Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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SFSU CHEM 115 PLACEMENT EXAM INFORMATION

Chemistry 115 Placement Exam


If you are pursuing a major that requires CHEM 115 in your program, 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. Placement at the appropriate level is of great benefit to students, leading to more rewarding and successful experiences in their chemistry courses. Therefore, the department requires that all students exhibit a satisfactory performance on a 45-minute placement exam to enroll in CHEM 115. You do not need to take this exam to enroll in CHEM 100 or CHEM 101.

Registration info
Sample exam
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Exam Dates and Location


Semester of enrollment Early Priority Registration (EPR) Exam Dates Final Priority Registration (FPR) Exam Dates
Fall Semester April or May August
Spring Semester November or December January


Registration for Course and Placement Exam


Students can register for CHEM 115 before taking the placement exam.   The demand for seats in CHEM 115 is high and the class typically fills by the end of early priority registration.  Students may (and should) register for CHEM 115 even if they have not yet taken the placement exam.  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 pass the placement exam.

Take the placement exam at the first possible date.  Registration for the placement exams closes about a week before the exam date.  Plan to take the placement exam as early as possible.  The sooner you know the results of the placement exam, the better you can plan your semester.  For example, if you do not pass the placement exam (a passing score is 17 or higher), then you can plan to sign up for CHEM 100 (the prep course for CHEM 115) or plan to take a different course for the semester while there is still time to secure a seat in a different course.  If you do pass the placement exam 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 ON THE PLACEMENT EXAM SCORE SHEET.  OTHERWISE, YOU SCORE WILL NOT BE POSTED TO YOUR TEST SCORES 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 placement exam 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 pass the placement exam, you are NOT guaranteed a spot in the course.  The number of students in a lab section is limited to 24, due to equipment and safety considerations for the laboratory.  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 day or who do not pass the placement exam.  Lab instructors do not provide add permits for the course.  All adds are handled centrally by the lab coordinator.  ATTENDANCE IN LAB 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 PASS THE PLACEMENT EXAM.

Students who do not take or pass the placement exam are dropped.  Once the semester begins, the lab coordinator will drop any students on the class list who have not taken the placement exam or who do not have a valid passing score on the placement exam.  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.



Sample Exam


Please note that the sample exam is designed to illustrate the type and degree of difficulty of the exam; it does not include questions from all of the topics that will be on the actual placement exam. Simply studying the sample exam questions will not prepare you for the placement exam.  (link to sample exam is  here)

To use the sample exam as an indication of your readiness to pass the placement exam, give yourself 11 minutes to take the 12 questions on the sample exam.  If you can get 6 questions right in 11 minutes, you are on track to be able to get a passing grade on the CHEM 115 placement exam.  Please note that the answers to the questions are on page 3 of the sample exam, so print only the first two pages of the exam to take the test.


FAQs

What are the pre-requisites for CHEM-115?
What is the purpose of the Chemistry Placement Test?
Who must take the chemistry placement exam?
Are there any exemptions to taking the placement exam?
I have passed a college level chemistry course before; do I still need to take the placement exam?
How many times can I take the exam?
What if I require testing accommodations for a disability?
Should I wait to register for the class until after I take the placement exam?
What material is on the exam?
How can I prepare for the exam?
Is there a sample exam?
What is the format of the test, and what will I need to bring with me to the test?
What is the passing score for the placement exam?
How long is my exam score good for?
How do I find out if I passed the exam?
I took the placement exam but my score isn't posted.  What do I do?
I took the placement exam and I am registered for the class.  What happens now?
I passed the placement exam and I am now on the wait list for the class.  Will I be added to the class?
I passed the placement exam but I am not registered for the class or on a waitlist.  What should I do?
What if I fail the placement test?
How do I enroll in CHEM-100, the college chemistry preparation course?
I want to take CHEM-101.  Do I need to take the placement exam?
If I do need CHEM-100, the preparatory course for CHEM-115, do I need to take the chemistry placement exam?


What are the prerequisites for CHEM-115?


There are two prerequisites for CHEM 115, a math prerequisite and a chemistry prerequisite.  The Math prerequsite is a score of 50 or higher on the ELM or an approved exemption, or a C or better in Math 70 or higher math class.  The chemistry prerequisite is a satisfactory score on the CHEM 115 placement exam.

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What is the purpose of the Chemistry Placement Test?


The purpose of this exam is to assess your level of preparation for general chemistry at SFSU.  The exam tests high school chemistry knowledge, and basic algebra skills.  Your placement score will not be used in any way as part of your grade in CHEM 115.

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Who must take the chemistry placement exam?


The chemistry placement exam is mandatory for all students, including graduate/postbaccalaureate students, regardless of prior preparation or experience (including completion of CHEM 100) who plan to take CHEM 115. There are no exceptions!  
Student who are planning to take CHEM 100 or CHEM 101 do not have to take the CHEM 115 placement exam.

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Are there any exemptions to taking the placement exam?


NO, there are no exemptions to taking the placement exam. It is mandatory for all students, including graduate/postbaccalaureate students, regardless of prior preparation or experience (including completion of CHEM 100) who plan to take CHEM 115.

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


Yes. Everyone who is interested in taking CHEM 115 must take and pass the placement exam, even if you have taken and passed a college chemistry course elsewhere. There are no exemptions.

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How many times can I take the exam?


You can take the exam one time each exam period, so once in April/May, once in August, once in November/December, once in January. If you do not pass the placement exam you can not take CHEM 115 that semester.   You can enroll in a college chemistry prep course to prepare you for CHEM 115 and the placement exam.

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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 testing center (415 338 2271) at least one week prior to the exam date. 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 placement exam? 


