Math/Stat Placement

In order to take a mathematics or statistics course at Swarthmore-at any time, not just during your first year-first year students must take or have taken at least one of the following:

  • the AB or BC Calculus AP exam and scored a 4 or 5;
  • the Higher Level IB Mathematics Exam and scored a 5, 6 or 7;
  • one or both of the Swarthmore College placement/readiness exams, as appropriate (see explanation below).

Please visit the new student forms page, login, check your AP/IB scores if appropriate, and be sure to visit the MATH PLACEMENT section to determine which parts of which exams you need to take. Students who do not either take a Swarthmore test or do well enough on one of the standardized (AP or IB) exams described above will not be allowed to enroll in a mathematics or statistics course at any time during their Swarthmore years.

While taking a Mathematics or Statistics course is not a College requirement, taking courses in one or both is either required or strongly encouraged in several disciplines. Moreover, because the College does require every student to take 3 courses in the Natural Sciences Division, students often want to take Mathematics or Statistics courses to help satisfy this distribution requirement. Given this, we encourage you to assume that you may take Mathematics or Statistics at some point during your time at Swarthmore; and we encourage you to read all the information below carefully; and to either ensure that we have an appropriate AP or IB score on record, or take the appropriate placement exam (or both).

General Information

If you take our own placement exam, you may be placed out of a certain course without being awarded credit for it, but this lack of credit should not cause you any problems. Most departments or other institutions that require college mathematics quite happily accept advanced placement itself or, failing that, credit for any coursework subsequent to advanced placement (as opposed to requiring credit for a specific introductory course). For instance, engineering programs and medical schools, which do require certain math courses, usually accept credit for more advanced math courses. If you are concerned about this issue, check with the appropriate program or department advisor when you get here. Also note that we do offer credit for calculus by taking the appropriate final. Consult the placement and credit table on the previous page for details.

The Department's placement tests, described in the next subsection, are used for placement purposes only, not for credit. Placement results do not appear on your transcript.

The Math/Stat First-Year Advisor is Professor Cheryl Grood. Any questions you have that can't be answered by this mailing should be directed towards her. She can be reached by email (cgrood1@swarthmore.edu) or by phone (610-690-6860). Or, look for her during Orientation in Science Center 147. In fact, any member of the Department will be happy to talk to you at Orientation.

If you are worried that your math/stat preparation is not very strong, you will want to talk to our Academic Support Coordinator, Kaitlyn Litwinetz (klitwin1@swarthmore.edu, 610-328-8445, office Science Center 136).

Below are descriptions of each exam, and a guide to who should take which test. (Note that if you login to the new student forms page, you can be guided to the appropriate choice there as well.) Further information on related topics--what courses the department offers, and information about preregistration in August and lotteries, can be found at Supplement to Information on the New Student Academics Webpages.

The Two Placement Exams

The Calculus Placement Exam: this exam is for students whose preparation might place them out of one or more semesters of calculus. The last section is used for placement into honors sections. The test can be found at Calculus Placement Test; you may take it at your convenience over the summer (untimed, more than one sitting allowed, but closed book) and mail it back. To determine whether you should take the test, either refer to the next section or answer the series of questions in the Math Placement section of the new student forms page.

The Math/Stat Readiness Exam: this exam is for students who do not expect to place out of first-semester calculus. This test is closed book and untimed, but you should do it in one sitting. The Readiness Exam is required for all students who do not take our Calculus Placement Exam (or do not have placement by an AP or IB score) and who think they may take some math or stat at any time in their Swarthmore careers. The Readiness Exam is also required for all students who take the Calculus Placement Exam but do not place out of at least one semester of calculus. We recommend you take the Readiness Exam as soon as possible to give you and us early warning if it looks like first-semester calculus at Swarthmore will be hard for you. The Readiness Exam is online and requires you to log in to Moodle. See the Math Placement section of the new student forms page for details on how to do that.

A Guide to Who Should Take Which Test

The purpose of making you take a test is to help us make a recommendation to you for the Swarthmore mathematics or statistics course that is most consistent with your mathematical preparation. If you have received credit by way of an AP or Higher Level IB exam, you do not need to take either of our tests. However, if you are concerned that this automatic placement is incorrect, we urge you to take our Calculus Placement Exam. Our test is not assigned a letter grade, and it will never become part of your record in any math courses that you take.

Note that the guide below exists online as a series of questions (as part of the placement exams form). If you do not use the form online, simply find yourself in the categories on the following pages. If you fit several categories, the one which gives you the most placement applies. Note that, although the calculus placement test determines which course in the calculus sequence you place into, you are encouraged to consider starting with a course outside the calculus sequence!

