"Principles of Chemistry," CHEM 115 and 116, are the courses by which students prepare for intermediate and advanced chemistry courses. Students with reasonably strong backgrounds in chemistry (at least one course in high school chemistry) are encouraged to place into CHEM 116 by assessment examination (see below). Although CHEM 115 is not a "remedial" chemistry course, it does include content – such as atomic and molecular structure, chemical equations, and stoichiometry – that high school chemistry classes sometimes address well.  CHEM 115 is particularly useful for those students who have little or no background in chemistry, who need substantial review of high school chemistry, or who need more practice with the mathematical manipulations of chemistry.

Well-prepared students who need the equivalent of two terms of chemistry as preparation for advanced study in graduate or professional programs (including medical school), are encouraged to place into CHEM 116 and to take an additional intermediate-level course in analytical, inorganic, or physical chemistry rather than 2 terms of introductory chemistry. That will provide a stronger and more appropriate preparation for the MCAT and other examinations than taking CHEM 115 and 116. Thus, the normal preparation for medical students with strong high school chemistry backgrounds would be CHEM 116, one of CHEM 210, 320 or 370, and two terms of organic chemistry.  Students who intend to pursue professional studies should consult potential schools' admission guidelines for specific program requirements.


The scheduling of the introductory courses enables students to move quickly into intermediate level courses (analytical, organic, inorganic). For chemistry majors or minors, this allows for efficient completion of program requirements. For students completing majors in related disciplines like biology, biochemistry, and ENST, offering CHEM 116 in both fall and spring allows for timely and strong support as well. For example, students can easily complete the introductory course plus analytical and/or inorganic, or the introductory course plus Organic I and II, by the end of the sophomore year. That in turn frees up scheduling in the junior and senior years, allows potential biochemistry majors to get to Biochemistry I earlier in their careers, and provides excellent preparation for professional school aptitude tests.

Chemistry Placement Examination

All students beginning their college study of chemistry here, at the introductory level or beyond, are expected to take the Chemistry Assessment Quiz before registering for either CHEM 115 or 116, though there are some exceptions.

1) Students who have taken no chemistry courses at the high school or college level need not take the placement exam, and should plan to begin with CHEM 115. They will need instructor approval to register, and should mention their background when requesting that approval.

2) Students who have AP or IB exam scores need not take the exam, although, for assessment purposes the department requests that students take the exam. (See Advanced Placement for further details about advanced placement requirements.)

3) Students who have taken 115 or who have transfer credit for a term of introductory college chemistry elsewhere need not take the exam if they plan to continue with 116. Questions about these introductory chemistry courses or about placement issues should be addressed to a department faculty member.

The Chemistry Department asks most students to take the Assessment Quiz because the results are employed in departmental assessment.  Students who perform well on the quiz do not necessarily have to start with CHEM 116.

The Exam itself is a set of 25 questions available on the Lawrence Moodle site. The exam should be taken on-line; questions are not to be printed or shared with other students. Students must present their own work, and they will need a standard general chemistry text (especially for information such as a periodic table, values of important physical constants, and the like) and may use a calculator. Since the exam score may allow a student to go directly to CHEM 116, the questions deal with topics that are covered in CHEM 115, including atomic and molecular structure, periodic properties, general stoichiometry, gases, and the like. Review of those or related topics before taking the exam is likely to be helpful and is strongly encouraged.

To take the exam, go to the Moodle Site for Placement Exams. In the list of "courses" on that page you will find CHEMISTRY ASSESSMENT TEST. Open that link, 'enroll' in the exam, read the instructions, and proceed. There is some general feedback provided for students as soon as they have taken the exam, and additional information on interpreting scores and suggestions for placement are on the Placement Scores page.

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