Getting Started

The Bowdoin Chemistry Department offers three options for introductory chemistry courses, which depend upon your level of preparation in high school.

Placement Exam: To help you determine the most appropriate starting chemistry course, we require that all students planning to take chemistry courses at Bowdoin take a placement exam. Even if you have AP credit, you will still need to take this exam. This will not affect your ability to received AP credit, but will help us determine the best placement option.

Option 1: Start with Chemistry 109

Chemistry 109 is the introductory chemistry course taken by the majority of students entering Bowdoin. This course is intended for students who have a reasonably strong background in high school chemistry. Material that you are expected to be proficient with includes:

  • Units of measurements and unit conversions (familiarity with metric units for length, mass, volume)
  • Stoichiometry and moles (equation balancing, calculations of molecular mass and moles, determinations of limiting reactants)
  • Some exposure to acid/base, precipitation, and oxidation/reduction reactions.
  • Gases (properties of gases, Ideal Gas Law)
  • Liquids and solutions (properties of liquids, calculations of solution concentrations)
  • Thermochemistry (heats of reaction)

Option 2: Start with Chemistry 101

 Chemistry 101 is the first semester of a two-semester general chemistry sequence. It does not assume a rigorous high school background and is taken by students wishing to strengthen their foundation in chemistry. It also serves non-science majors who would like to take an introductory laboratory science course. Students enrolled in Chemistry 101 would go on to take Chemistry 102 in the spring.

Option 3:  Start with a 200-level Chemistry Course

Students with Chemistry AP scores of 4 and 5 and a small number of other students who have mastered the topics we will cover in Chemistry 109, based upon their placement exam results, will have the option of starting with an advanced level chemistry course such as Chemistry 210, 225, or 240.   If a student has an AP score of 4 or 5 that student must meet with a member of the Chemistry Department during Orientation to discuss your placement exam and course registration.  Also, the student must get the signature of the Professor teaching the 200-level course on their registration card to be allowed in the class.