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Harvey Mudd Placement Exams

HalcyenbronteHalcyenbronte 7 replies4 threads New Member
edited June 26 in Harvey Mudd College
Hi. I just got accepted to Harvey Mudd, and I started looking at the orientation schedule. I noticed that I'd have to take a Writing Proficiency Exam and Physics Diagnostic. (CS placement exam and Advanced Math Placement are optional.)

Having just taken a gap year, I feel like I've forgotten a lot of physics etc. so I am very worried about these placement exams. Does anyone know what they're like and how important they are? And what if I fall behind in science classes? FYI I haven't taken any AP science courses.

I scoured the web for more information but couldn't really find much, so any insight will help!
edited June 26
1 replies
Post edited by CCEdit_Suraj on
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Replies to: Harvey Mudd Placement Exams

  • CaryPlannerCaryPlanner 13 replies3 threads Junior Member

    I’m a junior engineering major at Mudd. Congrats on getting in!

    In short, don’t worry about it. All of the placement tests are treated more as diagnostics than exams, and they won’t significantly impact your future trajectory at Mudd. I definitely didn’t bother to study for any of them :)

    The physics diagnostic is used to recommend taking either physics 24 (mechanics) or physics 24A (the advanced version) in the Spring. It really is just a recommendation - if you feel like your placement test results don’t reflect your background you can talk to the profs and they’ll be very helpful and accommodating (I know at least two people who did that). They also make the course content very similar for the first two weeks so that if you decide later that you want to switch it won’t be too hard. Everyone will take one of the two, and they’re both prereqs for all the same courses, so it won’t make you ahead or behind in the long term. It just enables them to provide more challenge (more tricky/advanced problems, some extra topics and applications) to people who already have an unusually strong background.

    The writing proficiency diagnostic is also very low stress. I’m not exactly sure, but it seems like they use it to identify students with below-average writing backgrounds so they can help to connect them with potential writing resources early on. It doesn’t impact course placement at all.

    Back when I was a frosh, the math placement diagnostic was for people who were interested in taking Math 30B (half-semester calculus, “black” = advanced) instead of Math 30G (“gold” = regular). 30B focused more heavily on writing rigorous proofs and was for students who had unusually strong backgrounds in calculus. The difference didn’t make any real difference in the long run. Mudd redesigned/restructured core math a couple years ago, so now frosh take Math 19 their first semester (calculus + multi variable calc) instead of Math 30. I’m not sure how exactly the placement test works with that now, but I’d guess that the difference is probably similar.

    The computer science placement test is for people who are interested in taking CS42 instead of CS5 their first semester. Everyone takes CS5 gold (regular), CS5 green (similar difficulty to gold but with an emphasis on biology applications), CS5 black (advanced), or CS42 that semester. CS42 covers the content from both CS5 and CS60 (the next course in the series) in one semester and is for students who’ve already learned a lot of programming skills. Like all the other placement tests, it’s very much a diagnostic to help people on the edge between CS42 and CS black decide which is the right option for them.

    Hope that helps! Best wishes!
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