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Placement and Advisory Examinations

Most placement and qualifying examinations are scheduled for Monday, August 26, during the Orientation period before classes begin.

ALEKS: Quantitative Skill Assessment/Tutorial.

This summer we are piloting a new web-based adaptive learning tool to help incoming students assess their knowledge base and review several key quantitative topics in preparation for the placement exams and the fall semester. ALEKS – which consists of an initial knowledge assessment followed by individualized study material – will be open in the next few days for you to enroll. You’ll have six weeks from the day you sign up to use the learning mode to brush up on your quantitative skills before taking any of the placement exams.  ALEKS is available to all students, but we are strongly recommending ALEKS for students who plan on enrolling in calculus or chemistry in the fall. 

Once you sign up for ALEKS, you will take an initial assessment that will provide you with your level of mastery. Most students will see the need to review their quantitative skills, and the learning mode of the program will offer various tutorials that can be taken at your own pace over the six-weeks. Please Note: Even if you score highly on the ALEKS initial assessment, all students still must take the appropriate placement exams. ALEKS does not replace the placement exams.
From June 3rd to June 28th, ALEKS will be open for you to enroll. You will need to email the Quantitative Skills Center Director, Travis Brown, at to receive your Access Code and Course Code before you can sign up. You’ll then have 6 weeks from the day you enroll to take the assessment and use the learning mode.

Placement Exam Schedule

This year, many of the advisory placement and placement assessments are moving on-line so that you can take them prior to your arrival on campus.  More information about the placement assessments is available through the portal (mypomona) on the "Through the Gates" tab.  Please refer to the portal for the most up to date information. For a few subjects, placement assessments will be scheduled during orientation, and information about those assessments will also be available on the portal.


The Chemistry Department’s courses in general chemistry provide an introduction to chemical principles, laboratory techniques, and the analysis of experimental data.  The sequence in general chemistry is a prerequisite for advanced work in chemistry and biology, and is required for majors in chemistry, biology, molecular biology, and neuroscience,  and certain tracks in environmental analysis, geology, and public policy analysis majors.  Students planning a career in one of the medical sciences also take general chemistry.  In addition, the first semester of general chemistry is recommended to students who have completed three or more years of high school mathematics as a means of completing the Breadth of Study requirements.

Two options exist for completing the work in general chemistry:  a year-long course, Chemistry 1 a/b, and a one-semester, accelerated course, Chemistry 51.  Chemistry 1 a/b is the recommended entry-level course in chemistry.  Students who have extensive preparation in chemistry at the high school level and have demonstrated their understanding of the material on the placement examination (described below) are recommended to enroll in Chemistry 51.  First-year students will not be allowed to enroll in Organic Chemistry (Chemistry 110) unless a strong case can be made that they are well prepared to begin their study of chemistry at the advanced level.
Chemistry 1a/b is a two-semester sequence, which covers chemical principles, quantitative laboratory techniques, and elementary statistics.  Although high school work in the sciences is not required as preparation for Chemistry 1 a/b, it is highly recommended.  Because a command of algebra, geometry, and solving word problems is essential for success in chemistry, students planning to enroll in Chemistry 1 a/b must take the Quantitative Skills Advisory Examination to appraise their mathematical and problem-solving preparation for the sciences and mathematics. This exercise covers only high school mathematics with emphasis on simple word problems.  Because many important quantities such as the equilibrium constant and pH have logarithmic relationships, the examination has a few questions on logarithms.  Please note that students taking this exam are not allowed to use external sources of information or calculators. The Quantitative Skills Advisory Examination is administered online in late June.

Chemistry 51 is an accelerated, one-semester course in general chemistry. The course is intended for those students with strong preparation in high school mathematics and science. Students who have completed advanced placement chemistry or the equivalent are strongly encouraged to consider Chemistry 51. The student who completes Chemistry 51 satisfies the concentration requirements in general chemistry in one semester.  Chemistry 51 will cover the following topics: ionic equilibrium, atomic structure, chemical bonding, transition-metal complexes, chemical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, statistics, and the use of computer spreadsheets. Students planning to enroll in Chemistry 51 must have taken at least two years of high school chemistry. In addition, we highly recommend that students enrolling in Chemistry 51 will have completed a year of high school physics.  They must also take and pass the Chemistry 51 Placement Examination administered during Orientation.  AP/IB credit does not guarantee enrollment in Chemistry 51; all students who wish to enroll in Chemistry 51 must take the placement examination. This examination does include chemistry and the use of calculators is encouraged.  A sample placement examination and information relevant to the course can be found at: [pdf] .

One course credit towards graduation is given for a 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP Examination as long as the limit of two AP credits has not been exceeded.  However, a student cannot obtain course credit from both AP work in chemistry and completion of Chemistry 1 A/B.   In any event, the AP score in chemistry is listed on the student’s transcript.


Economics 51 (Principles: Macroeconomics) is the usual starting point for students who wish to pursue economics at Pomona College. However, the Economics Department offers placement examinations for students who have done well in coursework in macroeconomics or microeconomics prior to coming to college, and who would like to try to place out of Economics 51 or  52 (Principles: Microeconomics).

There is a separate examination for each course; each examination could take up to an hour. Incoming students who wish to start taking economics courses immediately, but who would like to place out of Economics 51 or 52, should take the relevant test or tests online during the summer before coming to campus. Students getting a later start in economics at the College can arrange with the department chair to take one or both of the examinations later, prior to enrolling in their first course in economics, if they hope to skip some of the introductory courses.

