General Chemistry Advising Fall 2017

What is ALEKS?

ALEKS is a web-based, artificially-intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to determine quickly and accurately exactly what you know and don’t know in General Chemistry, and then instructs you on the topics you are most ready to learn. ALEKS will periodically assess you to determine what topics you have mastered and what you have forgotten.

ALEKS provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any web-based computer, for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor. ALEKS is a modern, powerful assessment and learning tool that can make your chances of doing well in this course significantly higher.

This means that ALEKS will be different for every student as it adapts itself to you.  ALEKS will assess you to understand exactly what knowledge you have mastered and it will only try to teach you topics you are ready for.

Purchasing an ALEKS license and registering for ALEKS

Students at Boston University, who will enroll in a year-long general chemistry sequence, will use ALEKS: CH101 during the school year, and CH109 and CH111 (and CH181) over the summer.  Details about ALEKS use in CH101 can be found on the CH101 course website.

For students who will use ALEKS over the summer (students in CH109 and CH111/181):  your instructors will email you at the beginning of August with details about ALEKS use and their expectations.

In general, here is what you need to do to begin using ALEKS.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “SIGN UP NOW”
  3. In the box provided, enter the code for the course you would like to take in the fall (there are three different codes for the three different courses).
    CH101: see the CH101 website for details
    CH109: RXY6G-69XRW
  4. Register, following the instructions. Be sure to correctly enter your Boston University nine-character ID number in the format U######## (an upper case U followed by nine digits), so that you can receive credit for your work.

Students in CH109 will be able to use ALEKS for up to two weeks without purchasing an access code by using the following code: 0C10D-F5A6F-4567D-45115.  Students in CH111 should not be prompted to purchase a code either.

That’s it. When you log in you will receive a brief tutorial on how to enter answers in ALEKS before taking an initial assessment to determine what you have retained from your prior studies.

ALEKS Initial Assessment

Once you finish the ALEKS tutorial, you will start your initial assessment. This is the first chance for ALEKS to learn what you know and what you can do.  There is NO GRADE given for the initial assessment.  Here are some tips for getting the best results from the initial assessment:

  • Take it seriously. ALEKS studies your answers very carefully and draws a lot of conclusions from each one. If you make careless or silly mistakes, ALEKS will almost certainly conclude you know a lot less math and chemistry than you do. That will lead to additional time working on skills you already know.
  • Take your time solving problems: at least 2 or 3 minutes, sometimes 5 or 10. Doublecheck your work. Examine it for typos, sign and unit errors, and things you might have accidentally left off or forgotten to erase. Remember, ALEKS is a formulaic computer program, not a human being.
  • ALEKS doesn’t have the imagination needed to guess what you meant to say, if what you actually said isn’t quite right. It will just mark you wrong.
  • Don’t tire yourself out. An ALEKS assessment isn’t timed, and your work is always saved. You can take as long as you like — you can even spread the assessment out over several days. Just log out (click EXIT). ALEKS will remember exactly where you were, and put you right back there when you log in again. If you find yourself getting tired, frustrated, angry — JUST LOG OUT. Go get something to eat or drink, relax, talk, read. Don’t risk an expensive careless mistake by continuing when you’re not at your best.
  • Don’t cheat yourself by cheating. Don’t look up answers on the Internet or a textbook. Don’t ask an older friend for help. There’s no point to this! Your initial assessment isn’t going to get any kind of grade. It’s just a way to find out what exactly YOU need to review. If you’re not fully honest with ALEKS, it won’t assign you the right topics to study. You’ll either end up bored (if you get topics that are too easy) or frustrated (if you get topics that are too hard). Either way, you’re bound to spend more time, ultimately, than if you give ALEKS the most honest possible picture of what you know and what you don’t.
  • Don’t be surprised when you can’t solve problems. Remember, ALEKS is looking for the outer limits of what you know. That’s only possible if it asks you at least one or two problems that it’s pretty sure you won’t be able to do. So expect that. If you think there’s any chance you can solve a problem, it’s best to give it a shot. But if you really have no clue, there’s a button marked “I haven’t learned this yet.” Click it to tell ALEKS you really don’t know this topic, and it will go on to the next problem.


