Here is information about introductory chemistry courses and placement into these courses for first-year students. This video contains the same information as the text below and is meant to help you better understand the placement process. 

General Chemistry Courses

The majority of first-year students begin with a two-semester General Chemistry sequence consisting of either:

  • General Chemistry I (CHEM 161, fall) and General Chemistry II (CHEM 165, spring) 
  • Advanced University Chemistry I (CHEM 163, fall) and Advanced University Chemistry II (CHEM 167, spring).

Students enrolled in CHEM 161 and 165 may be taking chemistry for the first time, perhaps took high school chemistry as sophomores, or may have taken AP Chemistry but not fully mastered the subject at that level. Students enrolled in CHEM 163 and 167 will have more recently completed a year or two of high school chemistry, and have a strong math and physics background.

Each two-semester sequence fulfills the prerequisite for General Chemistry in the chemistry major and other science-based majors, such as biology or chemical engineering. Both sequences also fulfill pre-medical requirements.

Typically, a student who starts in CHEM 163 will subsequently complete CHEM 167, while a student who starts in CHEM 161 will subsequently complete CHEM 165. Departmental permission is required to switch between the sequences at the start of the spring term. Only students placed into CHEM 163 are permitted to take this course, while any student can enroll in CHEM 161. Nevertheless, the Chemistry Department recommends that students with a strong background in chemistry engage CHEM 163 rather than CHEM 161.

Placement Procedures 

The department utilizes an online chemistry placement exam (see below), as well as test scores, admission records, and information supplied by incoming students through the Math and Science Survey, to determine an appropriate starting point in the chemistry curriculum for each individual.

The placement exam is a closed-book, 65-minute timed, multiple-choice test, which students can take anytime between 9:00 a.m. EST, Monday, July 1, through 12:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, July 31, 2024. A standard, non-graphing calculator is allowed. Students are advised to review general chemistry beforehand.

enroll in exam button

Students will be able to view their course placement in early August at the Canvas “Course Placement 2024” site.

Any student wishing to discuss their placement situation after results have been issued should email the DUS of Chemistry before 5:00pm on Friday, August 11.

Higher-Level Courses

Students with a sufficiently strong background in chemistry may place out of General Chemistry and initiate their studies in Organic or Physical Chemistry courses after demonstrating proficiency through the department’s online placement exam. Note that AP credits are not accepted as placement; only the in-house exam is used.

Organic Chemistry for First-Year Students I and II, CHEM 174 and 175, are offered expressly for incoming students, with the vast majority of individuals starting in a higher-level course completing CHEM 174. Qualified students also can engage the standard organic sequence for sophomores, Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 220, fall) and Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 221, spring). Students having superior preparation may also elect to pursue the junior-level physical-chemistry sequence, Physical Chemistry I (CHEM 332, fall) and Physical Chemistry II (CHEM 333, spring).

First-year students who complete CHEM 174, the standard sophomore organic-chemistry class, CHEM 220, or the standard junior physical-chemistry class, CHEM 332, and earn a grade of B or above receive two acceleration credits for General Chemistry. The latter can be used to satisfy the General Chemistry prerequisite in the chemistry major and other science-based majors, such as biology or chemical engineering. Acceleration credits also can be used to fulfill pre-medical requirements. To learn more about acceleration credits, visit Yale College’s Acceleration

Departmental Permission for CHEM 163 & CHEM 174 

Enrollment in CHEM 163 or CHEM 174 through the Yale Online Course System requires departmental permission, which is granted automatically after placement. This normally occurs around the third week of August. Students experiencing problems while trying to enroll in a class for which they believe they have permission should email the DUS of Chemistry.

Introductory Laboratory Courses

Chemistry laboratory courses are separate to chemistry lecture courses and do not need to be completed simultaneously. Nevertheless, there are pedagogical advantages to engaging lecture and lab courses together. Regardless of whether a student is taking CHEM 161 & 165 or CHEM 163 & 167, there is only one sequence of General Chemistry laboratory, General Chemistry Laboratory I (CHEM 134L) and General Chemistry Laboratory II (CHEM 136L). Each of these laboratory courses counts as 0.5 credits towards Yale College graduation.

Similarly, there is only one sequence of Organic Chemistry laboratory. Regardless of whether a student is taking CHEM 174 & 175 or CHEM 220 & 221, all students complete Organic Chemistry Laboratory I (CHEM 222L) and Organic Chemistry Laboratory II (CHEM 223L), each of which counts as 0.5 credits towards Yale College graduation. A first-year student who places into CHEM 174 also places out of the General Chemistry laboratory requirements and should start their laboratory studies by taking CHEM 222L and 223L.

Students starting their studies in CHEM 332 are encouraged to contact the DUS to determine an appropriate laboratory class.