Wayne State University

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College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Department of Chemistry
Placement Exam

The Chemistry Placement Exam at Wayne State University

This page is designed to answer some common questions about the Chemistry Placement Exam at Wayne State University. The following questions are addressed below.

For information on the location and dates for the next placement exam, click here.

For practice problems for the placement exam, click here.

Why is there a Chemistry Placement Exam?
University-level chemistry is an important area of study for many disciplines and chemistry courses are an essential part of many degree programs. Engineering, Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry, Physics, Nutrition and Food Science, Nursing, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and Chemistry are a few of the disciplines and programs that require chemistry. Thus, taking chemistry is necessary for many students as they prepare for scientific and/or professional careers However, learning chemistry is not easy nor should university chemistry be approached flippantly or without preparation. Transcripts have become important documents of your success in college. While one should not be obsessed with getting high grades, you should take your coursework seriously and ensure that you obtain grades that reflect your ability and knowledge. Taking, failing, and retaking courses can become an expensive path toward a degree strategy that we neither recommend nor encourage. Being adequately prepared for important classes greatly increases your chances of success. Taking a course for which you are not adequately prepared can require much more work than is normally expected or can lead to an unsatisfactory and unacceptable level of performance We want your experience in chemistry to be a fruitful and enjoyable one. We attempt to direct you into a course that is both appropriate for your professional goals and consistent with your knowledge and skills. The reason we give the Chemistry Placement Exam is to increase the likelihood that you will enter a course where you will succeed - an outcome that satisfies both you and our teaching staff.


What is the function of the Chemistry Placement Exam?

The Chemistry Placement Exam gives us a quick measure of your chemistry knowledge and of your skills at "doing chemistry." These measures of your skills and knowledge will be useful only if they accurately reflect your background and abilities. Assuming that they do, based on your exam score, we place you into one of three groups. Group I students are those who score below the "pass level", Group II students score above the pass level, and group III students score significantly above the pass level.

Group I students are advised to take CHM 1040 a course with limited objectives that can increase your chemistry knowledge and sharpen your skills to prepare you for CHM 1220, the first general chemistry course for science majors. Students in Group I or those who, for whatever reason, fail CHM 1040, will not be allowed to enter CHM 1220 unless and until they complete CHM 1040 with a grade of C- or better.

Group II students may register for CHM 1220 and 1230 in any of the next four semesters.

Group III students having shown a superior knowledge in chemistry are invited to enroll in an honors section of CHM 1220.


What do we assume about you and your goals?

We assume that you take college courses to increase your knowledge, to prepare for higher level courses, to obtain a degree and/or to enter into another program. We also assume that you want high quality courses, wish to keep expenses to a minimum, and plan to finish in a reasonable time. Following our placement policies is an expedient way to any or all of these goals. You should ensure that your performance on the placement exam reflects you knowledge and skills. It is the best way to avoid languishing in a lower level course or struggling in a course that is at too high a level.

CHM 1220 assumes some prior knowledge of chemistry. To complete the course goals in the 14-week term we need to begin CHM 1220 several chapters into the assigned textbook. It is the material in these chapters that we assume you know and which, not surprisingly, are the primary topics of the Chemistry Placement Exam and of CHM 1040.


What do we assume about your knowledge of chemistry?

The topics we assume you've learned include:
(Reference in parentheses is to the relevant chapter in Zumdahl’s Basic Chemistry, the text book for CHM 1040. It is on reserve in the library.)

  • Apply significant figures to problem solutions (Chapter 2: Measurement and Calculations)
  • Convert among units such as mg and g and kg or K and °C (Chapter 2: Measurement and Calculations)
  • Use the density equation to solve for an unknown (Chapter 2: Measurement and Calculations)
  • Determine the number of protons, electrons and neutrons in a given atom (Chapter 4: Chemical Foundations: Elements, Atoms, and Ions)
  • Determine the number of valence electrons in an atom (Chapter 4: Chemical Foundations: Elements, Atoms, ands Ion)
  • Determine the formula of a compound given its name (Chapter 5: Nomenclature)
  • Name nonmetal-nonmetal compounds (Chapter 5: Nomenclature)
  • Name ionic compounds with either a fixed charge metal or a variable charge metal (Chapter 5: Nomenclature)
  • Balance chemical equations with lowest possible whole number coefficients (Chapter 6: Chemical Reactions: An Introduction)
  • Convert mass to moles of a substance (Chapter 8: Chemical Composition)
  • Convert mass of an element to atoms of the element (Chapter 8: Chemical Composition)
  • Complete stoichiometry problems, this includes limiting reactant, excess and percent yield (Chapter 9: Stoichiometry)
  • Understand and apply laws of thermodynamics such as enthalpy change, internal energy, enthalpy of a reaction, Hess’s Law, heat and work (Chapter 10: Thermodynamics)
  • Give the electron configuration of an atom or given the configuration determine the atom (Chapter 11: Chemical Modern Atomic Theory)
  • Predict atomic trends such as atomic size and ionization energy (Chapter 11: Modern Atomic Theory)
  • Determine the Lewis structure of a compound or ion (Chapter 12: Chemical Bonding)
  • Determine the molecular structure (shape) of a compound (Chapter 12: Chemical Bonding
  • Apply the Ideal Gas Law to solve for an unknown variable (Chapter 13: Gases)
  • Calculate the molarity of a solution given mass of solute and volume of solution (Chapter 15: Solutions)
  • Calculate the new molarity of a solution after dilution (Chapter 15: Solutions)
  • Calculate the pH of a solution given the hydronium ion concentration ([H+] or [H3O]) (Chapter 16: Acids and Bases)
  • Calculate the hydronium ion concentration given pH (Chapter 16: Acids and Bases)
  • Solve stoichiometry problems (Chapter 9: Chemical Quantities, Chapter 13: Gases, and Chapter 15: Solutions)
    • Given
      • For solids moles or mass
      • For solutions moles or volume and concentration
      • For gases moles or pressure, volume and temperature
    • Find the unknown
      • For solids and moles or mass
      • For solutions moles, mass or volume (given concentration)
      • For gases the moles, mass or volume at a given pressure and temperature
      • Apply the concept of limiting reactant for any of the above

You will be given the periodic table, the value of R, the Ideal Gas Constant and NA, Avogadro's number.

Practice Problems

  • Sample Final Exam for CHM 1040
  • Practice Placement Exam


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