Course Placement and Selection

Get into the appropriate level

As you think about possible courses for your first semester at Wellesley, an important consideration in many cases is placing yourself in the appropriate course level. It’s important to find your way into courses that will engage and challenge you, without overwhelming you. This is the best way to build a strong foundation for future academic success. You have four years to move from introductory studies to more advanced work, and you should take advantage of all that time, and not rush into advanced courses for which you are not well-prepared. At the same time, you don’t want to spend time repeating work that you have already done. Although you will find that courses at Wellesley are generally more demanding than what you have experienced elsewhere, you should remember that you have all done good secondary school work and so you are ready for this next step up! Fortunately, there are a number of ways to think about how to choose the right courses with the right level of difficulty.

What’s a prerequisite?

Some Wellesley courses build on specific previous knowledge, and if that is the case there is a prerequisite noted in the course description in the catalog. If there is a prerequisite, your professors will assume that you have that knowledge. If you are uncertain about whether your previous experience is enough to satisfy the course prerequisite, then consult with the professor during the first days of class and talk with them about whether this is the right course for you. As a general rule, 100-level courses have no prerequisites and are open to all students, while many 200-level courses and all 300-level courses have some prerequisites. As you think about courses for your first semester in college, do not limit yourself to 100-level classes. Although these are excellent introductory experiences, you may also be ready to dig more deeply into one or two subjects in a 200-level course, particularly one without a prerequisite, so be sure to explore your options broadly.

APs and other exams in high school, including college level work

One way that you can be ready for more advanced work as you begin your time at Wellesley is if you have taken college-level work already or have taken Advanced Placement or other advanced work in high school. Scores of 5 on AP exams and grades of 5, 6, and 7 on the IB higher level exams may let you move directly into upper-level courses, and may also qualify for Wellesley credit. If you have taken such courses, or taken other courses in college while you were finishing high school, and enjoyed those studies and want to continue, be sure to examine the full range of available course offerings to select possibilities that are right for you.

Placement exams

Some Wellesley departments offer “placement exams” or “exemption exams” which will let you demonstrate the level of your knowledge coming into Wellesley. For Math, there is a mandatory online placement questionnaire which all entering students should take by July 16. You can access that exam from the Entering Student Checklist on MyWellesley.

Other departments offering exams during the on-campus Orientation include Chinese, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Russian, Spanish, Chemistry, Physics, and Music Theory. There are details about each of these exams, including a link to sign up for them, on the placement exam page, which you can get to here (link coming by June 1). French, Italian and Latin are available to take online over the summer; other exams will be taken on campus during orientation week (you can get to the French, Italian, and Latin exams from the checklist on MyWellesley).

For language study, if you have already taken one of these languages and would like to continue to study that language at Wellesley, you should take the placement exam in order to learn the appropriate entry level for you. If you have studied more than one language, it is sometimes possible to take two placement exams, although a better strategy is to take the exam in the language you are more interested in studying, and leave the second one for another time.  If you have received a score of 5 on a language AP exam or a score of 5 or higher on a language higher level IB exam, or a score of 690 or higher on an SAT2 exam, this will satisfy the College's language requirement and you do not need to take a placement exam for that purpose.  However, if you plan to continue your language work at Wellesley, you should take the placement exam, even if you have one of these scores. 

For music study, the music theory placement exam is required of students who plan to study music performance during college.

For chemistry and physics study, these exams are for placement into upper level courses, and relatively few students will have the background needed to do that. Please consult the information here for detailed advice about whether you should take these exams.

All new students will take the Quantitative Reasoning skills assessment during orientation week, and information about this will be included in materials mailed to you in early June, and is also available online here.

Getting placement exam results

Click here after August 1 for a guide to learning the results of placement exams given in 2013.