You have not studied calculus:

Take the Math/Stat Readiness Exam online. Login to new student forms page for details on how to do that.

You have studied calculus but have not taken an AP or IB Higher Level math exam:

Take the Calculus Placement Exam and the Readiness Exam over the summer. (If you have good reason to believe you will place out of at least one semester of calculus, you do not need to take the Readiness Exam). Take these exams whether or not you wish to continue in calculus or plan to take some other sort of math.

You took the IB Higher Level Math exam and

scored < 5: Take our Calculus Placement Exam and Readiness Exam over the summer.

scored 5: We will give you credit for 1 semester of calculus (Math 15) and place you into Math 25. If you are completely satisfied with this placement, don't take our test. If you feel you might know more than that (and you may well), do take our Calculus Placement Exam, starting with Section 2.

scored > 5: We will give you credit for 1.5 semesters of calculus (Math 15 and half of Math 25) and place you into Math 26. If you feel you know more than that, take our Calculus Placement Exam, starting with Section 3.

You took the AP Calculus AB exam and

scored < 4: Take our Calculus Placement Exam and Readiness Exam.

scored 4: We will give you credit for 1 semester of calculus (Math 15) and place you into Math 25. If you are completely satisfied with this placement, don't take our test. If you feel you might know more than that (and you may well), do take our Calculus Placement Exam, starting with Section 2.

scored 5: We will give you credit for 1.5 semesters of calculus (Math 15 and half of Math 25) and place you into Math 26. If you feel you know more than that, take our Calculus Placement Exam, starting with Section 3.

You took the AP Calculus BC exam and

received a main score < 4: Take our Calculus Placement Exam and Readiness Exam.

received a main score of 4: We will give you credit for 1 semester of calculus (Math 15) and place you into Math 25. If you are completely satisfied with this placement, don't take our test. If you feel you might know more than that (and you may well), do take our Calculus Placement Exam, starting with Section 2.

received a main score of 5: We will give you credit for 2 semesters of calculus (Math 15 and Math 25) and place you into Math 27. If you are interested in one of our honors courses, and we think you should be, see the next item.

Note: We count AB subscores on the BC exam the same way we count scores on the AB exam.

You want to take one of our Honors courses:

You should take Section 4 of our Calculus Placement Exam, and earlier parts if you will not be receiving AP/IB credit for Math 15 and Math 25. We think everyone who places out of a year of calculus should consider our honors courses; at least give Section 4 a try, to see if you take to those sorts of questions. Also, see the description of our honors First Year Seminar at Supplement to Information on the New Student Academics Webpages.

You want to take one of our Honors courses but you haven't placed out of calculus:

Our honors courses are given every semester, so finish calculus first. Or, study over the summer to place out of calculus on our test during orientation.

You haven't received your IB or AP score yet:

You can wait until you get the score later this summer to decide whether to take our test, but it might be to your advantage to take it now, when calculus is more fresh in your mind.

You can't take our placement exams until very late in the summer:

Don't rush or panic. Express mail is unnecessary. Take our Calculus Placement Exam and Readiness Exam when you can. If there is time to mail the placement exam to us so that it gets here before you do, mail it. Otherwise, bring it with you and give it to Professor Grood, or drop it off at the Math/Stat office, Science Center 135. In any event, you can always take it during Orientation, though this is harder on you.

You took the British A-Levels or some other national exam instead of an AP or IB math exam:

Take our Calculus Placement Examand Readiness Exam. If you think you should receive placement out of a non-calculus course, see the item two below.

If you took calculus at a college or university, did not take an AP or IB Exam, and are a first-year student

Take our Calculus Placement Exam and Readiness Exam. You can receive placement, but we do not give credit for college or university courses taken before your first year at Swarthmore.

You have taken courses beyond calculus and want to place out of them (e.g., linear algebra, multivariable calculus, differential equations, discrete math):

Bring to the Placement Advisor as much material from your post-calculus courses as possible: your syllabi, exams, homework sets, your texts (or at least their titles and authors' names). To take any of these courses except discrete math you must also place out of a full year of calculus. If you have not, please take the appropriate sections of our Calculus Placement Exam. If you believe you should place out of Honors Linear Algebra or Honors Multivariate Calculus (because you took a high-powered version of one or both of these courses and you are contemplating advanced work in mathematics) also submit your solutions to the approprate honors placement tests downloadable form Advanced Placement Beyond Calculus.

None of the above:

Contact Professor Grood at cgrood1@swarthmore.edu and explain your situation.