Skip to main content
Department ofMathematics and Computer Science

First Course FAQs

What are appropriate beginning math courses for my major?

Engineering Majors:
All engineering students must take the four quarter Calculus sequence for Science and Engineering Majors, Math 11, 12, 13, and 14.
Biochemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics majors
Students majoring in these disciplines take the Calculus sequence for Science and Engineering  majors. At minimum, they take Math 11, 12, and 13. Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics require Math 14 as well.
Biology, Environmental Science, Neuroscience, and Public Health majors
Students majoring in these disciplines take the Calculus sequence for Life Sciences majors. All require Math 35 and 36, except Environmental Science, which requires Math 35 only, and Biology, which allows Math 11 and 12 or Math 35 and 36. Students should not change sequences midway. In other words, students who begin in Math 35 should take Math 36, not Math 12.
Business Majors:
Business majors may take either the Business Calculus sequence (Math 30 and 31), or the first two courses in the Science/Engineering Calculus sequence (Math 11 and 12).
Social Sciences:
Anthropology majors take an introductory statistics course from any department (Math 8 is one option). If majors do not take Math 8 as their statistics course, they must take some other introductory mathematics course (except Math 9, 44, and 45) for which they are qualified*.
Economics majors in the College of Arts and Sciences may take the first two courses in the Science/Engineering Calculus sequence (Math 11 and 12) or the two-course Business Calculus sequence (Math 30 and 31).
Political Science majors take 8 or 11 or 30.
Psychology majors must take two mathematics courses from these options: Math 6 (Finite Math.) and 8 (Statistics) or Math 8 (Statistics) and 11 (Science/Engineering Calculus I). Those with an emphasis in psychobiology take Math 11 and 12.
Sociology majors may take any introductory mathematics course (except Math 9, 44, and 45) for which they are qualified*.

*Math 6 (Finite Math for Social Science) is taken by Psychology majors and many Political Science majors and is designed for other Social Science majors as well.

Arts and Humanities:
Students majoring in Arts or Humanities are free to take any introductory course (except Math 9, 44, and 45) to fulfill the Mathematics Core requirement. Math 4 (The Nature of Mathematics) is specifically designed for non-technical majors. 

What books are used for the Science/Engineering Calculus Courses?

Math 11, 12, 13, and 14 use the two-volume Thomas' Calculus: Early Transcendentals by Weir and Hass (Addison-Wesley/Pearson Publishers). Books sold at Santa Clara also come bundled with an access code to MyMathLab, a set of on-line resources which may be used by some of the instructors (including the option for on-line homework). Students who purchase the text elsewhere may need to purchase access to MyMathLab independently with little or no cost savings.

NOTE: Included with the electronic resources of MyMathLab are electronic copies of both volumes of Thomas' Calculus, for those students who wish to use an e-book rather than a paper copy.

What about Advanced Placement Exam credit?

Full details about Advanced Placement Exam credit can be found in the undergraduate bulletin.

As of Fall 2016, AP Credit will be given in this manner:

  • Calculus AB Exam: score of 4 or 5 ==> Credit for Math 11, and 4 additional units of elective credit
  • Calculus BC Exam: score of 3 ==> Credit for Math 11
  • Calculus BC Exam: score of 4 or 5 ==> Credit for Math 11 and 12, and 4 additional units of elective credit
  • Statistics Exam: score of 4 or 5 ==> Credit for Math 8 or OMIS 40.

Students who received credit for calculus courses via AP exam do not need to take the "Calculus Readiness Exam," and may register for the next mathematics course in the calculus sequence.

What about the "International Baccalaureate (IB)" program?

A student who has taken Topic 8 of the Mathematics Higher Level International Baccalaureate (IB)and received a score of 6 or 7 on their examination will receive credit for Math 8 (Statistics) at Santa Clara. A student who has taken other options of the Higher Level Math IB will receive 4 units of elective credit.

What is the Calculus Readiness Exam (CRE)? Who should take it?

Some majors require one of the calculus courses, Math 11, Math 30, or Math 35. Business majors, with a few exceptions, take Math 30 (Calculus for Business I), while majors in the life sciences take Math 35 (Calculus for Life Sciences), and majors in the physical sciences and engineering take Math 11 (Calculus and Analytic Geometry I). All are traditional calculus courses and require a solid background in high school mathematics (see fuller course descriptions). The purpose of taking the Calculus Readiness Exam is to determine whether you should start with Math 9 (Precalculus) or a calculus course, and whether an associated lab section would be helpful. Please take this exam seriously, as you will only be allowed to take it once. Be aware that our calculus courses are more conceptual than those taught in most high schools.

You are not required to take the Calculus Readiness Exam if:

  • You will not be taking Math 11, 30, or 35
  • You have taken Math 9
  • Received AP Calculus exam credit for Math 11 (a 4 or more on the AP Calculus AB exam or a 3 or more on the AP Calculus BC exam)
  • Or received transfer credit for Math 9, 11, 30, or 35

Open completion of the CRE, you will get your placement information. Click here to get more information on the CRE. If you need instructions on how to take the CRE, please e-mail Mary Long.

What is "Math 9" (Precalculus)?

Math 9, Precalculus, is a course designed to review algebra and trigonometry topics for those who must take Calculus I (either Math 11, Math 30, or Math 35), and are not well-enough prepared. The topics covered are normally part of a high school mathematics curriculum. The expectation is that most students will not need to take Precalculus, since they are well-enough prepared, mathematically, to study the technical major they have chosen (i.e., engineering, business, or science). Precalculus is not intended for anyone other than Engineering, Science, Economics, or Business majors, and does not fulfill any University requirement.

Students placed in Math 9 (because of their CRE score) should discuss their situation with an advisor in their chosen major (or a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science). Students may have difficulties with elementary algebra for many reasons. Advisors can help students experiencing certain problems with mathematics discern whether a technical major is a realistic choice for their college career.

What should I do if I received low math scores on my SAT/ACT exam and on the "Calculus Readiness Exam"?

Santa Clara University wants students to enroll in mathematics courses appropriate to their abilities and their majors. Students who enroll in a course which is not required for their major (or minor) or for which they are ill-prepared often end up withdrawing from the course and falling behind in their progress toward graduation.

Santa Clara University does not offer any mathematics course preparatory to Precalculus (Math 9). Thus, if a student scores low on the Math SAT/ACT (below 560 on the Math SAT or below 23 on the Math ACT) and the CRE (ALEKS score below 61) and needs to take Calculus for his or her major, we strongly recommend that such a student enroll in, and complete, an Intermediate Algebra course at a community college or other college offering such a course before enrolling in Precalculus at Santa Clara University.

How can I test my "pre-calculus" knowledge or review basic algebra or trigonometry?

Students who want to test their knowledge of pre-calculus subjects may wish to take sample exams created at other universities, such as:

Calculus Diagnostic Placement Exam, University of California, Berkeley


Students who want to review topics from algebra and trigonometry may wish to review on-line videos available via: (Algebra topics) (Trigonometry topics)