Before attending Orientation, you must complete the Pre-Orientation Checklist, which is necessary for your academic advisement and registration. The Checklist must be completed five business days before your Orientation event. Failure to complete the Pre-Orientation Checklist will affect your ability to register for courses at Orientation.

To access your Pre-Orientation Checklist:

  1. Log in to the Orientation Events page.
  2. Click on the Event Link next to Pre-Orientation Checklist.
    Click here for a diagram of where to find the Pre-Orientation Checklist.

You do not need to complete the Pre-Orientation Checklist in one sitting. You can save your work and return to it another time. It includes the following items:

  1. Access your USC email.
  2. View the Online Tutorials.
  3. Complete the Pre-Academic Advising Worksheet.
    • The information you enter in the worksheet will assist your advisor in determining your first-semester course plan. Please complete it as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
  4. Take the Math Placement Exam online, if required by your major.
    • Visit the Placement Exams section of our website for a list of majors requiring the Math Placement Exam.
  5. Take the Chemistry Placement Exam online, if required by your major.
    • Visit the Placement Exams section of our website for a list of majors requiring the Chemistry Placement Exam.
  6. Submit your USCard photo.
  7. International students: Complete the New International Student/Scholar Form.

Completing placement exams will ensure you receive proper academic advisement and enroll at the appropriate skill level to begin your studies. Placement exams are offered in math, chemistry, language, composition and English proficiency. Review the information about each exam to determine which placement exams you need to take and how to complete them.

Math

Complete the Math Placement Exam online as part of the Pre-Orientation Checklist before attending Orientation. You do not need to schedule an appointment to take your placement exams.

Students admitted to the following majors are required to complete the Math Placement Exam, regardless of previous coursework or standardized exam scores.

  • Accounting
  • Architecture
  • Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation (recommended but not required)
  • Astronomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biophysics
  • Business Administration (all majors)
  • Chemistry (all majors)
  • Computer Science (all majors)
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Earth Sciences
  • Economics
  • Economics/Mathematics
  • Engineering (all majors)
  • Environmental Sciences and Health
  • Environmental Studies
  • GeoDesign
  • Geological Sciences
  • Global Health
  • Health and Human Sciences
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Human Biology
  • Human Development and Aging (Health Science Track)
  • International Relations (Global Business)
  • International Relations (Global Economy)
  • Lifespan Health (recommended but not required)
  • Mathematics (all majors)
  • Neuroscience
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pharmacology and Drug Development
  • Physics (all majors)
  • Physical Sciences
  • Political Economy
  • Pre-Health emphasis (regardless of major)
  • Public Policy
  • Social Sciences (Economics emphasis)
  • Social Sciences (Psychology emphasis)
  • Real Estate Development
  • Undecided Students (leaning toward STEM and health-related majors)
  • Undeclared Students (leaning toward STEM and health-related majors)
  • Urban Studies and Planning

The Math Placement Exam is 60 minutes long, contains 40 questions and covers the following topics:

  • Rational Expressions
  • Exponents and Radicals
  • Linear Equations, Inequalities and Absolute Values
  • Polynomials and Polynomial Functions
  • Functions
  • Trigonometry
  • Logarithmic and Exponential Functions
  • Word Problems

It is strongly recommended that you complete the online Math Placement Exam via the Pre-Orientation Checklist. If necessary, you may take a paper-and-pencil version of the Math Placement Exam on campus. Visit the USC Testing Services website for more information.

Chemistry

Complete the Chemistry Placement Exam online as part of the Pre-Orientation Checklist before attending Orientation. You do not need to schedule an appointment to take your placement exams.

Students admitted to the following majors are required to complete the Math Placement Exam, regardless of previous coursework or standardized exam scores.

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biophysics
  • Chemistry (all majors)
  • Computer Science (all majors)
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Earth Sciences
  • Engineering (all majors)
  • Environmental Sciences and Health
  • Geological Sciences
  • Global Health
  • Health and Human Sciences
  • Health and Humanity
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Human Biology
  • Human Development and Aging (Health Science track)
  • Lifespan Health (recommended but not required)
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology and Drug Development
  • Physics (all majors)
  • Physical Sciences
  • Pre-Health (regardless of major)
  • Undecided Students (leaning toward STEM and health-related majors)
  • Undeclared Students (leaning toward STEM and health-related majors)

The Chemistry Placement Exam is a 30-minute, 25 question multiple-choice exam intended to assess students’ readiness for a college-level course in General Chemistry.

