Information for Orientation Advising

Comments regarding placement in chemistry, Fall 2020

The Department offers two different yearlong general-chemistry sequences: CHEM 151 followed by CHEM 161 and CHEM 155 followed by CHEM 165. Upon arrival at the College, first-year students will receive placements in either CHEM 151 or CHEM 155. Chemistry placements are based not on specific material covered in high school chemistry courses, but rather on indicators that help us recommend the appropriate first course in chemistry for each incoming student. Our welcome message to first-year students available on our departmental web page contains a link to comments about chemistry placement. We would encourage both advisors and advisees to read those pages, as well as the information provided below.

Entering first-year students receive one of four possible recommended chemistry placements (151, 151.1, 151.2, or 155), available via AC Data 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 below.

1) “Amherst College first-year chemistry-placement recommendation: CHEM-151”: Enroll in CHEM 151. Students with this recommendation and who wish to take chemistry this fall should enroll in CHEM 151—generally, students will need to register for the lecture, one of the discussion sections, and one laboratory sections. (In fall 2020, the course structure may be modified due to remote-learning and social-distancing requirements.) CHEM 155 is not appropriate for these students.

2) “Amherst College first-year chemistry-placement recommendation: CHEM-151.1”: Enroll in CHEM 151 in the fall with Intensive Section (or consider enrolling in CHEM 151 in the spring semester). The fall-semester CHEM 151 Intensive Section is designed for students who have placed into CHEM 151 but have a more limited chemistry or math background in secondary school. The course is identical in essentially all respects to CHEM 151, but in addition to the lecture, section, and lab, the intensive section includes a weekly two-hour problem solving session. Enrollment in the intensive section is by invitation only, and all students with a CHEM 151.1 placement who enroll in CHEM 151 in the fall will receive an invitation during the first week of classes.

Alternatively, students who receive a chemistry placement of 151.1 might wish to delay taking CHEM 151 until the spring semester (the so-called “off-semester” of CHEM 151), followed by taking CHEM 161 in the fall of their sophomore year. Postponing chemistry for a semester gives students with more limited preparations in high school math and science a chance to acclimate to Amherst and to the expectations of college-level work during the fall, after which they are often better positioned to begin chemistry. In addition, spring-semester CHEM 151 typically has a much smaller enrollment than does 151 in the fall semester.

3) “Amherst College first-year chemistry-placement recommendation: CHEM-151.2”: Delay CHEM 151 pending MATH 105 completion. We strongly recommend that incoming students who have placed into MATH 105 wait until the spring semester of their first year to take CHEM 151. Our experience is that students have a far more positive experience in chemistry if they enroll in CHEM 151 in the spring after completion of MATH 105. Note that completion of MATH 105 and 106 (equivalent to MATH 111) is a prerequisite for enrollment in CHEM 161, and thus students who have placed into MATH 105 must complete MATH 106 in the spring along with CHEM 151 to enroll in CHEM 161 in the fall of their sophomore year.

Important note concerning the spring: Again, CHEM 161 has a strict prerequisite of MATH 111. Any student who has not satisfied the prerequisite or who has not been placed in MATH 121 or higher by the mathematics department will be denied enrollment in CHEM 161 in the spring semester. We do check this prerequisite, and we enforce it strictly.

4) “Amherst College first-year chemistry-placement recommendation: CHEM-155”: Enroll in CHEM 155. CHEM 155 is an advanced version of first-semester introductory chemistry intended for students who have a strong background in mathematics and the physical sciences. It presents introductory chemistry from a point of view that emphasizes physical principles and more rigorous mathematical reasoning. A student with a CHEM 155 placement should enroll in this course by registering for the lecture, one of the discussion sections, and one of laboratory sections. (In fall 2020, the course structure may be modified due to remote-learning and social-distancing requirements.) Because ideas from calculus are introduced and used in CHEM 155, students must receive a MATH placement of MATH 121 or higher. CHEM 165, which is offered only in the spring, is the appropriate second-semester general chemistry course for students who have completed CHEM 155.

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 chemistry 155).

Important note: CHEM 155 is only offered in the fall semester, and students who place into CHEM 155 will not be permitted to enroll in the off-semester of CHEM 151 in the spring. Therefore, incoming students who place into CHEM 155 must take the course in the fall if they wish to begin their chemistry studies during their first year at the College.

First-year students wishing to place out of CHEM 151/155 and directly into second-semester general chemistry or organic chemistry must speak with a member of the chemistry faculty.

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