Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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CHEM 115 Placement Diagnostic Information

Fall 2018: New CHEM 115 Enrollment Requirements - Read Thoroughly and Carefully

Due to changes from the California State University, SFSU, and the Department  of Chemistry and Biochemistry, we are no longer using a placement exam to determine who gets to enroll in CHEM 115. Instead, starting summer 2018, we are instituting a chemistry diagnostic. Our belief is that this more student-centered approach will help each student become more prepared and make the experience of taking CHEM 115 more meaningful.


Chemistry 115 Diagnostic

If you are pursuing a major that requires CHEM 115, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry would like to be sure that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in the course. Our diagnostic involves a "knowledge check," which is exam-like, and an assignment that evaluates the most important skills needed for 115. The great benefit of this diagnostic is that you can review and study by doing the assignment, such that your entry into CHEM 115 is not dependent simply on a single, timed "placement exam."  Placement at the appropriate level is of great benefit to you, leading to more rewarding and successful experiences in your chemistry courses. Therefore, the department requires that all students exhibit a satisfactory performance on our diagnostic to enroll in CHEM 115.

Sections below on this website:
Resources
Dates and Location
Topics
Registration info
Preparing for the diagnostic
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


Resources, links, etc.

Information on how to sign into the diagnostic (here)
Link to ALEKS (here)
Link to videos explaining:
   1.  the purpose of the diagnostic (here)
   2.  how to take the diagnostic (here)


Exam Dates and Location:  No Longer Applicable!

The diagnostic will be self-administered and available starting Summer 2018. The diagnostic is part of the ALEKS assessment and learning system, which will be used for homework in CHEM 115 and 215. Please do the tutorials carefully when you sign into ALEKS before taking the "knowledge check". In order to enroll in CHEM 115, you must show significant mastery of the first assignment of CHEM 115 (review topics).  Your instructor will check your score on the first assignment during the second week of class and drop you if you have not completed the required number of topics.  The required number of topics is given in the table below and depends on if you have passed CHEM 100 or not.  Individual instructors will provide more nuanced requirements for those crashing to add or receiving a "NC" in CHEM 100.  If you need more information than is provided here, you can contact the department office. 



Number of topics required to satisfactorily complete the diagnostic

All student are encouraged to complete as many of the diagnostic topics as possible (this will count as your first assignment grade in 115). Students who have passed CHEM 100 with a "C" or better are allowed a more relaxed completion percentage, since the department is more confident in their preparation for CHEM 115. The percent completion requirements listed below will likely change year to year, as the effectiveness of these cut-offs are assessed.

 

Student Status

CHEM 115 Diagnostic Status by the End of the Second Week of Class

Action Taken

Students who have NEVER taken CHEM 100
Enrolled in CHEM 115 and has not taken CHEM100 >= 80% completion
Student remains enrolled in CHEM 115 without any contingencies.
50-79% completion
Student enrollment in CHEM 115 is up to the instructor's discretion based on the
instructor's criteria.
<50% completion
Student is dropped from CHEM 115 by instructor and is encouraged to take CHEM 100
Crashing to add CHEM 115 and has not taken CHEM 100 Student shall consult instructor for enrollment policies
Students who HAVE taken CHEM 100
Enrolled in CHEM 115 and passed CHEM 100 with a C or better
>= 50% completion
Student remains enrolled in CHEM 115 without any contingencies.
< 50% completion
Enrolled student is dropped from CHEM 115 by instructor and is encouraged to enroll again in CHEM 115 the following semester.
Enrolled in or crashing to add CHEM 115 and did not pass CHEM 100 with a C or better (received NC)
Student shall consult instructor for enrollment policies.
 

Registration for Course and Diagnostic

Students can register for CHEM 115 before taking the diagnostic.   The demand for seats in CHEM 115 is high and the class typically fills by the end of priority registration.  Students should plan to register for CHEM 115 even if they have not yet taken or finished the diagnostic.  If you are not on the class list or the wait list of the course by the start of the semester, you are not guaranteed a spot in the course even if you complete the diagnostic.

Take the diagnostic as soon as it's available during (summer/winter break).    Plan to take the diagnostic as early as possible.  The sooner you know the results of the "knowledge check", the more time you have to work on the assignment to complete the required number of topics.  By working on the diagnostic, you will be able to self-determine if you not ready for CHEM 115 and then you can plan to sign up for CHEM 100 (the prep course for CHEM 115).  If you do complete the diagnostic and you are on the class list, then you do not have to delay purchasing course materials or starting the work for the course.  IMPORTANT:  BE SURE TO ENTER YOUR SFSU ID CORRECTLY IN the ALEKS SYSTEM;  OTHERWISE, YOUR RESULT WILL NOT BE SYNCED AND THIS MAY RESULT IN DELAYS IN BEING ADDED TO THE COURSE OR YOU MAY BE DROPPED FROM THE COURSE FOR NOT HAVING A SCORE.