The exam covers selected basic concepts found in a standard high school chemistry course, as well as mathematical and problem solving skills that are important for introductory chemistry.

It is strongly recommended that you complete the online Chemistry Placement Exam via the Pre-Orientation Checklist. If necessary, you may take a paper-and-pencil version of the Chemistry Placement Exam on campus. Visit the USC Testing Services website for more information.

Language

Students who plan to enroll in a language course, either as an elective or because it is required by their major, must take the Language Placement Exam, regardless of previous coursework, exam scores or experience.

Students planning to enroll in a language in which they have no experience may enroll in the Level 1 language course without taking the placement exam. Students planning to do this should contact the USC Language Center for D-clearance for Level 1 courses.

The Language Placement Exam must be completed in-person and cannot be completed online.

The Language Placement Exam is offered in conjunction with On-Campus Summer Freshman Orientation events. Students attending either an Off-Campus Summer Freshman Orientation or I Cannot Attend Orientation take the Language Placement Exam through the USC Language Center during Welcome Week.

If you attend… Take Your Language Placement Exam…
June or July On-Campus Freshman Orientation On Day 1 immediately following lunch
International Freshman Orientation On Monday, August 19 in the morning before Orientation officially begins
Off-Campus Orientation During Welcome Week
I Cannot Attend Orientation During Welcome Week

The following majors have a foreign language requirement:

  • Cinematic Arts (B.A. only)
  • College of Letters, Arts and Sciences (all majors)
  • Communication
  • Fine Arts (B.A. only)
  • Global Health
  • Human Development and Aging (Social Science track)
  • Human Development and Aging (Health Science track) (recommended but not required)
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Lifespan Health
  • Journalism
  • Music (B.M. in String Instrument and Vocal Arts Performance; B.A. in Music; B.A. in Choral Music)
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Public Relations
  • Theatre (B.A. only)
  • Undecided
  • Undeclared

Students may take an exam in the following languages:

  • Ancient Greek
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Persian
  • Russian
  • Spanish

For more information about the Foreign Language Placement Exam, please contact the USC Language Center at (213) 740-1188 or language@usc.edu.

For more information about the foreign language requirement at USC, visit the USC Language Center website.

Composition

All entering first-year students with a score of less than 550 on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing exam or a score lower than 24 on the ACT English exam must take the Composition Placement Exam (CPE). Students who do not complete the exam prior to course registration will be unable to register for writing courses.

Students needing to take the CPE will be mailed detailed information by the Writing Program. Students should bring the information included in mailing with them to their Orientation event.

If you attend… Take Your Composition Placement Exam …
June or July On-Campus Freshman Orientation On Day 1 immediately following lunch.

If you also need to take a Language Placement Exam, you will take the CPE exam at Orientation and the Foreign Language Exam during Welcome Week.

International Freshman Orientation On Monday, August 19 in the early afternoon before Orientation officially begins
Off-Campus Orientation Make arrangements directly with the Writing Program
I Cannot Attend Orientation Make arrangements directly with the Writing Program

For more information on the CPE, contact the Writing Program at (213) 740-1980.

International Student English (ISE) Exam

International students whose native language is not English must take the International Student English (ISE) Exam to determine their English proficiency. Review your letter of admission and your I-20 to identify if you are required to take the ISE Exam.

Students attending the International Freshman Orientation in August will be able to take the ISE Exam at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, August 19 prior to the official start of Orientation. More information regarding the exam will be emailed to students in early August.

You must complete the ISE Exam in order to register for your courses. We strongly encourage all international students needing to complete the ISE Exam to attend the International Freshman Orientation. If you attend an Off-Campus Orientation, the American Language Institute will contact you in advance of your orientation to discuss your course registration options.

For more information about the ISE Exam, including additional testing dates, visit the American Language Institute website. Questions about the ISE Exam should be directed to the American Language Institute at askali@usc.edu or (213) 740-0079.