Students may be able to determine placement at a particular level in a variety of different subjects, either by means of an exam taken before matriculation (A.P., I.B.) or by taking a placement exam offered by a Penn department at the beginning of the semester.
In either case, students should consider the issue of placement very carefully. Determining the proper level at which to begin the study of a subject gives a student the best chance of success in that course. Placement exams are offered at Penn by language, science and the Mathematics departments. Browse the sections below for more detailed information on these exams.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Different policies may be in place depending on the date of matriculation at Penn. Consult the policies for your class for further details.
The University of Pennsylvania recognizes that many incoming students have participated in special programs of study that may earn them college credit or placement. These programs include exams such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, S.A.T.II, GCE A-levels, and other international exams as well as courses taken at other colleges or universities before matriculation at Penn ("pre-College" credit). It is important that students understand the policies governing the award of credit in these cases since they will be responsible for submitting the appropriate materials.
Penn will grant either credit or placement (a "waiver") for high achievement on most Advanced Placement (A.P.) exams taken before matriculation if the student indicated on the exam registration form that the scores were to be sent to Penn.
After arriving at Penn, students should check their transcript using Penn InTouch. If expected A.P. credit does not appear, they should contact the Office of the Registrar (215.898.6636). If expected A-Level, I.B. or S.A.T.II credit does not appear, they should contact Ms. Eddrena Owens in the Undergraduate Admissions office (215.898.7507).
It is wise for students to bring their student copy of the Advanced Placement score report with them to campus.
After arriving on campus, matriculated students should use the ETS code 2926 to have their AP and SATII scores sent to Penn's College of Arts and Sciences.
Some students enter Penn having already taken college-level courses during high school, either in competition with college students or as part of a special program taught at their high school. Penn treats these two cases differently, and students must be careful to observe the criteria below.
In order to seek credit for college work completed prior to matriculation at Penn, a student must log in to XCAT and submit a course syllabus to the appropriate Penn department. Students should be sure to check "pre-college course" when they make the request in XCAT.
Please note: Acceptance of pre-college credit is at the discretion of the individual Penn department or program. Instead of awarding pre-college credit, some departments may provide an assessment exam that may result in Penn credit. Please contact the undergraduate chair for confirmation.
Faculty and advisors across the schools have determined that initial placement in the appropriate level of mathematics is essential to student success in science, engineering, economics, business and many other fields (for the majority of students who take math in their first year, the choice is between a course in the first-year calculus sequence [Math 103, Math 104 and Math 114] or Math 170, 180 or 210). In response, the Math department is introducing an online placement diagnostic exam to help incoming freshman choose the math course most suited to the student’s current abilities and academic ambitions. The online diagnostic is to be taken this summer as part of Advance Registration.
After logging in, students will see a “course” titled "Penn Math Diagnostic Group x," where x is a number between 1 and 9. Click on this to enter the course. The system provides a link to the Math placement diagnostic exam and a date by which the student is asked to complete it. Students should be sure to take the diagnostic exam during an uninterrupted time block.
Credit will be granted to students who achieve a score of 5 on the appropriate Advanced Placement (A.P.) exam. Students may also receive credit based on their performance on the A-level, International Baccalaureate or other centrally administered examinations.
Students who wish to receive credit for prior lab experience must submit their lab reports and lab manual to the undergraduate chair for evaluation. In general, the evaluation as to whether credit will be awarded for laboratory work performed at another institution will be based on the number of experiments performed, the perceived difficulty of each experiment, the level of analysis required (including graphical presentation of data and error analysis), and the choice and spread of topics. Students with A.P. credit who need to satisfy the lab requirements will be allowed to register for PHYS 050 or 051 to receive lab credit.
Note: A student who takes introductory-level mechanics (PHYS 008, 101, 140, 150 or 170) or electricity and magnetism (PHYS 009, 102, 141, 151 or 171) at Penn will lose the Physics AP credit that corresponds to that course. For example, if a student with AP credit for both mechanics and electricity and magnetism were to take PHYS 150, the AP credit for mechanics would be removed from the transcript.
Advanced placement credit in biology can be obtained by earning a sufficient score on the ETS Advanced Placement Test, the International Baccalaureate exam, or the British A-Level exams. Credit is given as BIOL 091 only for the lecture portion of an introductory biology course. BIOL 091 does not fulfill the Living World sector or Biology major or pre-med requirements. Any student (with or without BIOL 091 credit) may take a Biology Department Advanced Placement Exam given early in the fall and spring semesters. Credit for a departmental placement exam results in lecture credit for the equivalent course (BIOL 101, 102, or 121). See Information for New Students for details on the advanced placement policies.
Students planning to major in Biology or BBB, or those satisfying pre-med requirements should follow one of these two recommended tracks:
Recommended for students with A.P., I.B., or other advanced biology courses and high school chemistry. Introductory level:
Recommended for students with one year of high school biology. Introductory level:
Advanced placement credit in chemistry can be obtained by earning a sufficient score on the ETS Advanced Placement Test, the International Baccalaureate exam, the British A-Level exams and/or the Chemistry Department Advanced Placement Exams (which are given very early in the fall and spring semesters). Credit is given only for the lecture portion of an introductory chemistry course. For example, a student who has a score of 5 on the ETS Advanced Placement Test is given 1 c.u. for introductory chemistry, CHEM 091. More complete advice and explanations of advanced placement policies can be found on the Chemistry Department website.
See the Chemistry Department's website for additional information about majoring in Chemistry or policies such as transfer credit and credit away.
At the time they first enroll in a beginning- or intermediate-level language course, all students who have previously studied that language must have a placement score. The only students exempt from having a placement score are those who have never studied the language before. Credit will not be given for a language course taken at a lower level than a student's placement score indicates.
French and Spanish offer computerized exams. Written exams for Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Hebrew, Russian, Latin and German are offered at the beginning of each semester. The schedule and location of these exams in the fall will appear on the New Student Orientation website during the preceding summer.
Students wishing to be evaluated in a modern language other than those taught by the language departments should consult the Penn Language Center.
Students who feel their placement scores do not accurately reflect their language level, or students who have other questions about their language study, should make an appointment to speak with the coordinator of their particular language program. Read more >>
Students must show their original A-Level certificates to Eddrena Owens (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Office of Admissions to have their scores evaluated for credit. For exams not listed on the GCSE Advanced (A) Level Exam chart, and those which specify “departmental review,” students will be sent to the relevant department with a transfer credit form recommending 1 or 2 c.u. for a grade of A or B, and 1 c.u. for a grade of C. Courses taken at Advanced Supplementary level (above Subsidiary level, below Advanced level) need departmental approval for possible 1 c.u. only.
A detailed policy statement governing credit equivalence is available from the Office of Admissions (email@example.com). Credit is also awarded for the following on a case-by-case basis:
Credit cannot be granted until Penn is in receipt of official exam results and official certified translations.