Chemistry and Biochemistry

Chemistry Placement

All students interested in taking CHEM 101 or CHEM 103 in Fall 2022 must take a 60-minute General Chemistry Entrance Survey on Blackboard.

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) credit is granted automatically based on the appropriate exam score. These details are fully outlined in the college’s catalog.

Most students begin their study of chemistry with CHEM 101/102. Students with strong preparation should consider CHEM 103—a one-semester, faster-paced introduction to chemistry—to start.  CHEM 103 is offered in the fall only.

Placement in CHEM 103 is based either on an Oberlin placement exam that is available online before registration or on AP, IB, or A-level scores. CHEM 103 also has a co-requisite of MATH 133 (Calculus I).

Entering students who have scores of 4 or 5 on the Chemistry Advanced Placement examination of the Educational Testing Service, or 6 or 7 on the higher-level International Baccalaureate (IB) Chemistry Exam, can receive transfer credit equivalent to Chemistry 101 (one full course) and begin college chemistry with 102 or 103. Students will have to relinquish AP or IB credit if the corresponding coursework is repeated at Oberlin.

Students with A-levels scores of A*, A, B can begin with CHEM 103, but no credit is awarded.

Students with exceptional high school preparation in mathematics and chemistry, and either an AP score of 4 or 5, or an IB higher-level chemistry exam score of 6 or 7, may petition the department chair to enroll in CHEM 205, Organic Chemistry.

Upon successful completion (C- or better) of CHEM 205, the student would also receive credit for CHEM 103 instead of CHEM 101.

This course is for students with excellent precollege preparation and takes the place of CHEM 101 and 102. This course is suited for students who already have a solid understanding of introductory topics such as the mole concept, balancing reactions, and calculating solution concentrations. Topics included in the course are reaction types, equilibrium, thermodynamics, reaction rates and mechanisms, and bonding.

Students who don’t already have qualifying AP, IB, or A-level scores may be admitted through an online placement exam. Students who have had chemistry in high school and who plan to take both chemistry and calculus should take the examination.

All students interested in taking CHEM 103 should complete the CHEM 103 Google Form

If you wish to take CHEM 103 and don’t have a qualifying AP, IB, or A-level score, you can access the General Chemistry Entrance Survey. (Log in to Blackboard using your Oberlin credentials when prompted.)

Must I take a placement exam to get into CHEM 103?

Yes. You need to either have qualifying AP, IB, or A-level scores or pass the CHEM 103 placement exam. SAT II scores or high school grades can’t be used for placement.

Is there is a placement exam that will allow me to skip general chemistry and go directly into CHEM 205 (Organic Chemistry)?

There is no placement exam that allows you to enter CHEM 205. However, if you had exceptional high school preparation in mathematics and chemistry, and earned an AP score of 4 or 5, or an IB higher-level chemistry exam score of 6 or 7, you may talk with the department chair about the possibility of enrolling in CHEM 205 (Organic Chemistry).

If I received a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam, do I need to take the CHEM 103 placement exam to qualify for the course?

Even if you have AP/IB/transfer credit, you must take the General Chemistry Entrance Survey. This will give us an idea about your chemistry and math background and preparation. Your confirmed AP/IB credit will permit your consent for the course. Please also fill out the CHEM 103 Google Form.

I got a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam. I’m not sure if I should take CHEM 103 or petition to enter CHEM 205. What should I do?

Most students who have earned 4 or 5 on the AP exam (or 6 or 7 on the higher-level IB exam) will enroll in CHEM 103. Success in CHEM 205 requires exceptional preparation in both the classroom and the laboratory as well as confidence in asking for help when it is needed. Whether your background qualifies you for CHEM 205 is a good topic to discuss with your academic advisor when you meet before registration. If you are interested in going into CHEM 205, you should also contact the department chair before registration.

Is the CHEM 103 placement exam open to returning students?

Yes, returning students may take the exam. Please let us know that you are interested in taking the exam by sending an email to