Chemistry placement information

The information on this page explains the four possible placement recommendations generated for each entering first-year student shortly before arrival on campus.  These are determined using a combination of indicators provided by the Office of Admissions and the Office of Institutional Research. This information, once it becomes available, can be accessed by you and by your faculty advisor via AC Data. The four possible chemistry placements are:

1) Enroll in CHEM 151 (chemistry placement = 151).

2) Enroll in CHEM 151 with Intensive Section, or consider enrolling in CHEM 151 in the spring semester (chemistry placement = 151.1).

3) Delay CHEM 151 until spring pending MATH 105 completion (chemistry placement = 151.2).

4) Enroll in CHEM 155 (chemistry placement = 155).

As you read the guidelines below, please also refer to the course descriptions in the College Catalog.

Introductory Chemistry (CHEM 151, chemistry placement = 151) is the appropriate first course for first-year students who placed into MATH 111, although students who have taken only a limited amount of physical science in high school may also be placed into CHEM 151. The typical CHEM 151 student goes on to take CHEM 161 (Chemical Principles) in the spring, although both of these courses are offered each fall and spring. The course generally consists of fifty-minute classes three times a week, a weekly fifty-minute discussion section, and a weekly three-hour lab. Students must register separately for the lecture, one of the discussion sections, and one of the laboratory sections. Please be aware that CHEM 161, the course that follows 151, requires completion of MATH 111, or both MATH 105 and 106, or placement by the mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.

Introductory Chemistry Intensive (CHEM 151i, chemistry placement = 151.1) is designed for students with a more limited chemistry or math background in high school. The course is identical in essentially all respects to fall-semester CHEM 151, but in addition to the lecture, section, and lab, the intensive section includes a weekly two-hour problem solving session. Enrollment in the intensive section is by invitation only, and all students with a CHEM151.1 chemistry placement will receive an invitation during the first week of classes. Students with a 151.1 chemistry placement should also register separately for the 151 lecture, one of the discussion sections, and one of the laboratory sections.

Alternatively, students who receive a chemistry placement of 151.1 might wish to consider delaying taking CHEM 151 until the spring semester (the so-called "off-semester" of CHEM 151), followed by taking CHEM 161 in the fall of their sophomore year. Postponing chemistry for a semester gives students with more limited preparations in high school math and science a chance to acclimate to Amherst and to the expectations of college-level work during the fall, after which they are often better positioned to begin chemistry.

Special note for students placing into MATH 105 and thus receiving a chemistry placement = 151.2): We strongly recommend that incoming students who have placed into MATH 105 wait until the spring semester of their first year to take CHEM 151. Our experience is that students have a far more positive experience in chemistry if they enroll in CHEM 151 in the spring after completion of MATH 105. Many students who take MATH 105 in the fall enroll in both MATH 106 and CHEM 151 in their second semester. These students will then be ready to take CHEM 161 in the fall of their sophomore year (note that to enroll in CHEM 161, students who began in MATH 105 must also have already completed MATH 106).

Fundamental Principles of Chemistry (CHEM 155, chemistry placement = 155) is a version of first-semester introductory chemistry intended for students who have a strong preparation in the physical sciences and mathematics, though completion of AP or IB chemistry in high school is certainly not a requirement for placement into CHEM 155. Prior experience with calculus is expected, and students must have a placement recommendation of MATH 121 or higher from the MATH department to take CHEM 155. This course presents introductory chemistry from a point of view that emphasizes physical principles and more rigorous mathematical reasoning. Like CHEM 151, CHEM 155 also generally consists of three lectures, a discussion section, and a laboratory section each week. CHEM 165, which is offered only in the spring, is the appropriate second-semester general-chemistry course for students who have completed CHEM 155.

Important note: CHEM 155 is only offered in the fall semester, and students who place into CHEM 155 will not be permitted to enroll in the off-semester of CHEM 151 in the spring. Therefore, incoming students who place into CHEM 155 must take the course in the fall if they wish to begin their chemistry studies during their first year at the College.  Similarly CHEM 165 is only offered in the spring, and students who have completed CHEM 155 will not be permitted to enroll in CHEM 161.

Please feel free to direct any placement questions to Dr. Stephen Cartier (x5480,