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Part II subject allocation procedures

Advice to Tutors and Directors of Studies

The allocation of students to subjects in Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos is the responsibility of the Natural Sciences Tripos Management Committee. It is very important that Tutors and Directors of Studies advise their students on the suitability and popularity of the available courses and indicate to them their likelihood of being accepted into the Department(s) of their choice.

Subjects may have restricted entry due to space and supervision constraints and students may be entered in a second round of allocations. There are usually no restrictions on numbers of places available on Astrophysics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Materials Science, Physics, and Physical Sciences.

The majority of students will be notified of their allocated subject via a personal email. Approximately 80% of students are placed in Round 1 of allocations, into their first choice Department.

The remaining students are told which Department they have been allocated to within two weeks to enable them to prepare fully for their third year. A small number students may end up not being allocated to any Department, because of their choices and the popularity of the Departments they have chosen. These students must work with their Director of Studies to find a course for their next year. No central support is available for this, although Directors of Studies will be provided with a list of courses that still have spaces available and a list of departmental contacts.  Any request to change Part II department or option after Round 2 should be addressed directly to the Department, although the NST Coordinator should be kept informed of any changes.

The allocation procedure is designed to make the allocation of students as fair as possible. Inevitably, any system will not solve the difficulties of too many students wishing to study in a particular Department. Although every effort will be made to avoid any students remaining unallocated, the allocation of students has taken place through this advertised procedure and with the agreement of all Departments and the Colleges.

Notes of Guidance


  • All potential Part II students need to enter their choices on the online form (this includes all NST students (biological and physical), all Med/VetST students, students transferring IN from another Tripos, those transferring OUT to another Tripos, and returning students.
  • Students may indicate through the online form up to FOUR preferences of Department and option they would wish to read at Part II. Choices are indicated in order of preference, and students will be required to indicate, where relevant, their preferred study option (research project or dissertation) or preferred Department (for the Physical Sciences option).
  • For Departments where there are no restrictions on numbers, students can limit their choice to one Department.
  • For biological sciences subjects, in order to ensure that students are placed in one of the two rounds, they should be encouraged to use all their choices and put down, as their fourth choice, a Department and/or course where there are generally places available. In particular they should be encouraged to put down a BSS preference. Previous years' allocation data is provided for this purpose: in general, the dissertation options in some biological Departments, and many of the physical sciences Departments have an excess number of places.
  • If a student does NOT wish to undertake a major research project in their final year, then they should be directed to use the 'BBS' option on the online form next to the relevant Department(s).
  • There are a set of selection criteria by each Department which outline the procedure by which students will be selected and the attributes that are being sought. Some Departments also require additional information and students are advised to contact the Department(s) directly as well as registering their choices online.
  • Those students considering taking Part III should consult the information available on the NST website at: The Fourth Year - Part III and the relevant Part III site at: Course websites. Students are not required to indicate any intentions regarding Part III at this stage.
  • There are two rounds of allocations; in Round 1, available places are filled according to students’ first choices and the published selection criteria; in biological Departments (including HPS and Biological Anthropology) up to 90% of places are filled. College Tutorial offices will be notified of students who have not been allocated in this first round as soon as possible. Round 2, following an opportunity for student choices to be amended, involves a pool-style interdepartmental meeting to allocate as many of the remaining students as possible.

Transferring OUT students:

  • If a student wishes to transfer to another Tripos they will not be entered into Round 1 of the allocation. They will be contacted after Round 1 and, if they have not yet received confirmation of their transfer, they will be invited to enter preferences to be considered in Round 2 in case their transfer is unsuccessful.
  • Please bear in mind that if students wishing to transfer to a new Tripos have not registered preferences for Round 2 of the allocations and they subsequently do not meet the requirements to transfer they will not have received an NST allocation.
  • At all stages of the process these students should update us of the status of their transfer via the online form.
  • Other Triposes have varying deadlines, application procedures and entry requirements. Directors of Studies and students should contact these departments early in their IB year to discuss their local processes.
  • Please note, if a student wishes to transfer to the Law Tripos, this may require two years of study at Part II rather than one.

Transferring IN students:

  • In consultation with their Director of Studies, students from outside the NST and Med/VetST are welcome to submit Part II choices to transfer into Part II NST.
  • The NST Coordinator will provide their IB marks (either via a CamSIS search or by asking their current Department) to NST Departments for the allocation process to ensure they are a suitable candidate for transfer.
  • These students will only be considered for transder into the NST in Round 2 after all NST and Med/VetST students have been allocated.

Students who have failed IB or withdrew from examinations:

  • From the markbooks that accompany the allocation we will note those students who either withdrew from the examinations or failed to meet the pass mark.
  • As we do not know the status of these students, they are encouraged to enter their Part II choices.  They will be provided with an allocation at Round 2, but Colleges will be contacted to inform them that the allocation is only valid if the student has been allowed to progress into Part II through the EAMC mitigation processes.

Intermitting students:

  • If you are aware of any student currently out of residence who will be returning to Part II, please ask them to register their preferences in the online form, or do so on their behalf, so Departments can be reminded to hold their previously allocated place.
  • If a student that is currently intermitting would like to change their allocation, they can do so by filling out the form and entering the allocation alongside the other students. If they choose this, their previously allocated subject will no longer be guaranteed.

Students with extenuating circumstances:

  • Such circumstances can vary widely and may often be connected to failed or withdrawn students.
  • If you are aware of any students with any extenuating circumstances, you should contact the students first choice department as soon as you become aware so this can be considered in the allocation process.
  • These students' choices will be considered by the departments on an individual basis and they may request further details on the students academic abilities to inform their decision.
  • Please also let the NST Coordinator know.