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Placement and Advisory Examinations

Please refer to the "Through The Gates" tab in your student portal for the most up to date information regarding placement exams. 

ALEKS: Quantitative Skill Assessment/Tutorial

This summer we are offering ALEKS to any student interested in taking an introductory science and/or calculus I (Math 30). ALEKS is a web-based adaptive learning program to help incoming students assess their knowledge base and review several key quantitative topics in preparation for the fall semester. You will receive an email in late May indicating that enrollment for ALEKS is now open, and enrollment will be open until late June. Once you sign up, you will have the rest of the summer to complete the initial assessment, but we recommend you finish the assessment early in the summer. Depending on how you feel about your results, you may opt to spend the summer using the learning mode and the various tutorials to review your quantitative skills before taking any of the placement exams. ALEKS is completely voluntary. It is purely a chance for you, if you feel you need it, to review basic math skills (logs, exponents, algebra, etc.) before you begin in the fall.

Please Note: Even if you score highly on the ALEKS initial assessment, all students still must take the appropriate placement exams. ALEKS does not replace any of the placement exams.

Instructions for receiving your ALEKS Access and Course Codes will be found online. You may also email the Quantitative Skills Center Director, Travis Brown, at if you have any questions.

Placement Exam Schedule

This year, many of the advisory placement and placement assessments are moving on-line so that you can take them prior to your arrival on campus.  More information about the placement assessments is available through the portal (myPomona) on the "Through the Gates" tab.  Please refer to the portal for the most up to date information. For a few subjects, placement assessments will be scheduled during orientation, and information about those assessments will also be available on the portal.


The Chemistry Department’s courses in general chemistry provide an introduction to chemical principles, laboratory techniques, and the analysis of experimental data.  The sequence in general chemistry is a prerequisite for advanced work in chemistry and biology, and is required for majors in chemistry, biology, molecular biology, and neuroscience,  and certain tracks in environmental analysis, geology, and public policy analysis majors.  Students planning a career in one of the medical sciences also take general chemistry.  In addition, the first semester of general chemistry is recommended to students who have completed three or more years of high school mathematics as a means of completing the Breadth of Study requirements.

Two options exist for completing the work in general chemistry:  a year-long course, Chemistry 1 a/b, and a one-semester, accelerated course, Chemistry 51.  Chemistry 1 a/b is the recommended entry-level course in chemistry.  Students who have extensive preparation in chemistry at the high school level and have demonstrated their understanding of the material on the placement examination (described below) are recommended to enroll in Chemistry 51.  First-year students will not be allowed to enroll in Organic Chemistry (Chemistry 110) unless a strong case can be made that they are well prepared to begin their study of chemistry at the advanced level.

Chemistry 1a/b is a two-semester sequence, which covers chemical principles, quantitative laboratory techniques, and elementary statistics.  Although high school work in the sciences is not required as preparation for Chemistry 1 a/b, it is highly recommended.  Because a command of algebra, geometry, and solving word problems is essential for success in chemistry, students planning to enroll in Chemistry 1 a/b must take the Quantitative Skills Advisory Examination to appraise their mathematical and problem-solving preparation for the sciences and mathematics. This exercise covers only high school mathematics with emphasis on simple word problems.  Because many important quantities such as the equilibrium constant and pH have logarithmic relationships, the examination has a few questions on logarithms.  Please note that students taking this exam are not allowed to use external sources of information or calculators. The Quantitative Skills Advisory Examination is administered online in late June.

Chemistry 51 is an accelerated, one-semester course in general chemistry. The course is intended for those students with strong preparation in high school mathematics and science. Students who have completed advanced placement chemistry or the equivalent are strongly encouraged to consider Chemistry 51. The student who completes Chemistry 51 satisfies the concentration requirements in general chemistry in one semester.  Chemistry 51 will cover the following topics: ionic equilibrium, atomic structure, chemical bonding, transition-metal complexes, chemical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, statistics, and the use of computer spreadsheets. Students planning to enroll in Chemistry 51 must have taken at least two years of high school chemistry and/or have a score of 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP Examination. In addition, we highly recommend that students enrolling in Chemistry 51 will have completed a year of high school physics.  They must also take and pass the Chemistry 51 Placement Examination administered during Orientation.  AP/IB credit does not guarantee enrollment in Chemistry 51. This examination does include chemistry and the use of calculators is encouraged.

