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Placement and Proficiency Examinations

Placement and Proficiency Examinations

Mathematics Placement

Math placement at Case Western Reserve University is made on the basis of several indicators. First, CWRU requires that all students take the math diagnostic that assesses preparation and readiness for enrollment in calculus. Students are required to complete the exam even if they have earned or anticipate earning credit for calculus, or plan to pursue a major that does not require calculus.

The math diagnostic is available through the New Student Checklist and should be completed by June 23.

Beyond the diagnostic exam, math placement may also be influenced by calculus credit earned through AP, IB, or college coursework. Information about AP and IB equivalencies can be found within this guide. Students who wish to have college-level courses taken while in high school evaluated for CWRU credit should follow the process outlined on the New Student Checklist.

For more information about math placement, see the Selecting a Math Course section within this guide.

Modern Language Placement

Although there is no university language requirement, all students are encouraged to continue or to begin the study of a foreign language. Students wishing to participate in study abroad in a non-English-speaking country may want to enroll in foreign language study in their first year. More information about study abroad can be found in this guide. Native speakers of languages other than English may not enroll in courses in their native language without special permission from Undergraduate Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Students who have studied Chinese, French, German, Russian, or Spanish and want to continue studying the language during the fall semester must take the online WebCAPE language placement exam. The test usually takes 15-30 minutes, and is accessed through the New Student Checklist.

Note that no credit is awarded based on a WebCAPE exam. Also, if you do not plan to enroll in a language course until a later semester, you should not take the WebCAPE test now but rather postpone a placement test until you are ready to enroll in a language course. Finally, if you have AP or IB credit that provides a language placement, you do not need to take a WebCAPE exam.

Students enrolling in Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, or Portuguese should use the guidelines below and then attend a class meeting to talk further with the professor about placement issues.  Students should follow the guidelines listed below when developing their schedules this summer. Final placement in foreign language courses will be determined after consultation with the course instructor during drop/add period.

Years of Study in High School

Equivalent College-level Language Course

0 years experience


1–2 years of experience


2–3 years of experience


3–4 years of experience


Writing Sample

All students must complete the online writing sample provided on the New Student Checklist by July 1.

Further instructions on completing this task are provided on the New Student Checklist, including the option for interested students to indicate a preference for a First Seminar with a particular focus on the writing process. The writing sample will be provided to your First Seminar professor so that she or he has a sense of your reading and composition skills. This writing sample will not be graded, nor will it earn you Case Western Reserve University credit, or appear on your official transcript. You do not need to prepare for this writing sample.

Proficiency Examinations for Case Western Reserve University Course Credit

Proficiency examinations allow students to receive credit for a Case Western Reserve University course by passing an examination for that course. These examinations are optional, and are intended for first-year students of high ability who have taken advanced work in high school (beyond the normal high school level) or who have studied a subject independently, but who may not have had the opportunity to take AP or IB exams, or did not earn transfer credit for a course. For students passing proficiency exams, credit will be indicated on the transcript by the symbols PR. No letter grade is given and proficiency credit does not count toward the GPA.

The following proficiency exams will take place during new student orientation:


Saturday, Aug. 26
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Clapp 201

Students who wish to take a proficiency examination in chemistry must register by email at least 24 hours in advance with Dr. Drew Meyer at

This exam is recommended for students who have had two or more years of chemistry in high school but did not take the AP examination or IB examination in chemistry. Examinations will be given for CHEM 105, CHEM 106, and CHEM 111. 

Computer Science

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017
2 – 5 p.m.

Olin 803
Students who wish to take a proficiency examination in computer science must register by email at least 24 hours in advance with Professor Roberto Fernández Galán at

An examination will be given for ENGR 131 and EECS 132. Students may choose to take one or the other. The ENGR 131 exam is recommended for students who are familiar with elementary computer programming (any language) and who have not received credit for ENGR 131 or EECS 132. ENGR 131 is required of all engineering students (except computer science and computer engineering) and some other majors (e.g., physics), but EECS 132 will substitute for the ENGR 131 requirement.

The EECS 132 exam is recommended for students who are familiar with computer programming in Java and with object-oriented programming, including advanced topics (e.g., templates). EECS 132 is required for computer science, computer engineering, and systems biology majors.

More details on the courses and the proficiency exams can be found at


Friday, Aug. 25, 2017
1 – 4 p.m.
Schmitt Auditorium

Students who wish to take a proficiency examination in mathematics must register by email at least 24 hours in advance with Professor Christopher Butler at

This exam is recommended for students who have had calculus in high school but did not take the AP or IB examinations, or students who took college-level calculus courses but did not earn transfer credit. Examinations will be given for MATH 121, MATH 122, MATH 223, and MATH 224. 


Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017
2 – 5 p.m.
Rockefeller 301

Students who wish to take a proficiency examination in physics must register by email at least 24 hours in advance with Professor Gary Chottiner at

This exam is recommended for students who studied college-level physics in high school but did not receive AP,IB, or transfer credit. Examinations will be given for PHYS 115, 116, 121, 122, and 221. 

The physics proficiency exams are similar to the final exams given in each course; problems are modeled on those of past final exams and on homework problems from texts used in these courses. To receive proficiency credit, performance on the exam must be equivalent to or better than a high C grade in the course (in the neighborhood of 70 percent). A description of the material covered by each exam, a sample exam for each course offered, as well as additional issues to consider regarding the proficiency exams are provided on the department website. Students passing the PHYS 116 or PHYS 122 proficiency exam will need to make arrangements to complete the lab portion of the physics course. Detailed options are described on the physics website listed above.