Placement and Credit Exams

Choosing a first-year Math class

All SMU students are required to complete a "Quantitative Foundations" requirement.  The Math department offers three courses satisfying this requirement:  two flavors of Calculus I, and one non-calculus course.  Many students ask which they should choose.  In general, 

  1. If you plan to pursue a degree in the fine arts or humanities, you can take MATH 1307: Introduction to the Mathematical Sciences (non-calculus).
  2. If you plan to pursue a degree in business, you should take MATH 1309: Business Calculus (and MATH 1303: Business Precalculus, if necessary).
  3. If you plan to pursue a degree in any STEM field, or plan to add a second major in data science, you should take MATH 1337: Calculus I (and MATH 1304: Precalculus, if necessary).

Note that not all students planning to enter the Cox School of Business actually get in, and several of the majors chosen by non-business students require Calculus II.  Furthermore, many business students are interested in a second major in Data Science, which also requires Calculus II.  Whereas the Cox school accepts regular Calculus I (MATH 1337) in place of Business Calculus (MATH 1309), the reverse is not true – since Business Calculus omits topics related to trigonometry, it is not a sufficient pre-requisite for Calculus II.  Thus, if you are in doubt, the safest option is to take the regular calculus sequence.  


Placement Exams for Calculus I

If you plan to take Calculus at SMU, you have multiple options.  They are all challenging, and we want you to succeed, so we may require you to take a placement test to ensure that you are sufficiently prepared for the course you wish to enroll.  These exams should be taken online through Canvas before your AARO session


The Mathematics Department offers placement exams for students who wish to enroll in either MATH 1309 or 1337.  These are non-credit exams, that are designed to ensure students are placed into a course where they can be successful.  Students must pass the appropriate placement exam to enroll in either MATH 1309 or 1337, otherwise they need to take the corresponding prerequisite course, MATH 1303 or 1304.  The only students who may enroll in 1337 or 1309 without taking the placement exam are those who have SMU credit for Precalculus (e.g., through passing the Precalculus AP exam).


Students are allowed to take each placement exam up to two times.  Also note that MATH 1307:  Introduction to the Mathematical Sciences does not require a placement exam.

Guidelines for the placement exams include the following scenarios:

  1. If you passed a Calculus AP or IB exam with the required score, you will receive SMU credit for the appropriate course(s). We do not recommend that students give up AP/IB credit to re-take calculus at the college level.  If you plan to take additional math classes, you may enroll in them directly at your AARO session, without taking a placement test.
  2. If you took calculus in high school but do not have AP/IB credit, you should take the online placement test for your intended Calculus course (MATH 1309 or MATH 1337 – see above).  If you do very well on the 1337 placement test and need Calculus II for your major, then you could consider also taking the optional online Consolidated Calculus placement test on Canvas. If you pass, you may enroll in MATH 1340: Consolidated Calculus, that reviews essential concepts from Calculus I, before covering all the topics in Calculus II, and awards credit for both courses in a single semester.  This option is strongly recommended for students entering STEM fields.
  3. If you did not take calculus in high school, but your major requires calculus, you may enroll directly (without taking a placement test) in the pre-calculus class appropriate to your intended major (MATH 1303 or MATH 1304 -- see above).  Alternatively, you may choose to take the placement test to get into the Calculus I course appropriate to your intended major (MATH 1309 or MATH 1337 -- see above).


These guidelines are summarized in the flowchart below.





Credit Exams for Special Circumstances

If you did very well in an honors-level or college-level calculus class in high school, but you were for some reason unable to take an AP/IB exam, you may take an appropriate credit exam for Math 1309 (Business Calculus), Math 1337 (Calculus I) or Math 1338 (Calculus II.  Credit exams must be taken in-person in the Math department during move-in week before either the Fall or Spring semester. You should contact the Math department over the summer or winter to schedule such an exam. If you pass the credit exam (which is approximately as difficult as an AP exam), you will receive the relevant SMU credits.

 If you took courses beyond Calculus II in high school, but did not receive college credit for those courses, please contact the math department to discuss your options.