Many incoming GS students will be required to take a placement exam in chemistry, mathematics, and/or quantitative reasoning. Placement exams are instrumental in establishing a student’s level of proficiency in these subjects. The results of these exams determine a student's accurate placement in related courses.
Students should consult with their academic advisor to confirm if they are required to take any of these exams, and should not register without advisor approval. Exams in mathematics and chemistry are offered online and may be taken at any time after the student's first advising appointment and prior to the start of the student's first semester. Exams in quantitative reasoning are offered in-person during Orientation Week.
Please note that each placement exam may only be taken once.
- There are no practice exams for the placement exams. Students should refer to the relevant placement exam page(s) for information about topics that will be covered.
- Students will receive their placement exam scores immediately following the completion of the exams.
- Students who have questions after receiving their results should follow up with their academic advisor.
- Students are allowed to register for courses contingent upon the outcome of a placement exam. Students who do not receive the required score for a given course will be required to modify their registration.
In some cases, students with disabilities are entitled to accommodations related to administration of examinations, including placement exams. Such accommodations must be specified as well as authorized by the Columbia University Office of Disability Services, based on an assessment of the disability and appropriate documentation. This authorization process can often take a month, once all required documentation is received.
Students with learning disabilities or other disabilities that may warrant an accommodation should contact the Office of Disability Services immediately upon receipt of their acceptance letter.
Exams Administered by the Office of Disability Services
Students who take a placement exam through the Office of Disability Services will receive their scores within 24-48 hours via email.
Because a language course may fill up before a student is able to take the relevant placement exam, students are allowed to register for language courses contingent upon the outcome of a placement exam. Students who do not receive the required score for a given course will be required to modify their registration.
For information about language placement exams, including exam dates and registration requirements, visit the University-Wide Placement Exams page.
GS Placement Exams
The chemistry placement exam will test basic knowledge of chemistry required for enrollment in General Chemistry I [CHEM UN1403].
- 60 minutes
- 35 multiple-choice questions
- 20/35 passing score
The following topics are covered on the chemistry placement exam. Students should review a high school chemistry book or online video tutorial to prepare for the exam. A periodic table is provided, but calculators are not permitted.
- Acids and bases
- Atomic and nuclear structure
- Balancing chemical equations
- Chemical bonding and its relation to molecular structure
- Chemical reactions
- Chemistry nomenclature
- Gas laws
- Periodic properties of elements
- Phase changes
- Students who receive a score of 20 or above may enroll in General Chemistry I [CHEM UN1403].
- Students who receive a score of 18-20 are encouraged to take Preparation for College Chemistry in the fall [CHEM UN0001] or summer [CHEM S0001], as they may have difficulty with General Chemistry I [CHEM UN1403]. Students should speak with their advisor to determine a plan during their initial advising appointment.
- Students who receive a score of 17 or below will be required to take Preparation for College Chemistry in the fall [CHEM UN0001] or summer [CHEM S0001].
Students who have received transfer credit, or who have transfer credit pending, for chemistry courses taken elsewhere should consult with their advisor to determine whether they should take the chemistry placement exam.
Students may take the exam online any time between October 1, 2019 and January 21, 2020.
The mathematics placement exam consists of two parts. It is suggested that students review the material described below before taking the exam, as it may not be retaken. Material for both parts I and II should be covered in any standard algebra textbook.
Passing Math Part I will place students into College Algebra and Analytic Geometry [MATH UN1003], Columbia's pre-calculus course. Students who pass part I must take part II if they would like to enroll in Calculus I.
Timing, Composition, and Scoring
- 45 minutes
- 20 multiple-choice problems
- 16/20 passing score
Topics and Preparation
The following topics are covered in Math Part I. Students may consult a high school textbook or online video tutorial covering these subjects to review for Math Part I. Calculators are not permitted.
- Order of Operations
- Manipulating Fractions
- Distributive Law
- Square Root
- Linear Equations in One Variable
- Factoring and Multiplying Algebraic Expressions
- Coordinates and Graphs (two variables)
- Absolute Value
- Algebraic Fractions
- Properties of Straight Lines
- Quadratic Equations
Students may take the Math I exam online any time between October 1, 2019 and January 21, 2020.
Passing Math Part II will place students into Calculus I. Students may take Part II if and only if they pass Part I.
Timing, Composition, and Scoring
- 40 minutes
- 12 multiple-choice problems
- 9/12 passing score
Topics and Preparation
The following topics are covered on Math Part II. Students may review a high school textbook or online video tutorial covering these subjects to review for Math Part II. Calculators are not permitted.
- Trigonometric Identity
- Graphing Functions
Students who have received a passing score on Math I may take the Math II exam online any time between October 1, 2019 and January 21, 2020.
- Students who do not pass Part I may take a course in Basic Mathematics [MATH S0065] during the summer session in order to prepare for College Algebra and Analytic Geometry [MATH UN1003]. They should consult with their academic advisor for more information and options.
- Students who pass Part I, but not Part II, will be required to take College Algebra and Analytic Geometry [MATH UN1003], which is offered during the fall, spring, and summer sessions. This is Columbia's pre-calculus course.
- Students who pass both Part I and Part II may enroll in Calculus I [MATH UN1101].
Students who have received transfer credit, or who have transfer credit pending, for the equivalent of MATH UN1003 (a pre-calculus or college algebra and trigonometry course taken elsewhere) should still take the math placement exam in order to determine their readiness to take Calculus I [MATH UN1101].
Students who have received transfer credit, or who have transfer credit pending, for a calculus course taken elsewhere must follow up with the Department of Mathematics for placement into the appropriate Columbia course. For more information, visit the website.
The quantitative reasoning exam is a one-hour placement exam that allows students entering GS the opportunity to test out of the quantitative reasoning core requirement. The exam is not required, but is recommended for students who have not met the quantitative reasoning requirement through SAT or ACT test scores or through prior coursework.
The exam consists of 23 questions—16 multiple-choice and 7 free-response. Students must obtain a score of 20 to fulfill the quantitative reasoning requirement, and a score of 16 to be able to enroll in Frontiers of Science. Calculators are permitted during the exam. The exam will test students' skills in the following areas:
- Quadratic Algebra
- Linear Equations/Algebra
- Interpreting Graphs
- Percentages and Ratios
- Exponential Functions
Students who are interested in taking the QR exam should speak with their advisor about the process.