Placement Tests

Placement tests serve to adapt the needs and backgrounds of individual students to the College curriculum. They place entering students at the proper level of study in a given subject and may be used to award academic credit where appropriate. On the one hand, placement tests minimize the repetition of subjects already mastered and, on the other, they reduce the possibility that students might begin their programs with courses for which they are inadequately prepared. Placement tests measure skill in problem solving as well as general knowledge in a subject field. Students who have some background in the areas being tested are urged to review it, but incoming students without such knowledge are not expected to acquire it over the summer preceding entrance.

Placement tests may be taken only at the time of matriculation (with the exception of the biological sciences placement test) and each test may be taken only once. Over the summer, information that describes these tests in detail is sent to all incoming first-year and transfer students.

Mathematics Placement Test and Calculus Placement Test. Every student must take either the mathematics placement test or the calculus placement test during Orientation. Students with no knowledge of calculus should take the mathematics placement test. Students who have taken a calculus course before coming to the University of Chicago should take the calculus placement test. Scores on the mathematics placement test determine the appropriate beginning mathematics course for each student: a precalculus course (Mathematics 10500) or one of three other courses (Mathematics 11200, Mathematics 13100, or Mathematics 15100). Scores on the calculus placement test also determine which level of mathematics is appropriate, but they also place students into Honors Calculus (Mathematics 16100-16200-16300) or give placement credit for one, two, or three quarters of calculus.

Scores on the mathematics placement test are also used to place students into Chemistry 11100. Scores on the calculus placement test are used to determine placement into Chemistry 11100, Physics 13100, and Physics 14100.

Language Placement Tests. The placement tests in languages are required of students who plan to continue in or receive credit for languages studied prior to entrance in the College.

Placement tests are offered to entering students during Orientation in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Classical Greek, Modern Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. It may be possible to arrange to be examined in one of the other languages taught at the University. (See the listing under "Language Competence" in the "Liberal Education at Chicago" section of the catalog.) Interested students may inquire about examinations in other languages at the Office of the Associate Dean for International and Second Language Education (HM 241) during the first week of autumn quarter. Students are strongly urged to complete the College language competency requirement by the end of their second year in the College.

Students who place into the second year or beyond of a language are still required to meet the College’s competency requirement by passing a separate competency examination. The placement test and the competency examination serve different purposes. The placement test determines in which quarter of study a student begins the College’s sequence of introductory, intermediate, and advanced study. Placement beyond the first quarter of a language confers course credit.

Honors Chemistry Placement Test. Students who wish to enroll in the honors variant of General Chemistry (Chemistry 12100-12200-12300) must meet one of two criteria. They must either have earned a score of 5 on the AP chemistry test, or they must perform well on the honors chemistry placement test. The honors variant of General Chemistry assumes that a student completed a rigorous chemistry course in high school.

Physical Sciences Placement Test. For students whose probable field of concentration is in the Humanities, Social Sciences, or New Collegiate divisions, a good performance on this test will confer credit for the general education requirement in the physical sciences. Students with good high school preparation in both chemistry and physics are strongly encouraged to take this test.

The physical sciences placement test does not give credit for chemistry or physics. Students planning to concentrate in the biological or physical sciences or prepare for the health professions must fulfill their general education requirement in the physical sciences by passing or placing out of a three-quarter sequence of 10000-level courses in either chemistry or physics. Students who are exceptionally well prepared in chemistry and/or physics should consider taking the chemistry and/or physics accreditation examination(s) described below.

Biological Sciences Placement Test. The optional placement test in the biological sciences measures understanding of basic concepts of ecology, evolution, heredity, and genetics, as well as structure and function at the molecular, cellular, organismic, and population levels.

For students who do not plan to concentrate in the biological sciences or prepare for the health care professions there are three levels of placement: (1) A very strong performance on the biological sciences placement test will confer credit for the general education requirement in the biological sciences. (2) A strong performance at a lower level will enable them to place out of Biological Sciences 10100 and into two topical courses for fulfillment of the requirement. (3) Those who earn scores below these two levels will be required to complete Biological Sciences 10100 and one topical course to fulfill the general education requirement in the biological sciences.

Students who plan to concentrate in the biological sciences or prepare for the health care professions should not take the biological sciences placement test because it will not confer credit for such students. These students may meet the general education requirement for the biological sciences with either: (1) a score of 5 on the AP biology test or (2) registration for a Fundamental Sequence (Biological Sciences 20180s or 20190s).

Accreditation Examinations

Credit is available by accreditation examinations to those students who have already studied certain subjects at the college level. These examinations, which are optional, are set by the appropriate faculty at the beginning of each quarter in which equivalent Chicago courses are offered. In the case of a course where both experimental and theoretical skills are involved, students may be required to fulfill the laboratory portion along with the rest of the class.

College credit achieved by accreditation examination is entered as units of credit on the student’s official academic record. Letter grades are not assigned. An accreditation examination may be taken only once.

Biology Accreditation Examinations. Credit for biology courses may be granted to students upon satisfactory completion of an accreditation examination, which will be held during the first week of the quarter in which the particular course is offered. Students must register for the accreditation examination before classes begin with the senior adviser for the biological sciences (HM 280). No laboratory requirements can be met by accreditation examinations except by special petition with accompanying documentation.

Chemistry Accreditation Examinations. Students who are exceptionally well prepared in chemistry may earn credit for one or more quarters of chemistry on the basis of AP scores or accreditation examinations. Students who have taken the Advanced Placement (AP) test in chemistry and received a grade of 5 will be given credit for Chemistry 11100-11200-11300. The Department of Chemistry also administers accreditation examinations in basic chemistry (Chemistry 11100-11200-11300) and organic chemistry (Chemistry 22000-22100-22200). Students may receive credit for chemistry on the basis of their performance on these examinations. The examinations in basic chemistry and organic chemistry are offered only during Orientation, or at the beginning of autumn quarter by arrangement with Dr. Vera Dragisich, Department of Chemistry, 702-3071.

Physics Accreditation Examinations. Accreditation examinations are given for the content of Physics 12100-12200-12300 and 14100-14200-14300. Students who pass the first examination (for Physics 12100 or 14100) will receive credit for the lecture part of the course only and will then be invited to try the next examination of the series. Entering students who have taken AP physics in high school but who do not receive AP credit from the College (and who do not plan to concentrate in physics) may wish to take the Physics 12100 accreditation examination. Students who receive AP credit for Physics 12100-12200-12300 but whose planned concentration requires Physics 13100-13200-13300 or 14100-14200-14300 are eligible to take the Physics 14100 examination. Entering transfer students who choose a concentration requiring physics but who are not granted transfer credit for a completed calculus-based introductory physics sequence may also be required to take one of the accreditation examinations.

NOTE: Accreditation examinations in physics confer credit only for the lecture portion of the courses; additional laboratory work may be required.

Advanced Placement Credit

Students who request college credit for Advanced Placement (AP) courses taken in high school (i.e., before a student matriculates in the College) are asked to submit an official report of their scores on the AP tests given by the College Entrance Examination Board. In most cases, credit is granted for a score of 4 or 5. The decision to grant credit is reported at the end of the first year in residence and units of credit awarded appear on the student's official academic record.

The following chart shows how AP credit may be applied to the forty-two credits required for graduation.

While AP scores alone are sometimes used to establish placement or to confer credit, satisfactory performance on the College's own placement tests may supplement AP scores and lead to additional credit.

For further information on AP credit and how it relates to the Chicago degree program, a student should consult his or her College adviser. NOTE: Credit for no more than six electives may be gained by examination