BIOL 101-104 Placement Exams

BIOL 101-104 Placement Exam Information

Q: What is the BIOL Placement Exam? And what does placing out mean?

A: There is an online placement exam for each of the BIOL 101-104 modules that you can take in July over the internet during the summer before you start at Yale. If you earn a score on a placement exam that demonstrates that you are sufficiently knowledgeable in the content of a BIOL module, you will be “placed out” of the module, meaning that you don’t need to take the module to proceed into any major or upper-level course for which it is listed as a prerequisite.  

The placement exam for each module is 45 minutes long and consists of questions given on tests in the module at Yale that 80-90% of Yale students in the course got correct. If you score >75% on the BIOL exam for a module, that means you have knowledge that would likely earn you at least about a grade of “B” in the course at Yale. If you take one or more BIOL module placement exams, around August 5 the BIOL instructors will email you to let you know if your scores allow you to place out of  those modules. For most BIOL modules, even if you score below the cutoff for placing out, you can still sign up to have a brief Zoom meeting with the instructor of the module, and after the meeting you are empowered to decide to place yourself out of that module if you so choose. 

Most incoming Yale College students interested in biology, including most students who took AP Biology in high school, do end up taking some or all of the BIOL 101-104 courses.  Many students skip taking the placement exams and simply sign up to take BIOL.  Completing or placing out of the BIOL modules will fulfill prerequisites for any of the five bioscience majors at Yale. Most incoming students interested in biology don’t know yet which of these majors may be right for them, so taking the BIOL modules is an excellent way to figure that out.

Q: Am I eligible to take the BIOL placement exams?

A: To be eligible to take the biology placement exams, you must be an incoming first-year student. Any incoming first-year student may take these exams.

Q: Am I required to take a placement exam to enroll in the Biology 101-104 sequence?

A: You are NOT required to take the Placement Exam to enroll in BIOL.

Q: What is the process for accessing and taking the placement exams?

A: There is an individual placement exam for each of the four BIOL modules. The exams open on July 1st @ 9 AM, and close on July 31th @ 5 PM. These exams are only available via a Canvas website ( Once you are logged into Canvas, you must join the BIOL Placement Exam site in order to access the exams. To do so, use the following self-enrollment link:

Once you have successfully joined the BIOL Placement Exam Canvas site, under the Quizzes tab on the left-side of the Canvas webpage, you will be able to locate an individual exam for each of the BIOL modules (BIOL 101, BIOL 102, BIOL 103, and BIOL 104). Each individual module’s exam must be completed in one sitting (they are each timed exams); however, it is not required that you complete all four exams in one sitting. The exams also do not need to be taken in order. You may only take each exam once; so, make sure you are connected to a reliable Internet source as you take the exams.

As a policy, we do not offer make-ups or extensions. Therefore, if you do not take the placement exams sometime during the month of July, eligibility to place out of any of the BIOL modules is then forfeited. These placement exams are only offered incoming Yale students during the summer before setting foot on campus as an official enrolled student.

Q: What is the format of each placement exam?

A: The exams consist of a mix of multiple choice, true-false, and multiple answer questions taken directly from BIOL exams used during the academic year. The questions that were chosen are ones that over 80% of students were able to successfully answer after taking the corresponding BIOL module.  Taking the placement exams will familiarize you with some of the content we teach and the level of mastery of this content we expect of our students. We note that all the BIOL modules focus on teaching you to critically analyze primary research papers, and our actual in-class exams have many questions about the research papers we analyze in class.  Such questions have been removed from our placement exams since we cannot assume you would be familiar with the specific papers we analyze in class.  Thus, taking our placement exams will not give you a complete picture of the most important critical thinking skills that are emphasized in BIOL 101-104.

Q: When will I find out how I performed on the individual exams for each module?

A: You will see your raw score on each placement exam immediately upon completion of the exam. Around August 5 we will email all students who completed one or more of the BIOL placement exam.  The email will tell you if your raw score is high enough to place out, and if not, some options you have.  

Q: What if I do “poorly” on the placement exam?

A: Do not be discouraged! The questions that you will encounter during the placement exam reflect the level at which we teach the BIOL modules, and we teach these courses at a more advanced level than that of a high school advanced placement Biology course. If you find yourself struggling to answer a question, we encourage you to just skip that question. The reason we teach the BIOL modules is that most students entering Yale have not mastered this material yet, and we are here to help students learn it.

Your score on the placement exam is not a grade that will follow you on your transcripts. So, check out the placement exams without fear of any negative consequences.

Q: What is my fate in the BIOL sequence based on my placement exam score?

A: You will learn your score on each module’s placement exam immediately upon completing the online exam. Around August 5 you will receive an email from the BIOL instructors notifying you if your score(s) for each module are above the thresholds set to allow you to automatically place out of that module.   Keep this email so that in the future you can show as evidence of your placing out.

If you do not score above the threshold to place out of a module, for BIOL 101, 102, or 103, you may still choose place yourself out of the module anyway.  You will be notified via email of the procedure to schedule a 10-minute Zoom meeting with the instructor for the corresponding module. After you meet with the professor, no matter what happens in the meeting, you will receive an email stating that you have met the conditions to choose to place yourself out of the module. So, the decision to place out of BIOL 101 and BIOL 102 is ultimately your own.

For BIOL 104, if you score below the threshold for placing out, you are ineligible to place out of BIOL 104.  BIOL 104 covers ecology and evolution at a level that is higher than what is typically covered in even the best high school advanced placement courses.  If you pursue a bioscience major that requires BIOL 104, you need to take 104.  However, there are paths through some of the Yale bioscience majors that do not require you take or place out of 104.