It is preferable for students who plan to major in biology, or think they may be interested in doing so, to take Biology 101 and 102 during their first year at Williams. It is also possible to begin the Biology major during the sophomore year, although students should understand that that may require taking two or more biology courses during several semesters. Students interested in biology, whether or not they intend to major in it, are encouraged to take Biology 101 and/or 102. With instructor permission, students may take Biology 102 in the spring before taking Biology 101. It is also possible, with permission of the instructor, to take Biology 134 (The Tropics), Biology 203 (Ecology), and/or Biology 204 (Animal Behavior) without prerequisite.
All students are welcome to take Biology 101, regardless of high school preparation in biology. You are not required to take a placement exam to enroll in Biology 101.
Students with unusually strong backgrounds in biology, such as those with an AP score of 5 or an IB score of 6 or 7, may be permitted to elect a sophomore-level course in lieu of Biology 101 and/or Biology 102 upon successful completion of a departmental placement exam. Because the content of our BIOL 101 and BIOL 102 is somewhat different than AP Bio, with much more emphasis on experimental evidence and design, only a few students each year place out.
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For first-year students enrolled for the 2021-22 academic year, the placement exam for Biology 101 may be taken between Thursday June 17 and Wednesday June 23 so students have the results before completing Pre-registration. Because students who took AP or IB Biology in their senior year of high school may not have their AP/IB scores by June, there will be a second window to take the placement exam, in the last two weeks of August. The Biology 101 placement exam should take no more than 60 minutes to complete. There will be a separate Biology 102 placement exam offered in August only.
To match first year students with the appropriate course (and to welcome you to the department), the Biology Department places significant weight on a one-on-one consultation with a biology faculty member as a follow up to the placement exam. A BIOL 101 faculty member will reach out to and meet with every student who places out of either BIOL 101 or 102 to talk about what option might be best for them. Some of the students who do place out choose to take BIOL 101 anyhow, and others just wait until spring to take BIOL 102. Only about one student per year places out of 102 as well. Since we have a 9-course major, students who do skip 101 (and 102) will need to take other Biology courses to have 9 credits total.
Section 1: Honor Code Statement (Required for all students)
The placement exam, which helps us learn about your biology background, is closed-notes and closed-book, and thus accessing information and help is a violation of the Honor Code. It is also a violation of the Honor Code to share the form or content of the exam with anyone else, either while you are taking it or afterwards.
Williams College prides itself on the Honor Code. In this section, you will be asked to acknowledge that you have read the Honor Code statement and that you agree to abide by the code. Note that it is also in your best interest to provide the faculty with a fair description of your background in biology to allow us to place you most appropriately.
Section 2: The Exam
The exam consists of 10 short answers questions pertinent to BIOL 101.
Still have questions about the Biology Placement Survey? Please contact Professor Lois Banta.