One course credit towards graduation is given for a 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP Examination as long as the limit of two AP credits has not been exceeded.  However, a student cannot obtain course credit from both AP work in chemistry and completion of Chemistry 1 A/B.   In any event, the AP score in chemistry is listed on the student’s transcript.


Economics 51 (Principles: Macroeconomics) is the usual starting point for students who wish to pursue economics at Pomona College. However, the Economics Department offers placement examinations for students who have done well in coursework in macroeconomics or microeconomics prior to coming to college, and who would like to try to place out of Economics 51 or  52 (Principles: Microeconomics).

There is a separate examination for each course; each examination could take up to an hour. Incoming students who wish to start taking economics courses immediately, but who would like to place out of Economics 51 or 52, should take the relevant test or tests online during the summer before coming to campus. Students getting a later start in economics at the College can arrange with the department chair to take one or both of the examinations later, prior to enrolling in their first course in economics, if they hope to skip some of the introductory courses.

Given the difficulty that some students experience in jumping directly into intermediate theory (Economics 101 or 102) without taking either Economics 51 or 52 first, students who place out of both Economics 51 and 52 are generally advised to take Economics 57 (Statistics) or an economics course numbered 116 to 129 before taking Economics 101 or 102.

Students who major in economics and who place out of both Economics 51 and 52 are required to take an additional elective course in economics. See the economics section of the catalog for full major requirements.

Foreign Languages

All students who wish to enroll in a course in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin, Russian, or Spanish, and who have had any previous experience whatsoever in the language which they plan to study, must take the placement examination.

Examinations typically consist of sixty-minute multiple choice grammar and reading comprehension passages or thirty-minute fill-in-the-blank reading passages which test grammar and vocabulary.

Spanish Placement Exam: The Spanish Placement Exam is offered only online and may be taken at any time. The online exam can be accessed at Use the pull-down menu feature to select Pomona College.  The password is "sagehens1" (ending with the digit 1). Follow the online instructions for the exam. Results of the exam will be sent automatically to the College and will be made available to faculty advisers. All students who have studied Spanish at any level, including students who have taken AP and IB courses, and who plan to take Spanish courses at Pomona College must take the placement exam during the summer, before the beginning of the orientation adventure trips in August. (Note: This exam does not fulfill the language requirement.)

Chinese and Japanese Placement Exams: In order to enroll in Fall 2014 courses, all students who have studied Chinese or Japanese must take the placement exams before the beginning of orientation adventure trips. The Chinese and Japanese exams are taken in two parts and include a short oral component.  Part 1 will be on Sakai (to be taken over the summer prior to arriving on campus) and Part 2 will be during orientation.  Please refer to the Through The Gates tab on your student portal for additional information and deadlines. Results of the exams will be made available to faculty advisers. The exams can also be taken on an individual basis; students interested in doing so should contact the Coordinators of the respective language. (Note: These exams do not fulfill the foreign language requirement; they simply place the student in the appropriate language course.) 


There are no placement exams for mathematics. Instead, find advice below about how to begin your math curriculum. You may also reach out to any mathematics faculty member for more personalized advice on entry level math courses.

Which math class should I take?
The mathematics curriculum at Pomona College has a number of entry points and it is possible to go through the introductory courses following a variety of different paths. Start by reading these notes, then look at the Math Path schematic (link: [pdf] ), and finally discuss your choices with your advisor. The faculty of the mathematics department will be happy to discuss our choices with you as well.

What are the entry point Math classes?
Most students will enter the mathematics curriculum by taking one of Calculus and Applied Mathematics for Science and Economics (Math 29), Calculus I (Math 30), a flavor of Calculus II (Math 31, Math 31S, or Math 31H), a flavor of Multivariable Calculus (Math 32 or Math 32S), or Linear Algebra (Math 60). Some students will begin with a Statistics course (Math 58, 58b, or an advanced course in data analysis), some students take Math 1, and a few students begin in courses beyond Math 60.

Should I jump ahead or should I consolidate before proceeding?
Regardless of your mathematics background, you will likely have a choice of either moving on to the next course or taking the time to master earlier material. Factors that could influence your decision are your confidence level, the intensity of your schedule, and your academic goals.