Chem 115 will fill during the early priority registration period.  Depending on the timing of the placement exam dates and your registration window, you may or may not know your placement exam score when you register for the class.   If you do not know your placement score by the time your early priority registration window opens, you should probably register for the class just in case.  If you do not register for the course, there may be an opportunity to add Chem 115 during the final priority registration period.

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What material is on the exam? 


The chemistry placement exam includes material that we expect all students who have had one year of a good high school chemistry course to know. The exam is a multiple-choice format. A periodic table is provided with the exam. The topics we expect you to have learned include:
    Atomic structure
    Stoichiometry
    Periodic properties
    Chemical formulas and simple nomenclature of compounds and ions
    Mass and mole relationships
    Acid-base chemistry
    Solutions and solubility
    States of matter and phase changes
    Oxidation-reduction reactions
    Enthalpy
    Gas laws
    Qualitative kinetics, equilibrium, and thermodynamics
    Laboratory skills
    Lewis Dot Structures
    Molecular Geometry
    Chemical bonding

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How can I prepare for the exam? 


You should review the topics listed above using any good high school or college-level, introductory or general chemistry text as a guide and resource. You can also use a study guide for the SAT II Chemistry test or the AP Chemistry test. We suggest that you only review the material that you covered in a high-school or other preparatory chemistry course. Attempting to learn this material for the first time just to take the placement exam is not recommended. This may get you through the placement exam and into CHEM 115, but you'll most likely struggle in the course.

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Is there a sample exam? 


Yes, we've prepared a sample exam .  Please note that the sample exam is designed to illustrate the type and degree of difficulty of the exam questions; it does not include questions from all of the topics that will be on the actual placement exam. Simply studying the sample exam questions will not prepare you for the placement exam.  (The link to the sample exam is  here)

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What is the format of the test and what will I need to bring with me to the test? 


The exam consists of 44 multiple choice questions.  You have 45 minutes to complete the exam.   You must bring a #2 pencil and your SFSU ID card to the examination.   Only non-programmable calculators are allowed.   A periodic table is provided with the exam.

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What is a passing score for the placement exam? 


The passing score is 17 correct answers out of 44 questions.  Your score will be equal to the number of correct answers you have on the exam, with no penalty for incorrect answers.

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How long is my exam score good for?

Exam scores are good for one calendar year only.  If students pass the placement exam, they are eligible to take the class in the fall, spring or summer semester that takes place during that year.  See the table below for a summary.

Exam Date Semesters eligible to take Chem-115
April/May Summer and Fall semester of same year; Spring semester of following year.
August Fall semester of same year, Spring and Summer semester of following year 
November / December Spring, Summer and Fall semester of following year
January Spring, Summer and Fall semester of same year.

Example:  A student takes and passes the placement exam in August 2012, but can not get into the class in Fall 12.  The student’s score will be valid for enrollment in Chem 115 in Spring 13 and Summer 13.  However, the student would have to retake the placement exam for Fall 13 enrollment.
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How do I find out if I passed the exam?


Your placement exam result will be available online through your mySFSU account (test score area) if you correctly bubble in your SFSU ID on the score sheet.   If you do not provide your SFSU ID correctly, your exam score will not post and you may be dropped from the class.

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


If you take the placement exam and your score does not post to your mySFSU account, you should contact the Chem 115 Lab coordinator (415-338-1288) with your name, sfsu id and date of the exam.   Please note that you may be dropped from the course if your score does not post, and it is not possible to add you back into the course. 

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I passed the placement exam 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 passed the placement exam, will be dropped and the next qualified student in attendance added in their place.

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I passed the placement exam 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 passed the placement exam, 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 pass the placement exam, but not be able to enroll in the section of CHEM 115 that you want. 

Attendance in the laboratory is mandatory for the first two weeks of class. Any student who is absent from the lab, even if they passed the placement exam, 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 pass the placement exam.   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 lab 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 passed the placement exam but I am not registered for the class or on a waitlist.  What should I do?


Attend the section of the lab you wish to add.  Do not attend multiple lab 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 the laboratory is mandatory for the first two weeks of class. Any student who is absent from the lab, even if they passed the placement exam, 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 ahead of you on the waitlist, on the number of students who do not show up for class, and on the number of students who did not pass the placement exam.

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What if I fail the placement test?


You can't fail the placement exam, because it is simply a measurement of your readiness to take CHEM 115.  If your performance indicates that you are not prepared for CHEM 115, then you need to improve your chemistry knowledge before enrolling in CHEM 115. We recommend that you enroll in a Preparation for Chemistry course. SFSU offers CHEM 100, Preparation for Chemistry; City College of San Francisco offers CHEM 40, Introduction to Chemical Principles; most community colleges offer a similar course. If you want to enroll in CHEM 100, use SFSU's search class schedule webpage for schedule and enrollment information. If you didn't pass the placement exam, you cannot enroll in CHEM 115 for one semester, and you must retake the placement exam prior to enrolling in CHEM 115 in another semester.  

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How do I enroll in CHEM 100, the college chemistry preparation course?


If you do not earn a satisfactory score on the placement exam, you should enroll in a Preparation for College Chemistry course. Depending on the budget, SFSU offers CHEM 100, Preparation for Chemistry; City College of San Francisco offers CHEM 40, Introduction to Chemical Principles; most community colleges offer a similar course. If you want to enroll in CHEM 100, Preparation for Chemistry, use SFSU's Search Class Schedule Webpage for schedule and enrollment information.  Even if you successfully complete one of these courses, you must still take and pass the placement exam to be allowed to take CHEM 115.

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I want to take CHEM 101. Do I need to take the placement exam?


"No." The chemistry placement exam 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 placement exam?


"No," you don't need to take the placement exam 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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