open search form

Diagnostic and Advanced Placement Tests

Photo of Empty Desks Credit: Caltech Strategic Communications

All incoming freshmen are required to complete the Freshman Math Diagnostic Exam. This exam assesses a student's mathematical background. The scores on this test are used to determined placement in Math 1a. Students are placed into 1 of 3 groups:

  1. Students who appear to have gaps in their background knowledge are placed into Math 1a Section 1. This section has a different instructor than the remaining Math 1a sections and meets 4 times per week. This course moves at a slower pace to ensure that students have a solid mathematical foundation on which to build upon. Enrollment in this section is non-negotiable and is determined solely by the scores on the diagnostic test. Students in Math 1a Section 1 go on to enroll in regular section of Math 1b while also taking Math 1d. Math 1d covers the material not covered in Math 1a Section 1 that was covered in the other Math 1a sections. This ensures that the students will be fully caught up with their peers in time for Math 1c, which they will enroll in with all other freshmen. Enrollment in Math 1a Section 1 is not punitive. In fact, students enrolled in this section often go on to be more successful in Math 1b and 1c, when compared to their peers.
  2. Students who do well on the diagnostic test, but may have some areas in which to improve, will be enrolled in Math 1a as well as Math 8. Math 8 provides additional practice with problem solving in calculus and demonstrates the rigor at which we expect solutions to be constructed at Caltech. Students registered in Math 8 are required to attend the first week of class. After which, they may be able to drop the course, if desired.
  3. Students who do exceptionally well on the diagnostic test enroll in Math 1a. These students have the option of enrolling in Math 8, if they want to have additional practice.

Placement out of Math 1a, 1b, 1c, 2 and 3 is only available by successfully completing these tests in the summer before you begin your studies at Caltech. All exams are evaluated separately. Students seeking placement out of a specific course must take the Advanced Placement exam that corresponds to that course. For example, students seeking placement out of Ma 1b must successfully take the Ma 1b Advanced Placement exam. Successfully completing the Ma 1c Advanced Placement exam does not place students out of Ma 1a or Ma 1b. We do not accept grades in courses at other institutions. No additional opportunities to write these tests will be available. No student is required to complete any of these exams.

The Freshmen Diagnostic Exam testing window opens on Friday, June 14, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT, and will be closing on Friday, June 28, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT. The Advanced Placement testing window opens Friday, June 28, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT, and closes on Friday, July 19, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT. This test will be available through Canvas and instructions for accessing the placement web page will be emailed. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].