Should I take Math 29 (Calculus and Applied Mathematics for Science and Economics)?
Many of the Sciences as well as Economics depend on the students’ ability to be able to translate the given information into a mathematical problem and then solve it. The class emphasizes problem solving and prepares students for science and economics classes. If you have had calculus in high school and want to strengthen your problem solving skills in the context of the sciences, if you have not had calculus and want to learn some calculus before entering Calculus I, or if you are interested in careers in the health sciences, then you should consider this class. Depending on your previous background in calculus, you can follow Math 29 with Math 30 or Math 31.

Should I take Math 30 or a flavor of Math 31?
Math 30 and Math 31 are first and second semester calculus. Math 30 covers roughly similar ground to AP Calculus AB and Math 31 corresponds to AP Calculus BC. In addition to the regular Math 31, we teach, in the spring semesters, Math 31S that emphasizes applications to the life sciences, and, in the Fall, Math 31H that is a more challenging class and explores connections with other areas of mathematics.

Math 32, Math 32S, Math 60, and Math 67.
There are three ways to experience multivariable calculus at Pomona College. You can take the regular multivariable calculus course (Math 32) and later follow it with Linear Algebra (Math 60). If you are interested in the life sciences or if you want a fast track to Mathematical Modeling, then you can take Math 32S (followed by Differential Equations and Mathematical Modeling). Finally, if you are planning to take a substantial number of Math courses, you are advised to take Linear Algebra (Math 60) followed by Vector Calculus (Math 67—a multivariable calculus class with a linear algebra prerequisite).

Math 58 (Intro to Statistics) and Math 58B (Intro to Biostatistics) are both introductory level statistics courses and their prerequisite is Math 29 or Math 30. If you have had AP Statistics or if you have taken a statistic course in another department (e.g., Econ Stats, Psych Stats), then you should not take either. More advanced statistics courses numbered 15x which have only an Intro Statistics class (e.g., AP Stats, Math 58 or 58B, other Stats course) as a prerequisite are offered once a semester. It may make more sense to take the latter courses after you have had a bit more math or a bit more experience in the sciences and/or Economics.

Math for Humanities.
Math 1 (Math, Philosophy, and the Real World) has high school algebra and geometry as a prerequisite, and combines historical, mathematical, and philosophical readings. The class is an interesting option for the students of the humanities, and is taught every other spring.

If I am a Pomona student, are there advantages to taking the introductory math classes at Pomona?
The Claremont Colleges Mathematics Departments have a cooperative program and Pomona students often take mathematics courses on the other campuses. For introductory courses, however, there are two advantages for staying on your home campus. Most mathematics courses emphasize collaboration and many depend on it. It could be easier for you to find a supportive group of peers to work with and more convenient to attend evening mentor sessions on your own campus. Additionally, as a Pomona student, getting to know Pomona faculty may be helpful as you proceed through the curriculum.

Introductory Physics

Students considering the possibility of majoring in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, pre-engineering, or other related fields can take either the Physics 70-71-72 sequence or the Physics 41-42 sequence for introductory Physics. Both sequences are calculus-based and valid pathways through the Physics major.

Physics 70, Spacetime, Quanta and Entropy, should normally be taken during the fall semester by first-year students who are at all considering the possibility of majoring in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, pre-engineering, or other related fields. Students with strong high school backgrounds in physics, such as students who have received a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exam, can place out of further introductory physics based on their results on our own placement exam offered during Physics 70. Those who need additional background in Mechanics or Electricity and Magnetism will be required to take half courses (Physics 71 and 72, offered in the spring semester) to fill in their introductory sequence.

Students interested in medicine, neuroscience, biology and related fields are encouraged to take Physics 41 and 42, offered in spring and fall semesters respectively.  These courses are specifically designed for pre-medical and non-major students, and provide excellent preparation in physics for taking the MCAT and for developing a strong and broad training in physics.  Students who have had no previous experience in Physics may find the 41-42 sequence to be less intimidating than the 70 series.

Students who realize after one semester or one year that they are interested in pursuing the major can still complete the major starting in the Spring of their First year or Fall of their Sophomore year but should consult with the department.


Students interested in a biology major will start the introductory sequence with Biology 40 in the Fall semester.  The second introductory course, either Bio41C or 41E, may be taken in the Spring semester.  First year students are strongly encouraged to enroll in Chemistry 1a or 51 in the Fall semesters since this course will be a prerequisite for Biology 41C. For students considering multiple majors, we encourage such exploration; students can begin the Biology major as sophomores and still complete everything on time.