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), or
  • 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, 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 does not recommend that students with a strong background in chemistry complete CHEM 161.


There is no summer online chemistry placement exam for General Chemistry courses (CHEM 161 or CHEM 163). Rather, the Chemistry Department reviews the first-year students’ preparedness before the beginning of the fall term, using test scores, admission records, and information supplied by students through the High School Math and Science Survey. The department then determines the appropriate course, either CHEM 161 or 163, for every entering student.

Incoming students should complete the survey as soon as possible during the summer before matriculation. They will be able to view their course placement in early August at the Canvas “Course Placement 2023” site.

If a student initially placed in CHEM 161 wants to complete CHEM 163 they will be required to demonstrate their proficiency in an online placement exam. Any student in this situation should email the DUS  after placement results have been issued but before 5:00 p.m. 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. Please note that AP credits are not accepted as placement; only the placement 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. Students can also complete the standard organic sequence for sophomores Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 220, fall) and Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 221, spring) or 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 physical chemistry, CHEM 332, and earn a grade of B or above receive two acceleration credits for General Chemistry, which 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 can also be used to fulfil pre-medical requirements. To learn more about acceleration credits, visit Yale College’s Acceleration

On-line Placement Exam

First-year students wishing to take Organic or Physical Chemistry CHEM 174, 220, or 332 are required to demonstrate their proficiency by completing an online placement exam. Typically, only individuals who have scored a five on the AP Chemistry exam, or equivalent, and have a strong background in math and physics will start their studies in a higher-level course. Nevertheless, any student can take the exam. Anyone uncertain about their preparation is encouraged to take the exam, as it provides the best measure of a student’s readiness to enter the wide variety of courses offered to first-years.

The exam is a closed-book, 60-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.

Check for your test scores in Canvas.

Departmental Permission for CHEM 163 & CHEM 174 

Enrollment in CHEM 163 or CHEM 174 through the Yale Online Course System requires departmental permission and is automatic after placement. It normally occurs around the third week of August. Students experiencing problems with enrolling in a class for which they believe they have permission should email the DUS.

Introductory Laboratory Courses

Chemistry lab courses are separate to chemistry lecture courses and do not need to be completed simultaneously. Nevertheless, there are pedagogical advantages to completing 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 lab. All students complete General Chemistry Laboratory I CHEM 134L and General Chemistry Laboratory II CHEM 136L, each counts as 0.5 credits towards Yale College graduation.

Similarly, there is only one sequence of Organic Chemistry lab. Regardless of whether a student is taking CHEM 174 and 175 or CHEM 220 and 221, all students complete Organic Chemistry Laboratory I CHEM 223L and Organic Chemistry Laboratory II CHEM 223L, each 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 lab sequence and should start their laboratory studies by taking Organic Chemistry lab.

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