Chemistry at Amherst College

Chemistry Placement

Are you thinking of taking Chemistry at Amherst? If so, you're in the right place to learn about what course to take in your first semester.

Welcome to Chemistry at Amherst College!

Students enter Amherst College with a wide variety of prior experience with and preparation in chemistry. One common factor we have found is that college chemistry in general, and chemistry at Amherst College in particular, takes a broader view of the subject and makes greater use of concepts from mathematics and physics than the vast majority of pre-college approaches to the material. This includes AP, IB, and A-level programs. Consequently, our 100 level courses are the best starting points for study in our department.

Many students who are not chemistry majors take the same first four courses as do chemistry majors, whether for fundamental interest or to satify requirements for medical school admission or other majors. (Chemistry is the central science!)  The department does offer courses specifically for students not intending to major in chemistry, or even a STEM field at all.  These courses do not have any prerequities (although CHEM-250 is not open to first-year students) and include CHEM-100, 110, 120, and 250.

Transfer students intending to major in Chemistry are typically assigned an advisor in the Chemistry Department upon acceptance to Amherst. If not, by all means contact the Chemistry Department chair who will be happy to help you get the advice you need.  While the Registrar's Office determines which courses are transferred, you and your advisor will look carefully at the coursework you've already done to determine which courses will meet requirements for the major and then make a plan for how best to succeed moving forward in the major. For any questions related to majoring in Chemistry, please contact the department chair.

Your first chemistry course at Amherst College

For the vast majority of Amherst College students, Chemistry 151 or Chemistry 155, followed by Chemistry 161 or 165, respectively, are the appropriate first courses in the department: Chemistry placement in either CHEM 151 or CHEM 155 is based upon prior preparation in both math and the physical sciences. Please note that while some high school background in chemistry is useful for students who have been placed in CHEM 155, having taken AP or IB Chemistry is certainly not a requirement. It is strongly recommended that incoming students who place into MATH 105 should take MATH 105 before taking CHEM 151. First-year students who take MATH 105 in the fall often enroll in CHEM 151 the following spring. In addition, note that MATH 111 is a prerequisite for CHEM 161. (This prerequisite can also be fulfilled by completion of both MATH 105 and MATH 106 or placement by the mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.)

Entering first-year students receive one of four possible recommended chemistry placements (151, 151.1, 151.2, or 155), available via Workday to students and advisors. Placement recommendations are generated for all entering students, regardless of individual intentions to take chemistry or not. The four possible recommendations are explained on this linked page.

Please feel free to direct any placement questions to Dr. Stephen Cartier (x5480,

Note regarding Advancement Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)

In accordance with Amherst College policy, neither AP nor IB credit is granted. CHEM 155 is a completely appropriate starting course for students who have taken AP or IB Chemistry in high school (but again, having taken AP or IB Chemistry is not a requirement for placement in CHEM 155).

Students with previous college credit

Occasionally, entering students have credit from previous college chemistry courses. These students should speak with the one of the Chemistry Department Co-Chairs (Professor Mark Marshall,, or Prof. Helen Leung, regarding appropriate placement into courses and requirements for the major.