Placement and Advisory Exams

Students take placement exams in areas of the curriculum where correct placement is critical to success. The results of the foreign language and Accelerated Chemistry placement exams determine students' course placement, while the results of all other exams are advisory: in consultation with their advisors, students can choose the level at which they will begin coursework. However, students should discuss their placements with the chair(s) of the relevant department(s) if they feel any of their placement results are not accurate. It’s much, much better to start out at the correct level than to choose unwisely and run into difficulties later. Phone numbers for the College’s academic departments can be found on department webpages.

Placement and Advisory Exam Information

Placement assessments, depending on the subject, may either be taken online prior to your arrival on campus or during orientation. The information below covers introductory course sequences and which placement examinations you need to take.


Placement test available for Chemistry 51 (Accelerated General Chemistry) only. The one-hour CHEM 51 placement exam is available to take anytime from 9am July 15 (PST) to 11pm July 31 (PST) on Sakai. You can access Sakai through the Pomona portal at Please read this page to learn if that exam is right for you. Questions about the Chemistry 51 placement exam should be directed to Professor Malkiat Johal.

Why take chemistry?

  • You’re interested in chemistry (e.g. energy, climate change, medicine and therapeutics, etc.).
  • You’re thinking about majoring in chemistry, biology, molecular biology, or neuroscience.
  • You’re thinking about pursuing a career in the health professions.

The flow through the General Chemistry sequence:

Did you take any high school (h.s.) chemistry with lab?

  • Yes: Did you take AP or IB Chemistry? If so, did you score a 4 or 5 on the AP exam?  Or a 6 or 7 on the IB exam?
    • Yes: Enroll in Accelerated General Chemistry (CHEM 51) with a passing placement exam score. Or enroll in CHEM 1A.
      • CHEM 1A route: CHEM 1A -> CHEM 1B -> Organic Chem….
      • CHEM 51 route: CHEM 51 -> Organic Chem…
    • No: Enroll in General Chemistry (CHEM 1A).
      • CHEM 1A -> CHEM 1B -> Organic Chem…
  • No: Enroll in General Chemistry (CHEM 1A)
    • CHEM 1A -> CHEM 1B -> Organic Chem…

Chemistry at Pomona begins with either Chemistry 1A/B (General Chemistry) or Chemistry 51 (Accelerated General Chemistry; see below). Both options require weekly laboratory sessions.

CHEM001A/B. CHEM001A is offered every Fall and CHEM001B is offered every Spring. Completion of CHEM001A is required to enroll in CHEM001B. Any student may enroll in CHEM001A; in Fall 2021, three sections will be available for open enrollment:

Section 1 – General Chemistry, MWF 08:50-09:40AM

Section 2 – General Chemistry, MWF 10:00-10:50AM

Section 4 – General Chemistry, MWF 11:10AM-12:00PM

CHEM051. CHEM051 is offered every Fall and only in the Fall. Enrollment in CHEM051 is dependent on placement exam results; consult the department for guidance if necessary.

Chemistry 51 is an accelerated, one-semester course in general chemistry intended for students with strong preparation in high school science and mathematics. Completion of Chemistry 51 satisfies the major requirement in general chemistry in one semester. Students who have completed advanced placement chemistry or the equivalent are strongly encouraged to consider Chemistry 51. Students eligible to enroll 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 (or IB equivalent), and have one year of chemistry laboratory experience. In addition, they must also pass the Chemistry 51 Placement Examination, which is chemistry-focused and administered as an online exam during Summer (July); AP/IB credit does not guarantee enrollment in Chemistry 51. Finally, it is highly recommended that students will have also completed a year of high school physics.

The one-hour CHEM 51 placement exam will be available to take anytime from 9am July 15 (PST) to 11pm July 31 (PST) on Sakai. You can access Sakai through the Pomona portal at Once on Sakai, look the page called CHEM 51 Placement 2021.

The chemistry placement exam uses the ACS (American Chemical Society) exam for general chemistry. Based on the ACS guide, the topics for the general chemistry exam are:

  • Atomic Structure
  • Electronic Structure
  • Formula Calculations and the Mole
  • Stoichiometry
  • Solutions and Aqueous Reactions
  • Heat and Enthalpy
  • Structure and Bonding
  • States of Matter
  • Kinetics
  • Equilibrium
  • Acids and Bases
  • Solubility Equilibria
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electrochemistry
  • Nuclear Chemistry


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 first-year 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).

Separate examinations for Econ 51 and Econ 52 are currently available on Sakai (“Economics Placement 2021”). Each examination can take up to 90 minutes; they will be available until August 14 at 11:55 p.m PDT. Each student may only take the test once, and may not go back and retake it. (See “Sakai” tab below for more information.)

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. There are also opportunities for students to take the tests online a week or two before pre-registration in later semesters.

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.


All Pomona language placements exams will be available by July 12.

All students who wish to enroll in a course in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, 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. In order to ensure the accuracy of the placement test results, please answer the questions to the best of your ability without consulting dictionaries, notes or other forms of reference.

Please note: Placement exams do NOT satisfy the College’s language requirement.

The following placement exams are administered online over the summer. However, some language exams may have additional oral/listening components that are administered during Orientation.

For more information on language placement tests, please visit the Foreign Language Resource Center.


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, 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 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 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.

What are 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 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.


There is no fall placement exam for 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.


There is no placement exam for biology.

Students interested in a biology major will start the introductory sequence with Biology 40 in the Fall semester. In Bio 40, final grades of P (pass) or NC (no credit) are the only officially recorded grades on your transcript. 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.

Introductory Genetics (Bio 40 with lab) is the first biology course taken by pre-health students and other students interested in a life science major. The Biology department offers five different sections of the course, each taught by different instructors. At least one of these sections is a designated ‘cohort section’ and is designed to provide students with extra support. Based upon the Supplemental Instruction model pioneered by Uri Treisman, this section is different in a few important ways. It has fewer students, emphasizes group learning more, and requires additional work outside of class.  This section will also focus on supporting the experience of underrepresented students in STEM fields and building an encouraging community of scholars. This section is intensive and will cover the same material at the same level as the other sections and is open to our Pomona Science Scholars and Posse Scholars. If room permits, it may also accommodate a few other select students at the discretion of the biology department and instructor of the course. If you believe that you would benefit from this type of learning environment, and are willing to put in the extra work, we encourage you to contact Travis Brown and Dylan Worcester at to receive more information about your eligibility for joining this section.

Music Theory

Placement exams available for students who wish to take a theory course labeled 80 or above.

Most students who take music theory courses at Pomona begin with either Materials of Music (MUS004) or Theory I (MUS080). In rare cases, students with more extensive experience will begin with Theory II (82). Theory 1 is a prerequisite for certain upper-level music courses. Note, however, that there are many possible music courses to take at Pomona, and the placement exam is only necessary for students who wish to take a theory course labeled 80 or above. The results of the music theory placement exams are advisory, and students should decide which course to take in consultation with their advisors and, as needed, the professors teaching the courses in question. The placement exam is available over the summer on the Sakai system (see the Sakai tab, below, for more information). Once on Sakai,

  1. Select "Home.”
  2. Select "Membership."
  3. Click "Joinable Sites."
  4. You will see "POMusicTheoryPlaceme" in the list of worksites; search for "Music" if you have difficulty finding it.
  5. Click on the POMusicTheoryPlaceme worksite and join it.
  6. You will now have a Sakai tab labeled "POMusicTheoryPlaceme." Open it and follow the remaining directions.

For other frequently asked question, consult the music department website.


Sakai is the Learning Management System (LMS) for The Claremont Colleges. Sakai accounts for the class of 2025 have been created. Direct your browser to Sakai-based Online Placement Exams and perform the following:

  • Click on “Login” in the upper right corner.
  • Choose Pomona College from the pull-down menu under “Please Select Your College.”
  • Login with your Pomona College Login ID.
  • Reminder: you do need to have set up your Pomona College email in order to access Sakai sites.
  • As an incoming student, you will see multiple placement exam tabs along the top and under the "More Sites" tab in Sakai.  Click on the tab(s) you wish to access.
  • If you encounter difficulties logging in to Sakai, you can contact the Pomona College ITS Service Desk: or 909-621-8061.

ALEKS: Quantitative Skills Assessment/Tutorial

Students who would like some additional preparation/review of their quantitative pre-calculus (logs, exponents, algebra, etc.) skills have the option of using the ALEKS online tutorial program over the summer. ALEKS is completely optional, and is not used for placement purposes. 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 courses that have a quantitative component at the college, especially calculus. Once you sign up, you will take an initial assessment (60-90 minutes), and, depending on your results, you may spend time in prep and learning modules to strengthen your quantitative skills.

To sign up, please email The Quantitative Skills Center Assistant Director, Dylan Worcester.