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FAQ - First Year Students

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What's the difference between CHEM 4, CHEM 6A, and CHEM 6AH?

Here’s a bit of background on some of our chemistry courses to get you started! 

CHEM 4 (Basic Chemistry) is designed to prepare students for the General Chemistry sequence. It devotes more time on the fundamentals of chemistry, in order to help students succeed in CHEM 6A. CHEM 4 is only offered in the Fall quarter and includes a LAB component that is integrated into the course. You should consider taking CHEM 4 if:

  • It was recommended based on your placement exam results
  • You DID NOT take chemistry in high school
  • It has been 2+ years since your last chemistry course
  • You are apprehensive about taking chemistry and not confident in your math skills
  • You are not enrolled in Calculus (MATH 20 sequence- Math 10A or 20A must be completed before you can begin CHEM 6B).

CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C (General Chemistry) is a three-quarter sequence intended for science and engineering majors. These lower-division Chemistry courses often serve as pre-requisites for upper-division courses in a variety of majors. CHEM 7L or 7LM will fulfill the general chemistry lab requirement.

CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH (General Chemistry Honors) devotes more time to explaining the “why” of chemistry, its underlying physical nature, and theoretical considerations. These courses provide you with a much broader picture of chemical science, with an emphasis on the physics and mathematics behind it. As such, the sequence uses a different textbook and covers topics in a slightly different order compared to the CHEM 6ABC course sequence.  Chemistry 6CH will also examine topics such as Forensics, Materials, and Instrumentation, and may include a capstone project, which are not required in the ‘regular’ sequence. 

You can find more details about these and all of our Chemistry courses here.

How do I get involved with the Department?

Fantastic Question! 

Here are a few recommendations to assist you in having a successful academic experience in the Department of Chemistry:

1. Join a Pre-Professional Org like ACSSA!  Want to interact with your peers and learn more about the chemistry profession? Become a member of our nationally recognized American Chemical Society Student Affiliates (ACSSA)! The student org hosts numerous events, such as lab tours, resume and interview coaching, Faculty-Student mixers, and much more. For more information, see their website here

2. Seek Mentorship with ChemPAL! – ChemPAL provides mentoring for undergraduate students studying Chemistry and opportunities for graduate students in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department to serve as mentors. Small mentoring groups matching graduate student mentors with undergraduate Mentees meet throughout the academic year to support the undergraduate Mentees. For more information, check out the ChemPAL Facebook Page.

3. Do Research. Connect theory with practice and gain valuable, hands-on experience, join an academic research lab or participate in an industrial internship.  We suggest students to look into research positions after your second year to ensure that you have the foundational skills to be successful in a lab. This is a bit far away for most of our incoming students but it's a wonderful opportunity that we encourage students to think about early! For information on how to receive academic credit for these activities, click here.

AP, IB, A-Level Exam Credit 


Chemistry A-Level Exam

If you have a qualifying A-Level exam score in Chemistry, you may receive credit for one or more UCSD Chemistry courses which can be applied towards your major/college/university requirement(s). In order to receive course credit, you must first send your official test scores to the UCSD Office of Admissions. After test scores are received it takes approximately 8 weeks for the courses to be added to the student's UCSD record.

Grade of A= credit for CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C; may take CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH for credit  
Grade of B= credit for CHEM 4 only  
Grade of C= credit for CHEM 4
We do not offer credit for CHEM 7L (General Chemistry Laboratory) based on A-Level Exam Scores.
**Neither CHEM 7L credit nor CHEM 40A, 40B, 40C, or 43A credit is given based on A-Level exam scores.**

IMPORTANT NOTE ON A-LEVEL EXAMS: UCSD only accepts certain A-Level chemistry exams, based on the examining board and what syllabus was used. You can confirm what is accepted by contacting UCSD Admissions.
If your A-Level exams have been posted by admissions but do not have the correct credit attached, please contact us and we can fix it. This is a normal error and a very easy fix. 

Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry Credit

Chemistry Advanced Placement Exam (AP)

If you have a qualifying Advanced Placement (AP) exam score in Chemistry, you may receive credit for one or more UCSD Chemistry courses which can be applied towards your major/college/university requirement(s). In order to receive course credit, you must first send your official test scores to the UCSD Office of Admissions. After test scores are received it takes approximately 8 weeks for the courses to be added to the student's UCSD record.

