Welcome to the Boston University Chemistry Department’s advising page for General Chemistry!

We in the Chemistry Department truly love to teach chemistry, and we are very excited to have you take courses with us. The Chemistry Department offers many different options for general chemistry, each with a unique focus, level of preparation, and learning outcomes. The goal of this page is to help you select the general chemistry course that is best for you.

Choosing the right course for you

In the 2023-2024 academic year the Chemistry department will offer three different year-long general chemistry course sequences: CH101/102, CH109/110, and CH109/112. Students will find that all three of the sequences will prepare them for their upper-level coursework. Also, all three sequences satisfy the pre-health requirements. The main differences between the courses are students’ majors and goals.

CH101 and CH102 (“General Chemistry”)

CH101/102 is the course sequence that most students who are not chemistry or biochemistry majors will take. These courses assume little prior knowledge of chemistry, making these courses the right choice for someone who has not taken chemistry in high school or someone who is not confident in their recall of the material. Students in CH101 are expected to have a firm grasp of algebra and general physical science concepts from high school. CH101 and CH102 are both offered every semester (including summers).

CH109 and CH110 (“Advanced General Chemistry” with Quantitative Analysis Lab)

CH109 and CH110 are designed specifically for Chemistry majors, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology majors, Specialization in Chemistry majors, Neuroscience majors, Biomedical Engineering majors, and other students with a strong interest in chemistry.

So what are the differences between CH109 and CH101?

  • All Biochemistry (BMB) and Chemistry majors (including all specializations in Chemistry) are required to register for CH109.
  • Students in CH109 are expected to have a good working knowledge of algebra (calculus is not required for this course). The quantitative nature of chemistry is an important emphasis in CH109 and CH110.
  • The laboratory component of CH109 and CH110 is an introduction to Quantitative Analysis laboratory experience. The focus of these labs is on developing skills and approaches that are necessary for success in research labs and upper-level laboratory courses (including biochemistry and molecular biology).
  • CH109 will start at the beginning of chemistry and will ramp up as the year proceeds. By the end of the year, CH109/110 will end up covering more material than CH101/102 (the additional material covered is very helpful in preparation for later chemistry and biochemistry courses).
  • CH109 is offered only in the Fall semester and CH110 is offered only in the Spring semester.  Neither course is offered in the summer.

Students in CH109 in the Fall semester have to option to take CH110 or CH112 in the Spring semester. The only difference between CH110 and CH112 is that CH112 lab has an emphasis on course-based undergraduate research and an extra writing component that satisfied the WRI and RIL BU Hub units. Details about CH110 and CH112 will be provided to the students in CH109 during the Fall semester. (Intensive General Chemistry 1 (CH111) is not being offered in the Fall of 2023.)

Is there a placement exam for CH109? No. All Chemistry and BMB majors should register for CH109. Additionally, students with substantive prior experience in chemistry or a strong interest in molecular science should consider taking CH109.

CH171 (Principles of General Chemistry)

CH171 is a one-semester survey course of the principles of General Chemistry, primarily for students in Sargent College (and select majors in CAS, see table below). There is no expectation of prior high school chemistry knowledge in CH171. Note: CH171 does not satisfy the requirements for students considering careers in medicine or dentistry (pre-med). CH171 is offered every Fall semester.

CH131 (General Chemistry for Engineering)

CH131 is a one-semester survey course of General Chemistry for students in the College of Engineering (except for Biomedical Engineering majors, see table below). Note: CH131 does not satisfy the requirements for students considering careers in medicine or dentistry (pre-med). CH131 is offered every Fall semester and Summer 2.

Switching between sequences

Department policy prohibits students from switching between courses in the full-year course sequences (CH101/102 and CH109/110). In other words, if a student completes CH101 (General Chemistry 1), then their only choice for General Chemistry 2 is CH102. Similarly, students who complete CH109 are not permitted to switch to CH102 for their second semester. As such, it is important to make sure that you’ve chosen the appropriate sequence for your needs and level of preparation.

Still need help picking your course?

If you have a question about the chemistry courses offered at Boston University, please see the frequently asked questions page.