Placement Exams

Placement Exams

Many incoming GS students will be required to take the placement exams in Quantitative Reasoning, Mathematics, or Chemistry. Please consult with your academic advisor to confirm if you are required to take any of these exams.

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. Placement exams are offered throughout the summer and during Orientation Week in the fall and spring semesters. 

Please note that each placement exam may only be taken once.

To view the Placement Exam schedule, or to register, click here.

Important Notes

  • Calculators are not permitted.
  • Students will receive their Placement Exam scores immediately following the completion of the exams, and are asked to wait for results. Students, however, will not be provided with a corrected exam. 

Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

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 the GS Acceptance Packet.

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.

Quantitative Reasoning Exam

The Quantitative Reasoning Exam is a one-hour placement exam required of all students entering GS who have not met the quantitative reasoning requirement through ACT or SAT testing. After attending an Academic Planning Session, you will know if you are required to take the exam. If you are still uncertain about needing to take the QR Exam, please consult with your academic advisor.

Taking the exam before meeting with your advisors is highly recommended, but not required. Students who are required to take the Quantitative Reasoning Exam must do so by the end of Orientation Week.

There are 23 questions—16 multiple choice and 7 free-response questions. You must obtain a score of 20 to fulfill the GS quantitative reasoning requirement. Only then may students take college-level coursework that requires quantitative skills. Calculators are permitted during the exam. The exam will test your skills in the following areas:

  • Logic
  • Trigonometry
  • Quadratic Algebra
  • Linear Equations/Algebra
  • Statistics
  • Interpreting Graphs
  • Percentages and Ratios
  • Systems
  • Exponential Functions
  • Volume

Mathematics Exams

The Mathematics Placement Exam consists of two parts. It is suggested that you 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.

Math Part I

Passing Math Part I will place you into Pre-Calculus. You may take Part II only if you pass Part I. Students who pass the Mathematics Exam 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 topic are covered on Math Part I. Students should review a high school textbook 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)
  • Inequalities
  • Absolute Value
  • Algebraic Fractions
  • Properties of Straight Lines
  • Functions
  • Quadratic Equations

Math Part II

Passing Math Part II will place you into Calculus I. You may take Part II only if you pass Part I. We do not offer placement exams to determine placement in courses higher than Calculus I. Please consult with your academic advisor for additional information on this matter.

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 should review a high school textbook covering these subject to review for Math Part II. Calculators are not permitted.

  • Functions
  • Trigonometric Identity
  • Logarithms
  • Graphing Functions
  • Inequalities
  • Distance

Exam Results

  • Students who do not pass the Mathematics Exam Part I must take a course in Basic Mathematics [MATH S0065], which is offered only during the summer session.
  • Students who pass the Mathematics Exam Part I, but not Part II will be required to take College Algebra and Analytic Geometry [MATH W1003], which is offered during the fall, spring and summer sessions.
  • Students who pass both Part I and Part II of the Mathematics Placement Exam can enroll in Calculus I [MATH V1101].

Chemistry Exam

The Chemistry Placement Exam will test basic knowledge of chemistry.

Timing, Composition and Scoring

  • 60 minutes
  • 44 multiple-choice questions.
  • 23/44 passing score.
  • A periodic table is provided, but calculators are not permitted.

Topics and Preparation

The following topics are covered on the Chemistry Placement Exam. Students should review a high school chemistry book to prepare for the exam.

  • Acids and bases
  • Atomic and nuclear structure
  • Balancing chemical equations
  • Chemical bonding and its relation to molecular structure
  • Chemical reactions
  • Chemistry nomenclature
  • Equilibria
  • Gas laws
  • Kinetics
  • Periodic properties of elements
  • Phase changes
  • Stoichiometry
  • Thermodynamics

Exam Results

  • Students who pass the Chemistry Placement Exam with a 23 or above may enroll in General Chemistry I [CHEM C1403/CHEM W1403].
  • Students who receive a 20-22 on the Chemistry Placement Exam are encouraged to take Preparation for College Chemistry in the fall [CHEM W0001] or summer [CHEM S0001], as they may have difficulty with General Chemistry I [CHEM C1403/CHEM W1403]. Students should speak with their advisor to determine a plan during their initial advising appointment.
  • Students who receive a 19 or below on the Chemistry Placement Exam will be required to take Preparation for College Chemistry in the fall [CHEM W0001] or summer [CHEM S0001].