Prerequisites for Chem 101A or Chem 103A

Prerequisites for Chem 101A/103A are strictly enforced. You must meet both the chemistry prerequisite and the math prerequisite in order to enroll.

Chemistry prerequisite:

You can satisfy this prerequisite in any of the following ways:

  • Pass Chem 40 at City College, or the equivalent at another college. If this class was taken at another college, you should bring your transcript to the chemistry department, Science Hall room 233, so that you can be cleared to enroll in chemistry. To have your prerequisite challenge evaluated, please make an appointment with the department chairperson by calling 415-452-5651.
  • Get a score of 3 or higher on the Advanced Placement (AP) test in chemistry (this test is given to high school students: if you didn't take the AP test in high school, this option does not apply). If you have done this, you will need to bring your AP test results to the Matriculation Office, Conlan Hall room 204, for verification. Non-AP high school chemistry classes cannot be used to satisfy the chemistry prerequisite requirement.
  • If you have not done any of the above, you will need to take the CCSF chemistry placement exam. You will find links to testing schedules and information about the exam at the bottom of this page. The test is administered by the CCSF testing office, Conlan Hall room 203. We recommend that you call the testing office at 415-239-3129 to verify test dates and locations. You will need to score 23 out of 44 on the CCSF placement test to enroll in Chem 101A: if you do not achieve this score, you will need to take Chem 40 before Chem 101A. Students who pass the CCSF placement test will be cleared to register automatically (although you will still need to satisfy the math prerequisite – see below).

Math Prerequisite:

You can satisfy the math prerequisite for Chem 101A and 103A in any of the following ways:

  • Pass Math 60 or any higher-level course at City College. Students who have done this will be cleared to register in Chem 101A/103A automatically.
  • Pass a mathematics course at or above the level of Math 60 at a different college. Eligible courses are intermediate algebra (equivalent to Math 60 at CCSF), advanced algebra (= Math 90), trigonometry (= Math 95), pre-calculus (= Math 97), calculus (= Math 100 or 110), and higher-level courses. If you have done this, bring your transcript and a description of the course to the Matriculation Office, Conlan Hall room 204, so you can be cleared to register. Note: mathematics courses completed in high school cannot be used to satisfy this prerequisite.
  • Take the CCSF algebra placement exam. A schedule of testing dates is available from the CCSF testing office, Conlan Hall room 203, 415-239-3129. If you are placed into Math 90 (advanced algebra) or above, you will be cleared to enroll in Chem 101A. If you are placed into Math 60 or below, you will need to complete Math 60 before enrolling in Chem 101A.

Chemistry Placement Exam

In order to be successful in Chem 101A and 103A, a student must already know, and be able to use, the basic ideas that are developed in a course such as Chem 40. The Chemistry Placement Exam helps us to identify those students who are clearly underprepared and redirect them into a course in which you have a realistic chance of success. It also helps you to assess your own understanding of the required background topics.

More About the Exam

  • Who Needs to Take the Placement Exam
  • How to Take the Placement Exam
  • Preparing for the Exam
  • ​​​​​​​Test Results
  • Retaking the Exam
Frequently Asked Questions

No, you cannot: the college registration system will not allow you to enroll in Chem 101A or 103A until you have demonstrated that you have completed all of the prerequisites.

No: the test score is valid forever. (However, if you wait a long time before enrolling in 101A or 103A, you should do some reviewing before classes start.)

Call the Matriculation Office for information about math prerequisites for Chem 101A and 103A: their number is (415) 239-3751. There are several ways that you can satisfy the math prerequisite:

  • Complete Math 60 (or a higher-level math course) at CCSF. You can enroll in Chem 101A or 103A for next semester if you are currently taking Math 60, but you will need to pass Math 60 to remain in the chemistry course. You may not enroll in Chem 101A/103A and Math 60 concurrently.
  • Take the CCSF algebra placement exam. If you are placed into Math 90 (advanced algebra) or a higher level course, you will be considered to have satisfied the math prerequisite for Chem 101A/103A. However, if you are placed into Math 860, you will need to take that course before enrolling in Chem 101A/103A.
  • If you have passed a math course equivalent to Math 60 (intermediate algebra) or a higher-level course at a different college, you will be considered to have satisfied the math prerequisite and you will not have to take the algebra placement test. Examples of other courses that will make you eligible for a waiver are advanced algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and any calculus course. Bring your transcript or grade report, together with a course description (an official course outline, a syllabus, or the catalog description) from the college where you took the course, to the Matriculation Office (Conlan Hall room 204, 415-239-3751). Please note: high school courses may not be used to satisfy the math prerequisite. If you have only taken math courses in high school, you will need to take the algebra placement exam to verify your math level.

No, it does not. By law, any community college that uses a placement test must have a supplemental way to evaluate students who take the test and to place them into courses. Here at City College, students who take our placement test have the option of going to a chemistry department advisor to discuss their test results and their chemistry background. You can do this regardless of your score on the test, and we encourage you to do so if you have any concerns about the test results or your chemistry placement. Click here for more detailed information on advising.

You can enroll in Chem 40 regardless of your placement test results. Every semester some students score above 23 but feel that they need additional preparation and enroll in Chem 40. You do not need to get any sort of signature from an advisor, although you are welcome to seek advice if you wish.

You will need to make an appointment with a chemistry department advisor and demonstrate to the advisor (who will be a chemistry instructor) that you are prepared for 101A/103A. The advisor will be looking for specific demonstrations of chemical knowledge, so you should be prepared to answer a variety of basic chemistry questions. Advisors will not override the placement test score based solely on a student’s opinion of his/her knowledge of chemistry. Contact the chemistry department at
415-452-5651 to set up an advising appointment.

You should be aware that many students in the past scored below the cutoff but chose to remain in Chem101A (before the test became mandatory), based on their belief that the test result was not representative of their ability to succeed in the course. However, in the vast majority of cases these students did not pass Chem 101A.

The placement test is not a predictor of your grade in Chem 101A or 103A. The placement exam can only tell whether you know enough basic chemistry to enter 101A or 103A: it cannot predict whether you will be able to handle the demands of the course. (There is a correlation between placement exam score and 101A grade: students who score very well on the exam are more likely to do well in Chem 101A than those who do not. However, the correlation is not strong and it is complicated by a number of other factors. We have seen students perform extremely well on the placement exam only to fail 101A, and we have seen students score just above the cutoff and do reasonably well.)

No, there are not. It would defeat the purpose of the test to give people more detailed information about the contents of the test

You should not focus on "passing" the placement test: doing so will not improve your GPA or help you get into any advanced program or school. Your focus should be on giving yourself the best chance of doing well in Chem 101A or 103A (which will improve your GPA, etc., etc.). Getting into Chem 101A/103A is not all that difficult for anyone who has some basic knowledge of chemical principles, but getting through Chem 101A/103A is very challenging for most students, even those with strong backgrounds. Be realistic: do you really want to take a class that you have no significant chance of passing? If you are not comfortable with the basic ideas of chemistry, take the introductory course, give yourself a firm foundation, and then take Chem 101A/103A, secure in the knowledge that you have the needed preparation to succeed.