Wait-listed students with "passing" scores on the diagnostic must attend lab to see if they will be able to add the course.   If you are on the wait-list for a CHEM 115 section and you take and complete the diagnostic, you are NOT guaranteed a spot in the course.  The number of students in a section is limited to 24, due to equipment and safety considerations for the laboratory component of the course.  The number of students that can be added to a section depends on the number of students on the class list who are absent the first week or who do not complete the diagnostic.  Lab instructors do not provide add permits for the course.  All adds are handled centrally by the lab coordinator.   ATTENDANCE IN ALL COMPONENTS OF THE COURSE AT THE START OF THE SEMESTER IS MANDATORY.  ANY STUDENT WHO IS ABSENT WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO TAKE OR ADD CHEM 115 EVEN IF THEY COMPLETE THE DIAGNOSTIC.

Students who do not take or complete the diagnostic are dropped.  Once the semester begins, the lab coordinator will drop any students on the class list who have not taken the diagnostic and completed the required number of first assignment topics.  Students on the wait list or who are crashing the course will be added by the lab coordinator, but not necessarily in wait list order.


Preparing for the Diagnostic:  Study Guide and Info

We recommend taking the diagnostic as soon as it's available. If you do want to study before taking the diagnostic, a detailed study guide is available here.  It is useful to read a textbook or your old notes while doing the assignment portion of the diagnostic. Any good high school chemistry text or a college-level introductory or preparatory chemistry text (for example the free online book at openstax.com) will have the material needed to study for the diagnostic. You can also use a study guide for the SAT II Chemistry test or the AP Chemistry test. 


FAQs

What are the pre-requisites for CHEM-115?

What is the purpose of the chemistry diagnostic?

Who must take the chemistry diagnostic?

Are there any exceptions to taking the diagnostic?

I have passed a college level chemistry course before; do I still need to take the diagnostic?

How many times can I take the diagnostic?

What if I require testing accommodations for a disability?

Should I wait to register for the class until after I take the diagnostic?

What material is on the diagnostic?

How can I prepare for the diagnostic?

Is there a sample exam?

What is the format of the diagnostic?

What is the passing score for the diagnostic?

How long is my exam score good for?

How do I find out if I completed the diagnostic?

I took the placement exam but my score isn't posted.  What do I do?

I completed the diagnostic and am registered for the class.  What happens now?

I completed the diagnostic and am now on the wait list for the class.  Will I be added to the class?

I completed the diagnostic but I am not registered for the class or on a waitlist.  What should I do?

What if I fail the diagnostic?

I want to take CHEM 101 or CHEM 180.  Do I need to take the diagnostic?

If I think I need CHEM 100, the preparatory course for CHEM 115, do I need to take the chemistry diagnostic?


What are the prerequisites for CHEM-115?

You must take the diagnostic (available through ALEKS) and pass the required number of topics. Your math readiness will be determined by the CSU and more information will be available here eventually.

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What is the purpose of the chemistry diagnostic?

The purpose of this diagnostic is to assess your level of preparation for general chemistry at SFSU.  The diagnostics ensures you have mastered knowledge from high school chemistry and basic algebra skills. If you are not prepared, SFSU offers a preparatory course, CHEM 100. The diagnostic is the 1st CHEM 115 assignment.

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Who must take the Chemistry Diagnostic?

Placement in CHEM 115 is mandatory for all students, including graduate / post-baccalaureate students, regardless of prior preparation or experience. All students must take and complete the CHEM 115 diagnostic.  CHEM 100 at SFSU will help prepare you to take CHEM 115 and complete the diagnostic.  Even if you pass CHEM 100, you still must take and complete the diagnostic.

Students who are planning to take CHEM 100, CHEM 101 or CHEM 180 do not have to take the CHEM 115 diagnostic.

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Are there any exceptions to taking the diagnostic?

Student with a 3 or higher on the Chemistry AP exam are not required to take the CHEM 115 diagnostic, but they will have to do the first review assignment at the beginning of CHEM 115, just like everyone who took the diagnostic. All students who have taken CHEM 100 still need to take the diagnostic.

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I have passed a college level chemistry course before; do I still need to take the diagnostic?

Yes. If you have taken and passed a college chemistry course elsewhere, you must take and complete the CHEM 115 diagnostic given at SFSU.  Likewise, if you have taken and passed a chemistry placement exam at a different institution, you must take and complete the CHEM 115 diagnostic given at SFSU.

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How many times can I take the diagnostic?

Once you take the "knowledge check", you will have passed out of some topics in the review assignment portion of the diagnostic. Then, you can do problems on the assignment to build up mastery of the required number of topics (problems) in the first assignment. Thus, there is no need to take the diagnostic multiple times. If you would like to reset your "knowledge check" please contact ALEKS support.  You will have to retake the diagnostic each semester that you try to enroll in CHEM 115.

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What if I require testing accommodations for a disability? 

Students registered with the Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC; 415-338-2472) who require special test accommodations must contact the SFSU Testing Center (415-338-2271) for assistance with the diagnostic. Special accommodations cannot be provided to students who are not registered with DPRC. For general information about SFSU's commitment to provide full and equal access for individuals with disabilities, please see the Disability Programs and Resource Center website.