Once you complete the initial assessment ALEKS will show you the “Pie”.  The ALEKS Pie is the record and map of your work. It is a graphical representation of the course, and a quick way to evaluate your progress.  Based on your initial assessment some amount of the pie will be filled in, showing what you currently know.  The pie is the best representation of what you know (ignore the “Gradebook” tab).

Here is an example of what the pie looks like.

ALEKS Pie Example

Here are a few important features of the pie.

  • Right above the pie is the total number of topics this student has mastered (99) and the total number of topics in the summer preparatory course (133).  Students are not required to complete the whole pie, but the more you complete the more prepared you will be.  Your specific course topics are shown later.
  • The pie itself is made of colored slices representing different areas of math and science.  The darker regions represent completed material and the lighter regions represent material that is not yet mastered.  This student has completely mastered the “Math and Algebra” material but only has mastered 6 out of 25 topics of the “Stoichiometry” material.
  • Below the pie are lists of objectives.  This student has completed all the topics in the CH101 Topic list and has completed 21 topics in the CH109 topic list.  There are 5 more topics this student needs to complete preparation for CH109.  Two of these topics ALEKS determines the student is ready for and can be selected now, and three topics will become available later.

The goal for your summer work with ALEKS

For students in CH109 and CH111, your summer goal is to complete all the topics in your ALEKS course; these are the topics that your instructors feel are necessary for you to know before beginning the course.   At the end of the objective, ALEKS will likely give you an assessment to make sure you are remembering what you are learning (though not always; do not worry if you don’t trigger another assessment).  If you feel that you are in the wrong course (perhaps because there is too much material that you haven’t yet learned), then you are welcome to switch courses over the summer.  Make sure to switch to the appropriate ALEKS course (see ALEKS technical support for help switching courses) and to complete the objectives for that course.

If things go wrong…

ALEKS is a computer program, and it operates over the Internet. Part of it operates on the ALEKS servers, in California, but part of it also operates on your browser and your computer, wherever you are.  With this many working parts, it’s sometimes possible for things to go wrong, either a little bit or a lot, in confusing ways. Here are some things that could happen, and what to do about them:

  • Your browser or computer freezes up, won’t display things correctly, et cetera. This is almost always a problem located within your browser. The best thing to try immediately is to quit the browser and restart it, or if the computer is not acting right, reboot the computer. That will start everything fresh.  If this doesn’t work try a different computer before contacting support.
  • Don’t worry about your work in ALEKS! ALEKS saves what you do as you go along, so when you log back into ALEKS you’ll be just where you left off, even if you were right in the middle of an assessment or tutorial. To prevent problems like this, it’s often wise not to be asking the browser to do too much else while you’re working on ALEKS.
  • You can’t seem to get any response from ALEKS, for example you submit an answer and ALEKS doesn’t respond for a long time. This can happen because of Internet problems, and these are usually at the level of your local Internet Service Provider (or sometimes with a WiFi connection if you’re using one). It is almost never a problem with the Internet itself, or with the ALEKS servers, which are very large servers with dedicated high-bandwidth connections to the Internet. Again, restart the browser, but also check your Internet connection to other sites.

Should you have any problems working with ALEKS

Any problems with ALEKS can only be fixed by ALEKS support staff.  Don’t write your professor if ALEKS, the Internet, or your browser is having problems – just complain (politely of course) directly to ALEKS!

If possible, send problem reports from within ALEKS. To do this,

  1. click on the Message Center icon (the envelope) in the upper right of the ALEKS screen, and compose a message to ALEKS Customer Support.
  2. and check the little box at the bottom of the form that says “Attach the page on which I was working,” so that, again, Customer Support can zero in on exactly what you and ALEKS did, to find the problem.

You’ll get a response quickly, usually within 24 hours, except on weekends. In the meantime, ask ALEKS for another problem on the topic, or even go back to the Pie and work on a different topic entirely.

If you are unable to report your problem from within ALEKS, then go to

and using the form there describe your problem in as much detail as you can. It’s particularly important that you tell the ALEKS team your ALEKS login and the date and time of the problem. This will allow them to see exactly what you did and what ALEKS did, and thereby diagnose the problem.