If taken Spring 2023 or after:
Score of 5 = credit for CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C; may take CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH for credit
Score of 4 = credit for CHEM 6A, may take CHEM 6B or CHEM 6AH
Score of 3 = credit for CHEM 4, may take CHEM 6A or 6AH
If taken Spring 2012- Winter 2023:
Score 5 = credit for CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C; may take CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH for credit
Score 4 = credit for CHEM 4, may take CHEM 6A or 6AH
Score 3 = credit for CHEM 4, may take CHEM 6A or 6AH
If taken prior to Spring 2012:
Score 5 = credit for CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C; may take CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH for credit
Score 4 = credit for CHEM 6A or 11, may take CHEM 6B or 6AH
Score 3 = credit for CHEM 4, may take CHEM 6A or 6AH

**Neither CHEM 7L credit nor CHEM 40A, 40B, 40C, or 43A credit is given based on AP Exam Scores.**
For other AP exam and unit credits please see:

I got a 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam, what should I take?

If you got a 5 in AP Chemistry, it grants you credit for the whole general chemistry series: CHEM 6A, CHEM 6B and CHEM 6C. You should not re-enroll in these courses, even if you would like to refresh your knowledge in the courses.

You have a few options:

  1. If you feel confident enough and are ready to hit the ground running, you can enroll directly into organic chemistry (CHEM 41 series) in place of general chemistry (CHEM 6 series). 
  2. If you feel like you need a refresher on chemistry and are worried about enrolling directly into organic chemistry, what we suggest doing is enrolling in our CHEM honors sequence, CHEM 6AH, CHEM 6BH, CHEM 6CH. This sequence will build off of what you already know in Chemistry, while devoting more time to explaining the "why" of Chemistry. This gives you a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the concepts covered in the CHEM 6 series, while also giving you that refresher and transition into collegiate chemistry courses. 
  3. If neither of these interest you, you can always use this time to focus on your other courses, and jump into organic chemistry in your sophomore year with your peers. 

International Baccalaureate (IB) Chemistry Credit

Chemistry International Baccalaureate Exam (IB)

If you have a qualifying International Baccalaureate exam score in Chemistry, you may receive credit for one or more UCSD Chemistry courses which can be applied towards your major/college/university requirement(s). In order to receive course credit, you must first send your official test scores to the UCSD Office of Admissions. After test scores are received it takes approximately 8 weeks for the courses to be added to the student's UCSD record.

Please note that the University of California only accepts Higher Level (HL) exams for credit. No credit will be given for Standard Level (SL) exam scores.

Score of 7= credit for 6A, 6B, 6C; may take CHEM 6AH, 6BH, 6CH for credit
Score of 6 = credit for Chem 6A and 6C.
Score of 5 = credit for Chem 6A.
**Neither CHEM 7L credit nor CHEM 40A, 40B, 40C, or 43A credit is given based on IB exam scores.**
For other IB exam and unit credits please see here.

Chemistry Placement Exam 

Do I need to take the Chemistry Placement Exam?

The Chemistry Placement Exam is not required by the department. It is there as a tool for you to help aid in your decision on which chemistry course to start out in. 

You do not need to take the placement exam if:

  • You have taken the AP Chemistry exam before Spring 2012 and received a 4 or higher
  • You have taken the AP Chemistry exam in Spring 2012 or after and received a 5
  • You have taken the A-Level exam and received an A grade
  • You have taken the IB exam and received a 6.
  • You have taken general chemistry at a California community college

If you fall into any of the scenarios above, you likely have credit already for some or all of the general chemistry sequence. Refer to the other FAQs for your specific scenario and what credit you may have. 

You also do not need to take the placement exam if:

  • You have taken high school chemistry or equivalent coursework and are confident in your chemistry and math skills. 

The results will place you into one of the following courses: CHEM 4, CHEM 6A, or CHEM 6AH. The placement exam serves only as a guide, and you are not required to follow the recommended placement, nor are you required to take it to enroll in a Chemistry course. 