Given the difficulty that some students experience in jumping directly into intermediate theory (Economics 101 or 102) without taking either Economics 51 or 52 first, students who place out of both Economics 51 and 52 are generally advised to take Economics 57 (Statistics) or an economics course numbered 116 to 129 before taking Economics 101 or 102.

Students who major in economics and who place out of both Economics 51 and 52 are required to take an additional elective course in economics. See the economics section of the catalog for full major requirements.

Foreign Languages

All students who wish to enroll in a course in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin, Russian, or Spanish, and who have had any previous experience whatsoever in the language which they plan to study, must take the placement examination.

Examinations typically consist of sixty-minute multiple choice grammar and reading comprehension passages or thirty-minute fill-in-the-blank reading passages which test grammar and vocabulary.

Spanish Placement Exam: The Spanish Placement Exam is offered only online and may be taken at any time. The online exam can be accessed at Use the pull-down menu feature to select Pomona College.  The password is "sagehens1" (ending with the digit 1). Follow the online instructions for the exam. Results of the exam will be sent automatically to the College and will be made available to faculty advisers. All students who have studied Spanish at any level, including students who have taken AP and IB courses, and who plan to take Spanish courses at Pomona College must take the placement exam during the summer, before the beginning of the orientation adventure trips in August. (Note: This exam does not fulfill the language requirement.)

Chinese and Japanese Placement Exams: In order to enroll in Fall 2011 courses, all students who have studied Chinese or Japanese must take the placement exam before the beginning of orientation adventure trips. The Chinese and Japanese exams include a short oral component.  Results of the exams will be made available to faculty advisers. The exams can also be taken on an individual basis; students interested in doing so should contact the Coordinators of the respective language. (Note: These exams do not fulfill the foreign language requirement; they simply place the student in the appropriate language course.)


All students who wish to enroll in a mathematics course numbered 30 or above must take a mathematics placement exam before registration.  The results of the placement exams are advisory.  The student, with the help of his/her academic adviser, will use the results as well as the student’s prior academic record to make a decision about which course to take.  In addition, the students are encouraged to discuss their options with the faculty in the Mathematics Department.

Most students will enter Mathematics 29, 30, 31, 31S, 31H, 32, 32S, or 60. A few students will be placed into courses beyond Linear Algebra with departmental advice.

In Mathematics 29 (Advanced Problem Solving) students will learn to use mathematical reasoning and techniques to enhance their problem solving skills.  This course is a particularly good choice for any student who wishes to take Chemistry who wants to strengthen their foundation in problem solving.  Students may register for this course without taking a mathematics placement exam.

Math 30 (Calculus I) is for students with no or little prior work in calculus.  The quantative skills exam also serves as the an advisory placement exam to enter Math 30.  The exam covers only pre-calculus material. Students will take the quantative skills exam online in June.  More details are available under the "placement" section.

Students who received a 4 or 5 on the advanced placement Calculus AB exam or have done comparable work, usually begin in one of Mathematics 31 (Calculus II), 31S (Calculus II with Applications to the Life Sciences), or 31H (Honors Topics in Calculus II). The placement exam for Calculus II is online (see "placement" section) and covers the material in a Calculus AB course.Students who received a 4 or 5 on the advanced placement Calculus BC exam, or have done comparable work, usually enter Mathematics 32 (Calculus III), 32S (Calculus III with Applications to the LIfe Sciences) or 60 (Linear Algebra). Many students follow Math 32 in the fall with Math 60 in the spring.  Students with an interest in mathematics, who plan to continue with mathematics beyond the first semester, are encouraged to take Math 60 Linear Algebra followed by Vector Calculus (Math 107). Linear Algebra is a proof based class and, compared to calculus classes, requires more mathematical maturity. Math 32S is particularly suitable for students with an interest in the life sciences.

The exam to enter Mathematics 32, 32S, and 60 is graded by the mathematics faculty. Students take this exam during orientation when they come to campus. Students who believe that they are ready to take courses beyond linear algebra should discuss their options with the chair of the Mathematics Department.

Our introductory statistics classes have a Calculus I prerequisite; we offer two sections: Math 58 (Introduction to Statistics) and Math 58B (Introduction to Biostatistics).  Additionally, we offer statistics elective courses to those people who have succeeded in an introductory course (e.g., scoring a 4 or 5 on the AP Statistics exam).  Our elective courses include linear models, time series, computational statistics, and advanced analysis of biological data.

Introductory Physics

Students considering the possibility of majoring in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, pre-engineering, or other related fields can take either the Physics 70-71-72 sequence or the Physics 41-42 sequence for introductory Physics.

Physics 70, Spacetime, Quanta and Entropy, should normally be taken during the fall semester by first-year students who are at all considering the possibility of majoring in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, pre-engineering, or other related fields. Students with strong high school backgrounds in physics, such as students who have received a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exam, can place out of further introductory physics based on their results on our own placement exam offered during Physics 70. Those who need additional background in Mechanics or Electricity and Magnetism will be required to take half courses (Physics 71 and 72, offered in the spring semester) to fill in their introductory sequence.

Students interested in medicine, neuroscience, biology and related fields are encouraged to take Physics 41 and 42, offered in spring and fall semesters respectively.  These courses are specifically targeted to pre-medical and non-majors students, and provide excellent preparation in physics for taking the MCAT and for developing a strong and broad training in physics.


Students interested in a biology major will start the introductory sequence with Biology 40 in the Fall semester.  The second introductory course, either Bio41C or 41E, may be taken in the Spring semester.  First year students are strongly encouraged to enroll in Chemistry 1a or 51 in the Fall semesters since this course will be a prerequisite for Biology 41C.

Dean of Students