Undergraduate Studies > General Chemistry Options

University of Virginia Chemistry Department

Advising Document for students interested in taking General Chemistry and directions for registering for the General Chemistry Placement Assessment

Chemistry is an interesting and captivating subject, and it is important that you think about your levels of preparation, interest and motivation before you register for classes.  Given the challenges of learning chemistry, it is also important for you to adjust your overall schedule so that you will have adequate time to focus on the course.  The following FAQ is designed to help you make the best decisions about what chemistry course is right for you and when to take that course.

Who should take General Chemistry at UVA and when should they take it?

Students who are interested in majoring in sciences or engineering usually take general chemistry in their first year of college.  Students who do not plan to major in science, but are interested in fulfilling University requirements or for pre-health careers, can take general chemistry in their first or second year, and then go on to take Organic Chemistry in the subsequent year (if needed).  Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam or a 5, 6, or 7 on the IB exam can receive credit for CHEM 1410/1610 and 1420/1620.  These students then have the following options:  1) just taking the General Chemistry Labs (CHEM 1411/1611 and 1421/1621), 2) forfeiting their AP credits and taking CHEM 1410/1610 and 1420/1620, or 3) taking CHEM 1810.  AP credit is never given for labs.  Students who have never taken chemistry should consider enrolling in CHEM 1400.  If you enroll in CHEM 1410, see the recommendations regarding course resources and extra help described below.  Please note that the Placement Assessment is not required.  It is to be used as a guide to determine which sequence is right for you.  It is primarily for students who are considering a major in the sciences and/or are considering the pre-health track.

Why is there a General Chemistry Placement Assessment?

The Chemistry Department asks students interested in taking general chemistry to take a placement assessment. The results of the assessment allow students to reflect on their readiness and motivation for taking General Chemistry.  Based on the assessment, math SAT scores and level of motivation, students will be better able to choose their chemistry path and to achieve success.

How do I access to the assessment?

Log onto Collab.
Click “Membership” (blue bars on the left)
Click “Joinable Sites”
In the search box (on the right), type “Gen Chem Placement Eval” and click search
Click “Join” when the site comes up in the list.

Once you are in the site please see directions posted.

What can I expect from General Chemistry?

There are 2 tracks of general chemistry: the 1410/1610 and the 1810 series.  In both tracks, you will explore chemical concepts and the significance of the chemical discipline while developing analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.  Both tracks require a dedicated and motivated student in order to be successful.  The differences between the two options are presented below.

  • The 1410/1610 Series: This is the main offering of general chemistry.  This course (CHEM 1410/1610) is taken by students interested in the physical and biological sciences, pre-medical studies, as well as several engineering fields.  Since the fall of 2013, CHEM 1410/1610 are offered using two different approaches.

Section 3 scheduled at 12:00 pm will be offered in lecture format.  Exercises to reinforce the chemical concepts and calculations presented in class will be assigned and graded via an online adaptive learning platform.  Additionally, there is a set of strongly-recommended problems posted.  Student are required to attend class and do all of the homework (both graded and ungraded) in order to have the highest potential for achieving their best grade.  Clicker questions will be used to drive lecture discussions and to measure classroom participation.

Sections 1 and 2 will be offered respectively at 9:00 am and 10:00 am in a partial lecture and partial “flipped” classroom style. Reading assignments and online preparation exercises will be required before and after each lecture. Students will learn the fundamental concepts at their own pace between lectures. Class activities, such as discussion between learners, will be implemented in the classroom. The emphasis will be on the relationships between concepts. Applying chemistry knowledge to unfamiliar situations is one the objectives of this learning approach. Highly motivated students are strongly encouraged to consider this learning format.

All three sections will have an evening Discussion Session which meets one time per week.  In these sessions, students will be led through inquiry-based learning and problem-solving, applying concepts introduced during classroom activities.  Exams and quizzes will also be administered in the evening Discussion Sessions.

For all sections of CHEM 1410/1610 there will be teaching assistants available in the Chemistry Resource Center (3rd floor of Chemistry building) to offer help with concepts and calculations.  Additionally, professors hold several office hours during the week; schedules will be posted on Collab during the first week of classes.

