We are delighted that you have an offer of a place to read biological sciences here at Downing from October. Once your school or college examinations are over, you may want to think about making some preparation before you start your course at Cambridge. This may well ease your workload during term.
As it indicates on the official website for the Natural Sciences Tripos, there is no pre-requisite preparatory reading that needs to be done. However, the web-site does list some texts that might be useful introductions to some of the subjects. These range from the foundation textbooks (Molecular Biology of the Cell) to more ‘light’ reading. Rather than the available couple of months, it would probably take a good year to read everything suggested! However, you may want to browse some of these to help you in making your selections of courses.
If you have not taken A–level Biology and are proposing to take Biology courses then it is very valuable to do some preparatory work. We would suggest Essential Cell Biology, the companion book to Molecular Biology of the Cell, that contains basic, core knowledge about how cells work. Alternatively you could consult an A2–level Biology text.
Many of you will choose to take Chemistry as one of your first–year subjects, in which case the suggested book' Why Chemical Reactions Happen' gives an excellent explanation of the basic ideas in Chemistry.
Another useful approach would be to revise your Maths. All first year Natural Scientists are required to read a Maths course. Many biologists find that Maths can take a disproportionate amount of their effort, and a few weeks of revision before October can make the difference between staying on top of the course and struggling to keep up. The University provides support for the transition between school– and university–level maths, which can be accessed at http://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergradnst/prospective//preArrival/. We would particularly recommend looking at the biologist–relevant parts of the NRICH programme, on www.nrich.maths.org/6884.
The Natural Sciences Tripos website has other useful information and is worth browsing. Please do also look at the information about the different IA courses as, although you do not have to make a final decision on your subject choices until you are actually here in Cambridge, it is obviously important to think about it and to have got any relevant information. We will be asking you for your provisional options, or best guess at what you'd like to take, during September. I will be in touch about this again soon, but please let me know if I can offer any advice.
The months between completing your examinations, receiving your grades and, hopefully, coming to Cambridge are going to slip away all too quickly, and we look forward to seeing you soon. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.