Placement in Mathematics

General Information

Students enter Amherst with varying degrees of preparation in mathematics.  It is not always easy to decide which course is most appropriate. Students who study mathematics during their first semester at Amherst typically take one of our many Calculus courses, Math 105, 111, 121 or 211. In some cases, students will begin their math training in Math 271 or 272, Linear Algebra (w/Applications). See course descriptions for more information.

There are a lot of ways to complete a major in mathematics over the course of your college career.  Below are some sample pathways.  You should construct your own path in consultation with a professor in the department, taking into account your prior preparation, interests, and other commitments:

To determine what mathematics course is appropriate for you, please read on in the Mathematics Placement section.

For Orientation Advisors

If you have any questions regarding Math Placement after reading the information below, please contact the Math Placement advisor, Professor Danielle Benedetto (x5465 or

Most Math courses now meet only on Mon/Wed/Fri, although MATH 105 and the intensive section of MATH 111 still have a Tues/Thur meeting.

NOTE: We do our best to make space for all interested students to take our courses, but we cannot guarantee a specific section of a given course. Students may be moved to another section of the same course to balance enrollments.

Please read the following information carefully.

Mathematics Placement

Important Fall 2021 Update: Due to the pandemic and the College’s current Test-Optional SAT/ACT policy, some new students may not have taken the Advanced Placement Calculus exam(s). If you have found success in your AP Calculus course, but did not take the AP exam, you may be eligible for a higher level of Calculus. We have other ways to set your Recommended Math Placement. Please contact Professor Danielle Benedetto.

The DEFAULT Calculus placement for most incoming first-year students is Math 111. This placement may be appropriately adjusted based on the following sets of criteria:

AP Calculus Courses:  Students taking an Advanced Placement Calculus course (Calculus AB or Calculus BC) in high school are urged to take the appropriate AP examination.  If your scores have not been reported to Amherst College (this happens to many students who take the AP exams in their senior year of high school), please email an unofficial copy of your scores to Danielle Benedetto at  Otherwise, you may be incorrectly placed in the wrong Calculus course. If you do not report your AP Calculus scores, you may receive the default placement of Math 111, and you should contact Professor Danielle Benedetto at

Placement into Math 105 or the Intensive section of Math 111 (Math 111-01): Placement in these sections is based on the student's prior preparation. Students need permission from Danielle Benedetto, the Mathematics Placement Advisor, in order to take a different section of calculus.

To place into Mathematics 121 (Intermediate Calculus), skipping Math 111 (Introduction to the Calculus):

  • Score a 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB test, or score a 3 on the Calculus BC test
  • Place out of Math 111 by taking the short, online Calculus Diagnostic ExaminationNote:  If you are taking the Calculus Diagnostic Exam at any time during the year other than July/early August, please send an email to so your exam will be reviewed and graded.

To place into Mathematics 211 (Multivariable Calculus), skipping Math 111 and Math 121:

  • Score a 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC test
  • Place out of Math 121 by passing a competency exam administered by the Department.  Entering students who need to take the competency exam can do so during Orientation.  Contact Danielle Benedetto.

To place out of Math 211 or higher-level Math courses: Occasionally, entering students have credit from previous college mathematics courses. Students wishing to be excused from Mathematics 211 need a passing grade on a competency exam (link to policy on sub-page) administered by the Department or on a transcript for a college multivariable calculus course taken before coming to Amherst. The same policy applies to students wishing to be excused from Math 271/272, 350, or 355. In all such cases, the competency exam is intended only for students who have actually taken courses covering most or all of the relevant material. If you had a High School version, we can discuss your options. Students are strongly discouraged from self-studying courses to avoid or skip them. Entering students who choose to take the competency exam can do so during Orientation. Contact Danielle Benedetto.

Note: Mathematics majors who place out of Math 211 and/or Math 271/272 must replace the course with an additional mathematics course numbered between 225 and 490. (For Math 211, that rule applies to students in the class of 2027 and above.) Mathematics majors who place out of Math 350 or 355 must replace that course with an additional mathematics course numbered between 300 and 490. 

Students who have done IB or A-Levels:  If your high school math curriculum was based on the International Baccalaureate or A-Levels, then you may be automatically eligible for Math 121 or, in some cases, Math 211.  This depends on several things, including your overall grade and, in the case of IB, whether or not you took the Calculus Option (previously called the Series Option). Please contact Danielle Benedetto so you and she can discuss your background and which math course is most appropriate for you.

Transfer Students (some prior preparation): If you transfer to Amherst, you may be able to transfer many of your previous college math courses towards the Math Major. Please contact Danielle Benedetto so you and she can discuss your background and which math course is most appropriate for you.

Questions about Mathematics Placement:  Contact Danielle Benedetto, the Mathematics Placement Advisor.

Danielle L. Benedetto

Danielle L. Benedetto

Senior Lecturer in Mathematics