A separate introductory Chemistry course, CHEM 1400, is offered in the spring for students who have not taken a high school chemistry course.  Students who enroll in CHEM 1400 typically are not science majors, but this course can prepare students who are interested in pursuing subsequent chemistry courses, including those required in the pre-medical curriculum.

  • The 1810 Series: This is a honors or “Accelerated” Chemistry series, but not necessarily a Chemistry Majors series.   In other words, you should have a strong interest in the physical sciences, BUT you do not need to consider yourself a possible chemistry major. (Students enrolled in CHEM1810 typically describe themselves as pre-health (80%) or headed to graduate school (20%)).  In 1810, we initially focus on microscopic chemistry.  We spend an entire semester covering electronic structure of atoms and molecules and how these notions ultimately lead to an understanding of physical properties and chemical reactivity. Organic as well as inorganic chemistry is strongly emphasized in this first semester in the context of understanding and predicting structure and reactivity. Spectroscopy (e.g. NMR, IR, EPR, XPS, AA, UV) is heavily utilized in the first semester, both in lecture and lab, as a means to support (or contradict) theoretical predictions about molecular properties. In the second CHEM 1820) and third (CHEM2810) semesters a full set of Organic Chemistry topics is covered, and in the fourth semester (CHEM 2820), macroscopic topics such as equilibria and kinetics are developed with an emphasis on their interpretation through microscopic (i.e. reductionistic) reasoning. While this approach does not present the material in a historical context, it provides the opportunity to build upon a solid understanding of both atomic structure and descriptive properties.

What should I do after I take the General Chemistry Placement Assessment?

After you take the Assessment, reread this document.  Look at your scores and review the table below.  The table gives you guidelines to think about as you decide which course to register for.  In addition to helping you choose which course to take, you should also map out your plan of action.  For example, for CHEM 1410, there are numerous online resources that cover concepts in general chemistry that you can begin reviewing in order to be more “Chem ready” when you start your studies in the fall.  Additionally, you should look at your schedule and identify times when you can meet with the Teaching Assistants and/or Professor to review problem and concepts.

Students who have had a strong chemistry background and high SAT scores will find CHEM 1410/1610 course challenging, but doable.  Many students with less comprehensive background preparation will do very well if they come in with an attitude of hard work, participatory attitude, and a willingness to dedicate ample time to the course.  In this case, general chemistry will consume more time than other courses, due to the lab requirement and the challenging nature of the course.

Advising Document Table:

Score on General Chem Placement Assessment  and SAT Recommended Course Course Description Comments and Recommendations  
>14 correct on GCPE
>75thpercentile on Math SAT
4 or 5 on AP Chem Exam
CHEM 1810 See above Read pre-lecture/lab materials; complete pre-class assignments, attend all lecture and discussion sections; complete assignments in a timely manner; and seek help from instructors, including the professor and teaching assistants.
11-14 correct on GCPE
Highly motivated.
CHEM 1410/1610Review the different approaches in the three sections offered and decide which suits you best. See above Attend all lectures and discussion sections. Students will benefit from extra help from TAs in the Chemistry Resource Center.  See your professor for extra assistance. Student will benefit from exploring online resources before classes start in August.
7-10 correct on GCPE
Highly motivated.
CHEM 1410 Review the different teaching approaches of the three sections offered. See above Seek out extra help from TAs in Chemistry Resource Center and professor.  Schedule ample time to work on the class material (i.e. assignments and reviewing lectures, etc). It is highly recommended that the student explore online resources and an Introductory Chemistry textbook the summer before classes start in order to improve their preparation.
< 7 correct on GCPE You may want to consider taking CHEM 1400 in the spring semester and consider taking CHEM 1410 in the second year or during the summer.  You may register for CHEM 1410, but you should see your professor early in the semester and follow their advice.  See “Comments and Recommendations” last column of this table. See above It is highly recommended that the student explore online resources and an Introductory Chemistry textbook before classes start in order to improve their preparation.  You should actively seek out help and guidance from the TAs and your professor, along with allowing for ample time to work on the class material (i.e. assignments and reviewing lectures, etc.).

Please send inquires to Cindy Knight csk3a@virginia.edu or (434) 924-7995.

Link for AP Credit
Link for IB Credit
Link for Frequently Asked Questions