Additionally, placement into CHEM 6A does not mean you are exempt from its prerequisites (CHEM 4 OR MATH 3C or higher)

If you choose to take the placement exam, please note: the sooner you take the placement exam, the sooner your college can recommend a chemistry class for you to take in the Fall.

You can take the Chemistry Placement exam here. 

How do I take the Chemistry Placement Exam?

You can take the Chemistry Placement exam here. The results will be used only for advising purposes and will not become part of your permanent records. You are not required to take the placement exam to take a Chemistry course at UCSD. Placing into any particular course does not exempt you from the prerequisites of the course.

All students will need their Student Single SignON (SSO) account. Access to the placement exam authenticates with the Student Sign On credentials.

Students connecting from home must first establish a VPN to UCSD and will also need their Student Active Directory (AD) account. Access to the UCSD VPN server authenticates with the Active Directory (AD)credentials.

Your AD username is usually the first part of your UCSD e-mail address, before the @ symbol. If you forgot your password, you can reset it at

Learn how to build a VPN to UCSD at: Virtual Private Networks (VPN) at UCSD

If your UCSD Student Accounts are NOT working, the folks at the Provost IT Services Group (PITSG) can help you. They can also answer your VPN questions.  The contact info for the PITSG is:

Phone: (858) 534-6946 

Deadline: New freshmen and transfer students who opt to take the web-based Chemistry placement exam must do so at least 72 hours prior to their enrolling in classes. See your college orientation site for more information.

If I take CHEM 4, will I be behind?

Most generic four-year plans state that you should be taking CHEM 6A in your first quarter. However, if you are placed into CHEM 4, you may have insufficient preparation to start CHEM 6A and should consider starting off with basic chemistry.  There are ways to "catch up" so that you stay on track for graduation, such as taking CHEM 6C during Summer Session after your first year. You will not be behind and there are plenty of our majors who start in CHEM 4 who still finish on time. 

FAQ - Transfer Students

Can I switch my major within the Chemistry Department?

All 5 majors in the Dept. of Chemistry & Biochemistry are not capped and can be declared online via the Major/Minor tool. You are eligible to change your major after enrolling in your first regular quarter of classes.

Before you change into one of our majors, we recommend you do the following:

  • Read about the department's 5 majors and their requirements
  • Check with your current major department regarding their policy for readmission into their majors (in case you change your mind). For example, majors in the Division of Biological Sciences are capped, and require application into the major.)
  • Ask Chemistry Advising questions via VAC or walk-in advising

Transfer Coursework

How do I petition my transfer courses for UCSD equivalent course credit?

Chemistry Courses

You may need to submit a Course Substitution Petition. Visit our Petition page for details.

We strongly recommend that all petitions and supporting documentation be submitted as soon as possible so we can attempt to have a final outcome on your petition prior to your Fall enrollment period.  Please note petitions are not guaranteed to be approved and can take up to 4 weeks to be processed. You will be notified of the final outcome through the Virtual Advising Center (VAC).

Non-Chemistry Transfer Courses

Each department is responsible for evaluating relevant coursework for potential UCSD equivalency. For example, the Biology Department reviews biology coursework, the Mathematics Department reviews math coursework, etc. For course and petition information in Biology, Math or Physics, please contact each department individually.

School of Biological Sciences
Phone: (858) 534-0557
Office: Pacific Hall 1128

Math Department
Phone: (858) 534-3590
Office: Applied Physics & Mathematics Building (AP&M), Room 7409

Physics Department
Phone: (858) 534-1745
Office: 2581 Mayer Hall Addition

How will the classes I've taken elsewhere transfer to UCSD and to the major?

If you took coursework at a California community college* that contains an articulation agreement on, you should receive transfer credit automatically. For example, if you took CHEM 1A and 1B from Pasadena City College, you should automatically receive credit for CHEM 6A, 6B, 6C, and 7L at UCSD once UCSD Admissions has posted your transfer classes to your academic history.

Once your transfer classes have been posted to your academic history, make sure to check your record for accuracy. 

If anything is missing that you can easily verify on Assist or on our website, please send us a VAC message so we can update your record. 

My transfer coursework doesn't have the appropriate UCSD credit attached. What do I do?

