Placement Tests & Diagnostics

*2020 Approaching Stanford content will be updated in the spring. You may review 2019 content on this page.*

Stanford uses a variety of ways to determine where students should begin their studies at Stanford. Placement Tests will be offered for chemistry and several foreign languages while Placement Diagnostics will be offered by physics and mathematics. The tests and diagnostics are intended to assess your existing command of the material; thus, it is neither necessary nor advisable that you study for these tests.

If you took Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, consult the Advanced Placement Credit Chart and the International Baccalaureate Credit Chart to see whether your score suggests a particular placement in classes. The "Academic Life" chapter of the Approaching Stanford Handbook provides guidance about placement considerations and course sequences in a few subject areas that require early planning (calculus, chemistry, and physics). The following department websites also offer information about placement and choosing among the introductory courses:

If in doubt, take the placement test(s) and/or diagnostic(s). Your placement results and/or recommendations will help determine the recommended starting point for your coursework in these subjects based on your knowledge in those areas. Academic Advisors (Academic Advising Directors and Academic Advisors for Student-Athletes) can also give you further guidance on choosing courses and assistance in understanding the placement recommendation. You will begin the advising conversation with your Academic Advisor via email, phone, on online chat beginning in August.

Chemistry Placement Test

The Chemistry Placement Test is available in Canvas from  July 15 - September 15. A placement test will not be given during NSO.

Two different general chemistry sequences are offered: Chem 31A/B, the two-quarter set of courses (Autumn and Winter), and Chem 31M, the one-quarter course (Autumn only). Both sequences fulfill the general chemistry requirement at Stanford and arrive at the same endpoint so that students will be prepared to enroll in Chem 33, the first quarter of organic chemistry. All students who are interested in taking the one-quarter course and who do not have a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam must take the Chemistry Placement Test online this summer.

For students who tak the placement test, you will receive feedback about your recommended placement during the first week of September. If you are told that either sequence is recommended for you, then you should compare the content and pace of the two sequences. 

Math Placement Diagnostic

The Math department requires students to take an online placement diagnostic as a prerequisite to enroll in introductory Math courses (19 through 51).

The Math Placement Diagnostic will be available in Canvas starting on August 1. New students planning to enroll in Math 19-51 in the autumn should take it before they arrive to campus for NSO, regardless of any AP credit you have received. 

All incoming students who plan to take a single-variable calculus course or the first-term multivariable calculus course (Math 51) are required to take the online Math Placement Diagnostic in order to register for such a course. This diagnostic measures your mastery of topics in precalculus math and single-variable calculus, consists of approximately 60 questions, and will have no time limit (it is meant to be taken in a single sitting, and is designed to take a typical student not more than 90 minutes).  

Its only purpose is to recommend the course (up through Math 51) that is most appropriate for beginning the study of math at Stanford; no official score is assigned. The recommendation it offers is purely advisory.

Physics Placement Diagnostic

The Physics Placement Diagnostic will be available in Canvas in mid-July. Any student who plans to take courses in the PHYSICS 20, 40, or 60 sequences (PHYS 21, 41, 41E, 45, or 65) during the upcoming academic year is required to take the Physics Placement Diagnostic prior to arriving for NSO. 

The Placement Diagnostic will help us guide you on which Physics sequence you should take and where you should start on the sequence so that you are sufficiently challenged without being overwhelmed. The Placement Diagnostic is meant to be a useful tool to help students calibrate their readiness for the different physics sequences. It is not meant to be a barrier to entering courses.

Results from Physics Placement Diagnostic will be sent by email within an hour of taking the Physics Placement Diagnostic.  The advice will be sent from to your email account. You will be provided with guidance on your placement into a course within a Physics sequence.  Please check your inbox, junk, clutter, and spam folders for this email.  If you do not see the email in any of your folders within an hour of taking the diagnostic, please contact us at

Language Placement Tests

Accurate initial placement is a key factor in successfully learning a foreign language. Some Language Placement Tests will have an online written component this summer, followed by an in-person oral component during NSO. Other Language Placement Tests will be conducted entirely during NSO without a summer online component. Both the reading, writing, and grammar tests, as well as the on-campus speaking tests, are used to place students in courses that fit their current proficiency levels.

Summer Online Placement Tests

Online language placement tests will be offered June 1 - July 15. Check the Language Placement Test Information to determine if you need to take an online summer placement test. If you have questions, please contact

NSO Placement Tests

The schedule for language placement tests during NSO will be posted below by September 1 and will also be included in the printed NSO Student Calendar (available at after September 1 and in your NSO check-in packet when you arrive).

Results from the Language Placement tests will be posted on Canvas at the end of the day. Email with any questions.

Academic Accommodations for Placement Tests/Diagnostics

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and assist the student in notifying the department of their accommodations. If you need academic accommodations for the placement exams and/or diagnostics, you should begin the process as soon as you are able, as it can take time to obtain the necessary documentation. Register with OAE.