A Guide to First Year Mathematics Courses

All entering students are required to take the Math Placement Exam, with the following exceptions:

  • students who transfer in college credit for Math 159, 160, 170, or 210;
  • students who score 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement AB calculus exam, and who report their score to Allegheny;
  • students who score 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement BC calculus exam, and who report their score to Allegheny;
  • students who score 3 on the Advanced Placement BC calculus exam with a 4 or 5 on the AB subscore of this exam, and who report their score to Allegheny.

The Math Placement Exam determines readiness for Calculus I (Math 160). It consists of 30 questions covering algebra, pre-calculus, and trigonometry topics:  geometry and measurement; algebraic manipulation; equations, inequalities, and factoring; trigonometry; functions and their notation, including linear, polynomial, rational, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions; graphs of functions; and word problems and modeling.

The Math Placement Exam places students into one of two categories:

For students who place in Math 160:

  • Students who are considering (even if currently undecided) a major or minor in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Geology, OR
  • Students who are considering a major or minor in Computer Science but who are also interested in Mathematics are strongly encouraged to take Math 160 in the Fall.

For students who place in Math 110/157/159:

Student Interest

Students who are considering a major or minor in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Geology, OR

Students who are considering a major or minor in Computer Science but who are also interested in Mathematics.

Recommended Placement

Math 159 (Precalculus) in the Fall and Math 160 (Calculus I) in the Spring

Students who need a calculus course (for example for Biology or Economics) but who do not need the more theoretical Math 160 Math 157 (Calculus I for Social and Life Sciences)
Students who want a math course that will count toward natural science distribution credit, but who do not need calculus Math 110 (Elementary Mathematical Modeling)


Math 159 Precalculus
is a signature course intended solely to prepare students for Math 160. It cannot be taken by a student with prior calculus credit and does not count toward the QR distribution requirement or toward a major or minor in mathematics.

Math 157 Calculus I for Social/Life Sciences does not count toward a major or minor in mathematics and cannot be taken by a student with prior calculus credit.

Math 110 Elementary Mathematical Modeling cannot be taken by a student with prior calculus credit and does not count toward a major or minor in mathematics.