The best way to become mathematically fluent is to practise thinking mathematically in non-routine contexts. The stemNRICH scientific mathematics section of the NRICH website provides problems to think about, along with guidance and articles on the role of mathematics in science.

What material will be covered in the first year mathematics course?
First year natural scientists choose to study one of four different mathematics courses, which cover mathematics at different levels of sophistication. These range from Elementary Mathematics for Biologists, which requires GCSE mathematics, to the Mathematics B course, which requires some knowledge of Further Mathematics. You can read about the details of these courses here. The articles on the stemNRICH website will give more information concerning the nature of mathematical content and thinking in the first year of study in the various scientific disciplines.