If you took your chemistry coursework at two separate community colleges in SEPARATE DISTRICTS, you will need to submit a Course Substitution Petition.

If you took your chemistry coursework at two separate community colleges in the SAME DISTRICT (e.g. San Diego Mesa College and San Diego City College), please contact the Chem Dept. via VAC. It may be that the system didn't assign the credit automatically and we may need to update your credit manually.

How many classes or units for the major must I complete at UCSD?

You need to complete at least 48 upper-division units of coursework within the Chemistry Department to earn your Chemistry degree.  This requirement is known as Department Residency.  Lower-division coursework does not apply to the 48 unit Residency Requirement.

Be sure to check with your College on the number of upper-division units they require.

Are there courses you recommend I complete before I transfer to UCSD?

Yes. Please see the Transfer Prep page for more information.  While this page lists the minimum requirements to transfer, we recommend completing as much of your lower-division coursework as possible. 

What if I can't take the recommended prep classes?

Focus on general chemistry and calculus first since these are prerequisites for all other chemistry, physics, and math courses you will need for the degree.

Pharmacological and Biochemistry majors should then try to take one year of biology with lab.

FAQ - Continuing Students

I'm on a waitlist. Should I stay on the waitlist or drop it and find another course?

If there are other seats available in another lecture or section, we first recommend enrolling in order to guarantee a seat in the class.  However, If you are one of the first few on the waitlist, you may want to remain on the waitlist. Often we are able to accommodate more students by adding new sections or expanding the class size.  When that is possible, we first notify students who are on the waitlist. If you are waitlisted for a full section and there is an open section with another instructor, it is highly recommended to switch to the open section.

Note that with some courses, there can be quite a bit of "movement," i.e. students drop the class or are dropped due to non-payment of fees or missing prerequisites.  It is difficult to predict whether you will be added via waitlist and some students are often not able to secure a seat in the class at all. 

I haven't completed the prerequisites for a class. Can I still enroll in it? Can I take the prerequisite class at the same time?

All prerequisites must generally be completed before you will be allowed to take a class. That said, you may be allowed to waive a prerequisite for a course, under certain circumstances.

If you are requesting to be allowed to take a course without having completed the prerequisite, you may submit a Prerequisite Waiver via the EASy system. Prerequisite Waivers require the approval of the instructor.  

Note: You may have an equivalent course that the system does not recognize, especially if you are a transfer student.  If you have an equivalent course that does not automatically transfer, you may have to submit an online petition for a Course Substitution so that the course can be reviewed for equivalency. 

If you are still unsure of whether you need to petition, you may contact a Chemistry department Academic Advisor  through the VAC or visit the Student Affairs office during walk-in hours in YORK 4010.

I cannot attend the first lab meeting. Will I be dropped?

Yes. Those who do not attend the first lab meeting will be dropped. If you feel you have an extenuating circumstance you'd like considered, contact your lab instructor PRIOR to the first lab meeting.  Any exceptions to this rule must be handled between you and your instructor. 

A lot of people dropped my CHEM class after the first midterm, so can I add the class now?

You can add courses via WebReg until Friday of week 2, pending there are seats available.  

If it is past Friday of 2nd week, you may request a Late-Add via the EASy system, however, the Chemistry department adheres to the University's deadlines as published in the Enrollment and Registration Calendar.  Exceptions to the University's add deadline may be considered only for students with extenuating circumstances through week 3.

Why did I receive a 'W' for a lab I dropped?

Likely, you did not drop the class quickly enough. Lab courses must be dropped before the end of the second lab meeting; otherwise, you will receive a "W". The policy is to encourage students not sure about completing the lab to drop early in order to allow a waitlisted student into the class in week one. The W grade will be added by Academic Records between week 6 and week 9 of the quarter.

I am not doing well in one of my Chemistry classes. Should I drop it?

If your current grade is around a D or an F grade, then you should consider dropping the course.  One or a few W grades will not harm you, whereas a D or an F will significantly lower your GPA. Furthermore, continuing to advanced courses after receiving a D or an F in lower courses almost guarantees more failure. All science is very cumulative.

You have until the Friday of 6th week to drop a lecture class with a W. You will receive a letter grade in the course after this time. 

