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How To Choose Your First Class

General Chemistry

There are three different starting points for general chemistry in the department.  Students should take the department’s placement diagnostic, described below, to obtain a Chemistry Coaching Plan that will direct them to the sequence of courses and resources that will set them up best for success in chemistry! 

Chem 11

For students with less experience in chemistry and/or students who place into Math 18 through the math department placement diagnostic, we have created a new foundational chemistry course offered in the spring quarter.  Students should plan to take Math 18 in the fall, and then enroll in Chem11 in the spring. This course will support students in the development and practice of critical problem solving and study skills essential to success in Chemistry and other STEM fields.  Content will focus on the mastery of foundational chemistry skills including dimensional analysis and stoichiometry. Students will then be prepared for success in the Chem31A/B sequence starting the next fall.

Chemistry 31A 

For students with moderate chemistry experience, the Chemistry Department recommends starting in Chem31A, the beginning of a two-quarter sequence that covers all essential topics in general chemistry, with an emphasis on problem solving. Chem 31A is offered only in Autumn. It is a hard-coded prerequisite for 31B, the second quarter of this general chemistry sequence, which is offered only in winter quarter. Students who successfully complete the sequence can then proceed to Chem 33 (Organic Chemistry) in the Spring. Please consult the syllabus website for the syllabus and course calendar.


Chemistry 31M

Those with a strong high school chemistry background generally take Chem 31M, which is offered Autumn quarter only. Chem 31M covers the more advanced portions of the same topics covered in Chem 31A/B and moves at a faster pace. View the Chem 31M syllabus and topics here.

Students should take either FULL Chem 31A/B sequence OR Chem 31M. It is important to take a complete general chemistry sequence to ensure the student has proper background in both content and lab skills before entering the organic chemistry sequence (Chem 33). Both sequences fulfill the general chemistry requirement at Stanford and arrive at the same endpoint, preparing students to enroll in Chem 33, and provide the general chemistry necessary for other advanced courses.

General Chemistry Placement

Students who have an AP score of 4 or 5 or IB credit and do not wish to go directly into organic chemistry should enroll in the Chem31M sequence.  All other students who are interested in taking general chemistry at Stanford must take the Autumn 2023 General Chemistry Placement Test before Autumn quarter begins. Students can enroll for the General Chemistry Placement Test here: Self Enrollment on Canvas. Once enrolled, please read all instructions and FAQs in the module on the course home page.

Organic Chemistry

Chemistry 33

All students with AP, IB, or international credit who are considering placing directly into Chem 33 must take the Autumn 2023 General Chemistry Proficiency Test for placement into Chem 33 and other courses in the Chemistry and related departments. Students not placed into Chem 33 will be placed into Chem 31M. Please note that even though Chem 33 is offered in the winter and spring, you must still take the placement test in Autumn, as Chem 31M is only offered in Autumn quarter. Students can enroll for this placement test on Canvas, under the Quizzes tab on this page:  Autumn 2023 General Chemistry Proficiency Test

Chemistry 121

A few students with an exceptionally strong background in chemistry, e.g., IB, A-levels, French Baccalaureate, German Abitur, or college transfer credits, may begin with Chem 121, the second quarter of organic chemistry. These students should contact Dr. Megan Brennan brennanm [at] (brennanm[at]stanford[dot]edu) for placement before the start of Autumn quarter. 

General Placement Test information:

Students taking chemistry for the first time at Stanford need only take one of the above placement tests. The placement tests will be available starting August 8th. Students should take the test BEFORE September to help better inform their enrollment decisions. Only students who have completed the placement test (or have AP/IB scores) will have access to enrollment in general chemistry this Autumn. Placement decisions will be emailed, and the enrollment hold will be lifted, in early September.

Students with Documented Disabilities

If you have a disability or required accommodations in high school, you should contact the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) as soon as possible. The OAE office is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone 723-1066, TTY 725-1067) and their website is The OAE will evaluate the request, recommend appropriate accommodations. Note that the placement tests are NOT timed, therefore students can take as much time as needed.  If you need additional accommodations, please email your OAE letter to jks425 [at] (jks425[at]stanford[dot]edu). You will get instructions for taking the Chemistry Placement Test from Dr. Jennifer Schwartz Poehlmann. 

Math Background

While neither general chemistry sequence requires calculus, a solid foundation in algebra is essential. This includes comfort with algebraic expressions and manipulations, exponents and logarithms, functions and graphs, and dimensional analysis. As solid math skills are critical to success in general chemistry, students are also STRONGLY encouraged to take the math diagnostic in July and consider enrollment in the math SOAR program if advised. This program generally begins near the end of July and will cover many of the essential math skills needed in general chemistry: (SOAR Mathematics Program - Mathematics).

Premedical Preparation in Chemistry

Premedical students should be forewarned that not all medical schools accept AP credit; students may need to take chemistry course sequence, 31A/B or 31M, or a more advanced chemistry course to qualify for some medical schools. It is therefore recommended that pre-med students with a 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam and who do not anticipate taking more advanced chemistry courses enroll in Chem 31M rather than enrolling directly in Chem 33. Students should consult with Pre-Med advising for the most up to date recommendations.



Placement into Chem 33 requires department placement diagnostic. Students should self-enroll here: Self Enrollment in the Chemistry 33 Placement Test on Canvas. 

Alternatively students can enroll directly into Chem 31M.

10CHEM 31A+31B or 31M, IF placed into Chem 33

Students can enroll directly into Chem 31M. Students cannot place directly into Chem 31B as it is part of a two-quarter sequence.

If a student wishes to consider placement into Chem 33, this requires a department placement diagnostic, as noted above.

5Chem 31A+31B or 31M, IF placed into Chem 33