"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) may 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

Our department typically uses an online placement test to determine whether a student should start with CHEM 115 or proceed directly to CHEM 116. Students with limited or no chemistry background need not take the placement exam, and should plan to talk with an instuctor about registering for CHEM 115. On the other hand, any student who has either (a) taken CHEM 115 at Lawrence, (b) received credit for an introductory college course elsewhere, or (c) has taken an AP or IB test in chemistry need not take the placement test, but should talk with a CHEM 116 instructor to obtain approval to register. Students that are placed into CHEM 116 through this assessment test are not awarded college credit for CHEM 115.

Instructor approval to register is always required for CHEM 115 and 116! If you want to take either of those courses, contact the instructor directly, by email, to start a conversation about obtaining that approval.

The placement exam is a set of 25 questions available on the Lawrence Moodle site. 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.

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube