Chemistry Placement Exam FAQs

General Questions

Do I need to take the Chemistry Placement Exam?

Beginning Fall 2016, there are many possible pathways into General Chemistry (CHE 2A and CHE 2AH). Students need to satisfy the criteria of at least one pathway. A satisfactory score on the Chemistry Placement Exam is one of these pathways. The Department of Chemistry will administratively drop students who do not qualify for a course in which they enroll. Not all majors or colleges require General Chemistry courses. We recommend you check the requirements for your College and major and/or seek advising if you are unsure about the requirements for your college and/or major.

Please refer to Office of the University Registrar, General Catalog for more information.

Is there a fee for taking either placement exam in Chemistry or Math?

There is no fee for taking either placement exam in Chemistry or Math.

Do I still need to take the Chemistry Placement Exam if I did well on the SAT or the AP test?

Beginning Fall 2016, there are many possible pathways into General Chemistry (CHE 2A and CHE 2AH). Students need to satisfy the criteria of at least one pathway. A satisfactory score on the SAT Math, ACT Math, AP Chemistry, or SAT Chemistry are all pathways into CHE 2A and CHE 2AH. Students who meet or exceed the threshold score on any of those exams do not need to take the Chemistry Placement Exam. Students who do not meet one of those exam scores can elect to take the Chemistry Placement Exam or complete one of the preparatory pathways. The Department of Chemistry will administratively drop students who do not qualify for a course in which they enroll.

Do I still need to take the Chemistry Placement Exam if I took college courses?

If you are enrolling in CHE 2A or CHE 2AH, you must satisfy the prerequisites outlined for CHE 2A or 2AH - which does not include college courses. If your college coursework transfers CHE 2A-equivalent credit, you may enroll in CHE 2B following the prerequisites for CHE 2B.

Will the Chemistry Placement Exam be available during Summer Advising/Orientation?

No. The exam is not available during Summer Advising/Orientation. Incoming freshmen are to take the exam during their admitting College's designated testing session prior to Orientation. An additional testing window will be open during the beginning of each academic term in which CHE 2A is offered.

How can I prepare for the Chemistry Placement Exam?

The Chemistry Placement exam pathway is intended for students who feel relatively confident in their chemistry knowledge, yet do not meet the exam score criteria outlined in other pathways. Keep in mind that the placement exam is not a pass/fail test - it is a placement test. It is meant to place you into coursework that is appropriate for your skills. The Chemistry Department now offers two preparatory chemistry options: 1) ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry, and 2) WLD 41C. The ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry is available year-round whereas WLD 41C is only offered Fall quarter. Of course, you are welcome to study on your own for the Chemistry Placement Exam by reviewing high-school chemistry concepts. Any "Introduction to Chemistry" text would be good for review. You may also find our ChemWiki webpage helpful.

The Student Academic Success Center (SASC) also offers drop-in assistance for those seeking additional help and/or resources. Please contact them for more information. We also offer a list of available Chemistry Graduate Student Tutors on our departmental website.

What will the exam include?

The exam consists of 44 multiple choice questions. Students have 45 minutes to complete the exam. A periodic table and a list of abbreviations and symbols are included with the exam. The following topics may be included:

  • Basic Math/Algebra Skills
  • Scientific Notation Calculations
  • Unit Conversion Calculations
  • Density Calculations
  • Percent Mass Calculations
  • Reading and Balancing Chemical Formulas and Reactions
  • Types of Reactions (Combustion, Neutralization, etc.)
  • Stoichiometry (Mole/Mole or Gram/Mole Conversions)
  • Molarity Calculations
  • Ideal Gas Law Calculations
  • Atomic/Molecular Structure and Properties
  • Mass Number, Protons, Neutrons, Electrons
  • Lewis Electron Dot Structure
  • Polar Bonds
  • Chemistry Theories and Concepts:
  • Phase Diagrams
  • States of Matter
  • Periodicity and Group Trends of Elements (Metals, Semimetals, and Nonmetals; Radii Size, etc.)
  • Equilibrium Expression
  • LeChatelier's Principle
  • Potential Energy Diagram
  • Heating Curve
  • Kintetic Molecular Theory
  • pH Concepts
Can I use a calculator or books on the exam?

Only scientific calculators and a periodic table are allowed for this exam. You may not use textbooks, the Internet, or other materials, or consult with anyone while taking this exam. Relying on these resources will make it harder to complete the exam on time and may result in your being advised to take a class inappropriate for you.

What if I require accomodations for my disability to take the exam?

Students with disabilities will need to contact the UC Davis Students Disabilities Center.

Where do I get my test results?

Your score will be emailed to you within 2-3 business days after taking the exam.

When will my score be available on SISWEB?

Students can check their scores via SISWEB several days after the end of the testing session in which they completed the exam.

Online/Computer Problems

I've forgotten my Chemistry Placement Exam username! How can I find it to take the test?

Your exam username is the first part of the email address on file with the University as your primary contact address for admissions and campus correspondence. For most, this will be the first part of your UC Davis email address. For example, if your email address is, then your username would be jsmith.

If you have forgotten your contact address, you can email with your full name and student ID requesting this information.