Keep in mind, if you have already received a W for the course, you may not drop it again for a W grade. Per UCSD policy, students who drop a course after the drop with a W deadline (Friday of Week 4), for a course in which they have previously earned a W grade, will instead receive an F grade.

Do not wait until the last minute to drop, to allow for technical issues. Make sure you are in an area with a reliable Internet connection. No exceptions will be made for students who claim their Internet was down.

What happens when I repeat a course?

When you retake a course, the new grade will replace the old grade in the calculation of your GPA.  Both the old grade and the new grade remain on your record, but only the new grade will be factored into your GPA. You earn units only for a course that counts toward the GPA. (The rules are different for Graduate Students. They keep both old and new grades in the GPA calculation.)  Please note that grade replacements are only good up to 16 units.  If you have more than 16 units of course repeats, the new grade and old grade will be averaged.

I got a D or an F in one of my classes. Do I have to retake it?

A D grade is considered passing, so you will receive credit for the course.  That means you can use the D grade to move on in a sequence. However, moving on when you are not prepared guarantees further low grades. For example, if you receive a D grade in CHEM 6B, you are allowed to move onto 6C; however, you almost surely should not, unless your goal is to switch majors but use the courses for General Education requirements.

Upper-division courses have a special rule if you are a major within the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department: you are allowed to graduate with one D in your upper-division coursework for your major.. If you receive multiple D grades, then you must repeat enough to remove all but one D grade.

For F grades, you must repeat the course, if it is a required course for your major.  F grades for courses that are not required do not necessarily have to be retaken, but it would be a good idea to repeat them to boost your overall GPA.

I have questions about the grade that was assigned in my course, what can I do?

Begin by contacting your professor. Only the professor can change a grade.

I got an F in a class, but it is a prerequisite for a class I am taking next quarter. Will I be dropped?

Yes.  Prior to the beginning of the quarter the enrollment system will scan for prerequisites and if you do not have the prerequisite completed, the system will automatically drop you.

Can I take courses toward my major at a community college over the summer?

Some major requirements can be taken at the community college such as lower division courses and organic chemistry.  Equivalent courses can be found on

If you wish to use any other course not listed by toward a major requirement, you must submit a Pre-Approval petition. 

How do I find an equivalent course to take at a UC?

See list and instructions here: UC Equivalent Courses

How do I find an equivalent course to take at a CSU or other four-year institution?

Look in the course catalog for the institution. Look for courses that their chemistry major requires.  Remember that before you can get transfer credit, you must submit a Pre-Approval petition to the UCSD Chemistry and Biochemistry department to ensure that the course is equivalent to a Chemistry course at UCSD. If approved, credit can be granted after successfully completing the course.

Can I take major/minor classes for Pass/No Pass?

No.  All classes taken to meet major/minor requirements must be taken for a letter grade. This applies to both upper and lower division requirements.

The only exception to this rule is CHEM 195, 197, and 199 which are only offered with the pass/no pass grading option.

Can I get a D in a course and use it for my major?

Yes.  You are allowed one D in your upper-division coursework required for your major. Note that it is always recommended to retake a course in which you receive a D, especially if that course is part of a sequence.

How can I earn departmental honors?

See Chemistry Honors page for details!

Can I take classes after receiving my undergraduate degree?

No. Once you have received your degree, your undergraduate record is officially closed. You can take UC San Diego Summer Sessions courses or apply through UCSD Extension's Concurrent Enrollment program. 

I filed my DDA to graduate. When will I get my diploma?

UC San Diego degree processing takes up to 90 days (3 months). The college completes the review of applications/degree audits for graduation as follows: Fall DDAs - early March, Winter DDAs - late May, Spring DDAs - mid August, and Summer DDAs - late October. The Office of the Registrar begins posting degrees to official transcripts after the college completes the review of applications/degree audits. Diplomas are mailed shortly thereafter. 

The Urgent Degree Posting process expedites the posting of the degree to the student's transcript (an official proof of degree) after the department confirms completion of the major and the college confirms completion of university and general education requirements. A request for urgent posting of degree is an exception.  Please contact your specific college for instructions and requirements.