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Should I wait to register for the class until after I take the diagnostic? 

Do not wait to take the diagnostic. Chem 115 will fill during the priority registration period which occurs before students have completed the diagnostic.  You should register for the course first, and then take the diagnostic.  If you do not register for the course during priority registration, there may be an opportunity to add to the Chem 115 waitlist during the final registration period.


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What material is on the diagnostic? 

The chemistry diagnostic includes material that we expect all students who have had one year of a good high school chemistry course to know. The "exam" part of the diagnostic may also include questions that will be taught in CHEM 115. If you do not know how to solve these questions, you can click "I don't know" and it will not significantly impact your score. Note if you click "I don't know" for every question, you will not "pass out of" any topics.

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How can I prepare for the diagnostic? 

You can review the topics listed above using any good high school or college-level, introductory or general chemistry text as a guide and resource, but really you should take the diagnostic when it becomes available.  Attempting to learn all the review topics for the first time just to complete the diagnostic is not recommended. You many get into CHEM 115, but you'll most likely struggle in the course. If all the topics are new to you, please take CHEM 100 first.

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Is there a sample exam? 

There is no sample exam, since the diagnostic is available through ALEKS.

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What is the format of the diagnostic?

Our diagnostic involves a "knowledge check", which is exam-like, and an assignment that includes the most important skills needed for 115. The diagnostic is part of the ALEKS learning and assessment system.

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What is a passing score for the diagnostic?

Since the diagnostic is more than an exam, there is no "passing" score.  Instead, students must complete the required number of topics (given in the Table above) in the first CHEM 115 review assignment.

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How long is my exam score good for?

You will need to retake the diagnostic every summer or fall to enroll in CHEM 115 in fall or spring semesters.

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How do I find out if I completed the diagnostic?

Please review the information on the ALEKS website or contact ALEKS help to understand how many of the first assignment topics you have mastered. You must complete 80% of topics to enroll (or stay enrolled) in CHEM 115.

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I took the placement exam but my score isn't posted.  What do I do?

There is no placement exam. Please read more about the diagnostic in this document.

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I completed the diagnostic and I am registered for the class.  What happens now?

If you are registered on the class list, you are in the course.  Attendance in the laboratory is mandatory for the first two weeks of class.  Any student who is absent from the lab, even if they completed the diagnostic, will be dropped and the next qualified student in attendance added in their place.

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I completed the diagnostic and I am on the wait list for the class.  Will I be added to the class?

If you are on the wait list for a section and completed the diagnostic, there is no guarantee that you will be able to add the class.  Enrollment is limited to 24 spaces in the laboratory sections. Thus, it is possible that you might completed the diagnostic, but not be able to enroll in the section of CHEM 115 that you want. 

Attendance in all components of the class is mandatory for the first two weeks of class. Any student who is absent from any one of the components, even if they completed the diagnostic, will be dropped and the next qualified student in attendance added in their place.  Whether or not you get an add permit for the class depends on the number of students who do not show up for class, and on the number of students who did not complete the diagnostic.   Students may be added out of order of the waitlist, depending on class level and major.

Attend the section you are waitlisted for and do not attend multiple sections hoping to get a seat.  The lab coordinator monitors enrollment in all sections of Chem 115 and will make the final determination in who gets to add.  Lab instructors have no authority to promise seats to any students.

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I completed the diagnostic but I am not registered for the class or on a wait list.  What should I do?

Attend the section of the course you wish to add.  Do not attend multiple sections hoping to get a seat.  The lab coordinator monitors enrollment in all sections of Chem 115 and will make the final determination in who gets to add.  Lab instructors have no authority to promise seats to any students.

Attendance in all components of the class is mandatory for the first two weeks of class. Any student who is absent from any one of the components, even if they completed the diagnostic, will be dropped and the next qualified student in attendance added in their place.  Whether or not you get an add permit for the class depends on the number of students who do not show up for class, and on the number of students who did not complete the diagnostic.   Students may be added out of order of the waitlist, depending on class level and major.

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What if I fail the diagnostic?

You cannot fail the diagnostic. If you take the "knowledge check" and do not pass out of many topics, you can work on the assignment, to mastery more topics. Working on the assignment should help you decide if you want to take CHEM 100 or try to complete 80% of the topics on the 1st review assignment.

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I want to take CHEM 101 or CHEM 180.  Do I need to take the diagnostic?

"No." The chemistry diagnostic is required only for enrollment in CHEM 115.

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If I think I need CHEM 100, the preparatory course for CHEM 115, do I need to take the chemistry diagnostic?

"No," you don't need to take the diagnostic before you enroll in CHEM 100. If you think that you're not prepared to take CHEM 115, then enrollment in CHEM 100 is probably a good choice. Even if you discover that you did have an adequate knowledge of the topics, you will gain experience and self-confidence by taking CHEM 100. If you want to enroll in CHEM 100, Preparation for Chemistry, use SFSU's "Search Class Schedule" webpage for schedule and enrollment information.

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