The Physics Department's introductory course offerings are described here.   We offer courses for the general student as well as for science and engineering students.  

A Physics Placement Diagnostic is offered during New Student Orientation (NSO) Week. 


In general, anyone who plans to take courses in the PHYSICS 40 or 60 sequences during the 2014/2015 academic year should take the Physics Placement Diagnostic. 


You do not need to take the Placement Diagnostic if:

  • You plan to take courses in the PHYSICS 40 series AND have completed AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C, Mechanics and E&M,  with a 5 on all three tests OR

  • You are planning to enroll in the algebra-based PHYSICS 20 series.

WHy should you take THE PLACEMENT diagnostic?

The Placement Diagnostic will help us guide you on:

  • Whether you should take a math and/or physics course in the Autumn Quarter or before you start the calculus-based Physics sequences.

  • Which Physics sequence you should take so you are sufficiently challenged without being overwhelmed.

The Placement Diagnostic is meant to be a useful tool to help students calibrate their readiness for the different physics sequences.  It is not meant to be a barrier to entering courses. Our goal is to ensure that each student successfully finishes the first physics course they take at Stanford. The physics teaching staff will provide advice to each student based on their placement-test results.

What does the placement diagnostic cover?

The Placement Diagnostic covers both conceptual understanding and quantitative skills in mathematics and introductory physics.  It is intended to assess your existing command of the material; thus, it is neither necessary nor advisable that you study beforehand.  Because the diagnostic is designed to assess a broad range of preparation, there will be some material that is not familiar to students who are nonetheless prepared to enter the PHYSICS 40 sequence.  We will provide you with appropriate advice based on how you do on the entire diagnostic.

When and where is the placement diagnostic offered?

The Physics Placement Diagnostic for NEW STUDENTS will be held on Wednesday of New Student Orientation (NSO) week at 9 a.m. in Room 200 in the Hewlett Teaching Center.  If you need to take the Physics and another placement test, take Physics on Wednesday morning and attend a makeup session for the other placement test(s).

See this page for complete placement test schedules including Physics and other departments.

A makeup session for the Physics Placement Diagnostic will be held on Monday evening during the first week of fall quarter classes at 7 p.m. in Hewlett 102.  RETURNING STUDENTS who plan to take one of the calculus-based physics sequences are encouraged to attend the makeup session.

What should I bring to the Placement Diagnostidc?

Bring a pencil, eraser, and your Stanford University ID card, and know your SUNet ID (your Stanford email account).  No calculators are needed or allowed.

When do I get feedback on my readiness for the calculus-based physics courses?

If you take the test during NSO, advice based on the results of the Physics Placement Diagnostic will be emailed to your email account during the week of NSO.  If you take the make-up, the advice will be emailed to you during the first week of class. You will be provided with guidance on your readiness for placement into the PHYSICS 40 or 60 series, or whether the department recommends that you take a math and/or physics course in the Autumn Quarter before beginning PHYSICS 41 in the Winter.

If you have not heard back from us by the Friday of the week you take the test, please contact us at