How to Read the Placement and Test Scores Report

The Placement and Test Scores Report is designed to help students and advisers select the most appropriate courses based on their previous academic experiences. It is particularly useful for incoming freshmen.

The Report contains three main sections:

  • Test Scores from exams taken pre-matriculation
  • Harvard placement exams results
  • Course recommendations 

Pre-matriculation test scores

Scores listed in this section include any SAT, ACT, SAT II, AP, and IB exams that have been taken before a student arrives at Harvard. While students may have submitted the results for these exams as part of their admissions application, students will need to resend final reports to the Registrar's Office. Information about sending these scores can be found on the Registrar's website or the Freshman Dean's Office website.

Harvard Placement Exams results

Students who take online or on campus exams in Biology, Chemistry, Music, and languages will see their results listed in this section. 

"Harvard Placement" exams refer to exams administered online while "Harvard Department" exams refer to exams administered on campus. 

  • The results of these exams are used exclusively for making a course recommendation and will not appear elsewhere in your record (i.e. on your transcript). 
  • The scores for many of the online exams use a scale of 200 to 800. The Math exam, however, is scored using a different rubric.
  • The on campus exams use a scale of 7 or 8. A "7" indicates that the score does not fulfill the language requirement. An "8" does fulfill the language requirement. In some cases, a student may receive a "9" which indicates that the score fulfills the language requirement and receives Advanced Standing credit. Only the Korean, Russian, Hebrew, and Greek exams allow for Advanced Standing credit.

Course Recommendations

Course recommendations are based on the results of any exam listed in the pre-matriculation or placement exams. Here are some general thoughts that may be helpful when reviewing this section:

  • The course recommendations are meant to help students identify which courses may be most appropriate based on their prior academic experience.
  • The recommendations are not limiting - students may enroll in any course for which they feel prepared.
  • Students should discuss their recommendations with their academic adviser and with advisers in the relevant department.
  • The column that includes "Recommendation based on the following result" indicates which exam led to a particular result. It is possible that students will be recommended for multiple levels based on different scores. For example, a student who has SAT II and AP scores in Physics may see recommendations for Physics 11a and Physics 15a. The student should discuss these recommendations with an adviser in the Physics department to determine which course best fits their experience and interests.

A few additional words about the Math course recommendations:

  • The Math recommendations are based exclusively on the Math Placement exam. AP, SAT, and IB scores are not considered in making the recommendation. The placement test assesses knowledge of precalculus and single variable calculus. 
  • Students should seek out Math advising for help in selecting the right course if they have any questions. Incoming freshmen are encouraged to attend the session “Making Sense of Your Placement Score” and “Choosing between Math 18, 19a,19b,21a,21b,23a,25a,55a,101,APMth21a”.  Math department faculty are available for individual consultations. See for details.
  • Students who are recommended for "Math 18, 19a, 19b, 21a, 21b, 23a, 25a, 55a, 101, APMth21a" should consider the following:

    • The recommendation “Math 18,19a,19b,21a,21b,23a,25a,55a,101,APMth21a” means that the student has placed out of single variable calculus. It does not mean that any particular course in this list is recommended for the student; the best option depends upon the student’s interests and background.

    • Math 18, 21a and Applied 21a are multivariable calculus courses, with 18 geared towards  economics applications and the other two more multi-purposed.

    • Math 19a is modeling  and differential equations course for the life sciences. Students do a project in their area of interest in lieu of a final exam.

    • Math 19b is a linear algebra, probability and statistics course for the life sciences.

    • Math 21b is a linear algebra course.

    • Math 23a/b , 25a/b, and 55a/b are proof-based mathematics courses, with the former two concentrating on real analysis and linear algebra and the latter abstract algebra and real and complex analysis and other topics.

    • Math 101 is an introduction to different fields of mathematics and to writing proofs.