My web browser crashed or my computer turned off, what do I do?

If your web browser crashes, immediately reopen the test. It will let you continue working from where you left off until the timer counts down to zero. However, the timer will keep counting down even if your computer is not on.

What if I am having issues with completing the exam online?

For any computer/technical questions or advising questions regarding the online placement exam, please contact our staff at

Scheduling the Test

Do I have to complete the whole exam at one time?

Yes. You have 45 minutes to complete the exam, and you cannot save your progress and finish at another time. The timer continues to count down as soon as you choose to begin the test.

What if I am unable to take the exam during my time frame?

If you are unable to complete the online placement exam during your designated time frame, you are able to do so at scheduled times during the academic year. Approaching dates are announced online - usually there is an examination period during the first week of the quarter. For more information about upcoming times, contact our staff at

Please note that only your first chemistry placement exam score will count, regardless of the number of times you take the exam.

When can I complete the online Chemistry Placement Exam?

The Chemistry Placement Exam is ONLY AVAILABLE ONLINE.

Incoming freshmen students will be notified via email prior to their admitting college’s Summer Orientation regarding examination periods. Other students registered and waitlisted for CHE 2A will be notified via email when they will be able to take the exam. Instructions and links to the exam will be provided. Students who are not registered or waitlisted for the exam may manually register to take the exam.

Please see the Chemistry Placement Requirement page for further information regarding manual registration. Please note that only your first chemistry placement exam score will count, regardless of the number of times you take the exam.

General Questions about Preparatory Chemistry Pathways

I placed into CHE 2A, but I really want to prepare for General Chemistry. Can I still take WLD 41C or ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry?

If you have placed into CHE 2A, you can not take WLD 41C. WLD 41C is intended for students who do not place into CHE 2A, and want or need more structure than an online alternative. WLD 41C is only offered during the Fall Quarter whereas ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry is available multiple times per year. Completing ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry over the summer will allow you to start the CHE 2 series during Fall Quarter. If you want to prepare for General Chemistry, we strongly recommend taking the ALEKS Preparatory course to refresh your chemistry knowledge and skills.

I didn’t place into CHE 2A, which Preparatory Chemistry Pathway is better for me?

Which preparatory chemistry pathway to take depends largely on your own preferences and organizational ability. Since ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry is self-paced, and completed online, students need to have the self-discipline to login and complete the modules. At the same time, because it is self-paced and online, students can complete ALEKS on their own schedule, outside of Davis. The WLD 41C course is better suited for students who prefer to have face-to-face interactions with the instructor, and peers, with assigned homework and midterm examinations to stay on top of coursework. The two preparatory pathways are not mutually exclusive. Students are welcome to complete ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry over the summer, and still take WLD 41C in Fall if they are still feeling unprepared. Conversely, students who enrolled in WLD 41C can elect to take ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry during Fall quarter to supplement their preparation. However, doing both preparatory options is not necessary.

Achieving 100% in ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry doesn’t sound possible. Also, why do does ALEKS give me an initial assessment?

In traditional courses, a student turns in graded assignments and the scores on those assignments determines the overall course grade. Achieving 100% in a traditional course requires receiving 100% on each graded assignment, which is challenging. ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry scores students in a way that is different than grading in traditional courses. An analogy to the way ALEKS scores would be a race where there is a start and finish line. The finish line is 100% Pie Progress. ALEKS gives students an initial assessment in order to determine where the start line should be (average ~35% Pie Mastery). As with the Chemistry Placement Exam, this initial ALEKS assessment is to place you at the correct level for your skill. Take the assessment to the best of your own personal ability in order to get the most out of the ALEKS Preparatory course. The goal for everyone is to finish all the learning modules to reach 100%, but the time to reach 100% will vary because every student starts at a different place, and takes a different path. Depending on your interactions with the software, your path may even go backwards at times. The important thing to remember is that in ALEKS, you are always capable of reaching 100% with time and effort.

Do I need to finish ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry before Summer Orientation?

ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry is one pathway into CHE 2A, and students only need to satisfy the criteria of one pathway. The deadline to finish ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry is after all the Summer Orientations have ended - it is not required that you finish before your Summer Orientation. That said, your orientation leaders and academic advisors want to help you register for the appropriate classes for Fall Quarter. They will want to see that you are on the path towards finishing ALEKS so they feel confident in having you enroll in CHE 2A. If you have not signed up for, or made significant progress in ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry, prior to Summer Orientation, they may suggest you enroll in WLD 41C in Fall. Also note that the student license for ALEKS only grants access for 12 weeks starting the day the student creates an account, but the summer period is longer than 12 weeks. Students must complete ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry before the posted deadline, or before the license expiration, whichever occurs first.

What are the system requirements for ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry? Can I use my phone?

The latest system requirements for ALEKS can be found here:

The ALEKS Preparatory Chemistry Course follows the system requirements specified for a "Higher Ed. Science" course. As of Summer 2016, ALEKS is not compatible with mobile phone operating systems, but is compatible with common tablet or computer operating systems

Staff assistance is available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. To contact a staff administrator, please write to