Introductory Chemistry

Our department offers a wide variety of classes that serve Chemistry Majors and Minors, as well as many other A&S, engineering, and pre-health students. We are excited to work with you and support you on your Chemistry journey. Your first class will likely be an introductory General Chemistry course: Chem 1 (General Chemistry) or Chem 11 (Expanded General Chemistry). Chem 1 and Chem 11 are both 5 SHU courses that cover the same curriculum, but Chem 11 moves more quickly through introductory material and covers advanced topics in greater depth. To provide guidance about which course, Chem 1 or Chem 11, would be better suited to your needs, please read the FAQ section and take the Introductory Chemistry Self-Assessment.

After completing the self-assessment questions, you can evaluate your answers using the Introductory Chemistry Rubric and Guidance. Please note that your answers will not be graded or evaluated by anyone other than you! Instead, you’ll be able to judge for yourself how your answers compare to the rubric and how you felt as you worked through the self-assessment. At the end of the document, you’ll find guidance that will help you use your self-assessment to determine which course is better suited for you. You may also find it helpful to scroll through the FAQ below, which address the major differences between Chem 1 and Chem 11, along with common first-year advising questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Chem 1 is a large class with two sections of 150-200 students each that meets three times per week for 50 min and has no prerequisites. Chem 11 is a smaller class that meets three times per week for 75 min and also requires concurrent enrollment in Chem 3 (Frontiers in Chemistry). Chem 1 students are encouraged, but not required, to enroll in Chem 3 if they are interested in learning more about research (see below). Chem 1 does not require prior chemistry in high school, whereas Chem 11 assumes you’ve taken one or two years of high school chemistry. The Chem 1 and 11 labs are identical. Students who have completed a semester of Chem 1 or Chem 11 will also be able to choose between Chem 2 or Chem 12 and the accompanying seminar, Chem 4 (Frontiers in Chemistry) for their second semester.

    Chem 1 and Chem 11 cover the same curriculum and are both 5 SHU’s, but Chem 11 moves more quickly through introductory material and covers advanced topics in greater depth. This means that Chem 1 and Chem 11 ultimately cover the same material, just with emphasis on different topics, and both fully prepare students for upper-level courses and for a wide range of science careers. To determine which course is the appropriate starting place for you, a self-assessment is available (see links above), and you can discuss this choice with your pre-major advisor or Sr. Academic Advisor. There is no “right” or “wrong” course, only the course that is right for you, right now!

  • We recommend you take Chem 1 (General Chemistry I with lab) or Chem 11 (Expanded General Chemistry I with lab). Both courses prepare students for the upper-level Chemistry coursework that is required for undergraduate degrees in Chemistry (including Biochemistry and Chemical Physics) or engineering. Both courses are also suitable to satisfy recommendations for applying to medical school, dental school, and other graduate programs in healthcare, as well as graduate-level STEM programs. We also encourage you to enroll in Math 32 (Calculus I), since it is also required for all Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Chemical Physics majors. Also, while Chem 1 is offered in both semesters, we recommend that students who are considering any Chemistry or Biochemistry major take their general chemistry course (Chem 1 or Chem 11) in a fall semester. This will allow for more flexible course scheduling for upper-level courses later on. However, if you start with Chem 1 in the spring, you can still go on to become a Chemistry or Biochemistry major!

  • For students interested in the Biochemistry major, we recommend that they enroll in both Chem 1 (or 11) and Bio 13 during their first semester. For students who may not feel ready to take two lab science courses in the first semester of college, the Chemistry Department recommends that they begin with Chem 1 or 11 rather than Bio 13, and also take Math 32 during their first semester. If you choose to begin with only Bio 13 during your first semester, it will still be possible for you to become a Biochemistry Major. Please consult the Biochemistry Major page to see a few possible paths for proceeding through the required courses.

  • Independent research positions are best suited for curious students who are interested in diving deeper into the world of Chemistry research. Generally, we recommend that students who are interested in research enroll in Chem 3 (Frontiers in Chemistry). Chem 3 is a 1 SHU, Pass/Fail seminar course that provides an opportunity for students to learn more about chemistry-related research that is performed at Tufts. Chem 3, which is offered in the fall, is recommended before taking Chem 4, which is offered in the spring. If you decide to take Chem 1 in the spring, we recommend that you enroll in Chem 3 during the following fall semester. For students who use pre-matriculation credits to skip Chem 1/11, we recommend that you begin with Chem 3 during your first fall semester in the Chemistry department. Beyond Chem 3 & 4, you can learn more about independent research using this link, where you can find FAQ about independent research, lab profiles for each Chemistry research lab, and links to a centralized application for undergraduates seeking to join research labs.

  • Chem 6 (cross-listed as Astronomy 6 and Biology 6) is an exploration of the origins of the Universe, the formation of Earth and its structure, the chemistry of life, the development of complex organisms, and the development of modern humans. The course focuses on the scientific method, evidence for the theories presented, and how the community of scientists evaluate the evidence. This course fulfills the natural science distribution requirement for the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences but does not fulfill pre-health requirements and cannot be counted for a science or engineering major. 

  • Pre-matriculation credits are granted to students who scored highly on AP or IB Chemistry exams. If you qualify, there are several options, which are described in depth in the "Guidance" section of the Introductory Chemistry Rubric and Guidance. We have found that standardized tests scores do no always correlate with success in our introductory classes, so we recommend that you use the Introductory Chemistry Self-Assessment for better guidance about if it would make sense for you to use pre-matriculation credits to skip Chem 1 or 11 and start with Chem 2 or 12, or Chem 51 (Organic Chemistry I), Chem 31 (Physical Chemistry I), Chem 42 (Quantitative Analysis), or Chem 43 (Bioanalytical Chemistry). Please also note that some majors or professional certifications may require a certain minimal number of Chemistry courses. So, if you choose one of those majors and use your pre-matriculation credits to skip Chem 1 or 11, you may need to take additional chemistry courses to complete the requirements for your major.