Skip to main content

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
  • Department of Chemistry initial chemistry assessment (see below)
  • Department of Chemistry placement exam is required only for students wishing to take Chem 171, Chem 210, or Chem 212 (see below)
See McCormick's webpage for more information

Required for Students Planning to Take Chemistry

  • Department of Chemistry initial chemistry assessment
    • Required for students planning to take any chemistry class this year, regardless of any AP or IB Chemistry credit you have earned
    • Access the assessment by accepting the invitation to join the Canvas exam page (emailed in June).
  • Department of Chemistry placement exam
    • Required only for students wanting to take CHEM 171, CHEM 210, or CHEM 212, regardless of any AP or IB Chemistry credit you have earned. Students must take the initial chemistry assessment (mentioned above) before taking the placement exam.
    • Access the placement 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 135-2 Equivalency Assessment exam
    • Recommended if received a 5 on the 2020 AP Physics C (E&M) exam and there is a need for explicit transcript credit for 135-2 for purposes of placement into 135-3 or for a major requirement.
    • View the Department of Physics and Astronomy site for more information. 
    • This exam will be administered online on September 2 at 7 p.m. CDT (the week before move in occurs). Questions about Physics placement can be directed to d-brown4@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 assessment 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.

Chemistry Placement Exam

This placement exam is required in addition to the Initial Chemistry Assessment for students wanting to take CHEM 171, CHEM 210, or CHEM 212, regardless of any AP or IB Chemistry credit you may have earned. Every student receives access to this placement 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 placement exam, it simply allows you to access it. 

This placement exam 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

A Physics 135-2 Equivalency Assessment Exam is recommended for students who received a 5 on the 2020 AP Physics C (E&M) exam and might need transcript credit for 135-2 for purposes of placement into 135-3 or for a major requirement. The exam will be administered online on September 2, 2020 at 7 p.m. (the week prior to move in). For more information, consult the Department of Physics and Astronomy webpage or contact Dr. Deborah Brown, director of placement: d-brown4@northwestern.edu.  

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

Dance Placement Exam

The Dance Program at Northwestern offers three levels of instruction in Ballet, Jazz, and Modern technique.  Students who have no or limited experience are encouraged to begin with level one, and do not need to be evaluated.  However, for those students who have previous dance training, we recommend that they participate in the dance placement evaluation, so that their skills can be assessed by our instructional faculty, and they can be placed in the appropriate levels for each technique. This year, this evaluation will take place online starting July 13 and will close on July 31.  Students will be expected to watch videos of dance sequences, and then upload videos of themselves dancing the routines provided.  Each technique should be recorded and uploaded separately (you may choose to do one or all of them).  These are not expected to be heavily rehearsed – they are simply a tool to help gauge how you will be best served by the Dance Program.  If you are interested in taking part in the dance placement evaluation, please contact Caitlin Robb via email (caitlin.robb@northwestern.edu), or phone: (847) 469-3289. Majors in Dance, Performance Studies, and Theatre will receive an email from Caitlin H Robb (caitlin.robb@northwestern.edu) in mid-July with more information and the appropriate links.

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.