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Placement Exams and Assessments

Placement and assessment exams are offered online during the summer from  June 1 through July 31. On-campus exams (for subjects that require them) take place during Wildcat Welcome.

Do you need to take any placement tests this summer?

The requirement to take any placement exams depends on your school’s unique requirements and your own course objectives.

Here we provide an overview of the placement exams and assessments Northwestern offers, categorized according to who is typically required to complete them. 

Required for All McCormick Students

  • McCormick math assessment
  • McCormick physics assessment
  • Department of Chemistry initial chemistry assessmentt (see below)
See McCormick's webpage for more information

Required for Any Student Planning to Take Chemistry

  • Department of Chemistry initial chemistry assessment
    • Required even if you have AP Chemistry credit.
    • Access the assessment by accepting the invitation to join the Canvas exam page (emailed in June).
    • Any questions? Email f-northrup@northwestern.edu.

Required for Any Non-McCormick Student Planning to Take Calculus

  • Department of Mathematics math placement exam

Required for Any Student Planning to Continue Foreign-Language Study or to Verify Foreign-Language Proficiency

Regardless of your undergraduate school, if you have previously studied a language you are encouraged to review the Council on Language Instruction website to find test information, how your AP score can be applied, and information about languages offered at Northwestern. If you have not previously studied a language you are hoping to start at Northwestern, you do not need to take a Language Placement Exam. 

Please note the Language Placement Exam is administered through the Council on Language Instruction website, it is not found on Canvas.  

For Any Student Planning to Take Physics

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy on-campus placement exam
    • Required if you took the AP Physics exam but seek to qualify for higher-level physics course placement.
    • Recommended if you did not take the AP Physics exam but plan to take general physics this year.
    • Any questions? Email placement-physics@northwestern.edu.

Exams and Assessments

Initial Chemistry Assessment

This assessment is required for all students who plan to take any chemistry course at Northwestern, including students with AP Chemistry credit. Every student receives access to this exam within their Canvas account (you receive an email when access is granted around June 1). Receiving access and the email does not mean you must take the assessment; it simply allows you to access it.

This assessment can be found when logging into Canvas, under the courses section. For more information on the assessment, visit the Department of Chemistry website.

Language Placement Exam

The Language Placement Exam is required for any student planning to continue foreign-language study or to verify foreign-language proficiency; check your specific language to see if a past AP score verifies your proficiency.  Find specific information about your language (such as the testing link, AP score information, and more) on the Council on Language Instruction website

View Weinberg's language requirement webpage for information (applicable for all Northwestern students) about proficiency and what language courses look like at Northwestern.

Please note the Language Placement Exam is administered through the Council on Language Instruction website, not through Canvas.

Department of Mathematics Math Placement Exam

This math placement exam is required for any student (except for McCormick students) planning to take a calculus course while at Northwestern, regardless of AP or IB exam scores. Every student receives access to this exam within their Canvas account (you receive an email when access is granted around June 1). Receiving access and the email does not mean you must take the math placement exam, it simply allows you access to it. For more information about the placement exam, visit the Department of Mathematics website.

Physics Placement Exam

Credit for Physics 130-1, 2 and Physics 135-1, 2 may be earned by passing a placement exam. For more information please contact Dr. Deborah Brown, director of placement: d-brown4@northwestern.edu. Please note: the physics placement exam is not a requirement for students who plan to take first quarter physics at Northwestern. However, students who pass a physics placement exam will receive NU transcript credit that satisfies the prerequisite for the next quarter of the sequence.

McCormick School of Engineering Exams and Assessments

Engineering students must take the McCormick math placement assessment, the McCormick physics assessment, and the Department of Chemistry initial chemistry assessment. For more information, and to access your McCormick Dossier, visit the engineering website

Exam Accommodations

If you need exam accommodations due to a disability or related condition, please begin the process of registering with AccessibleNU before taking the exam. See our AccessibleNU page for more information.

About that Canvas Invitation

You are likely to use Canvas this fall for accessing course materials, turning in assignments, viewing grades, and handling other academic tasks. You may also use it this summer if you take the math or chemistry department’s online exam. Every incoming student is emailed an invitation in June to join the Canvas exam page even if taking an exam is not required.