Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Class of 2018
The First Year at MIT

First Year Academics: Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement

The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is a diagnostic tool that evaluates your high school math preparation, including facility in pre-calculus, i.e., Algebra, Geometry, Logarithms and Exponentials, Trigonometry. You do not "pass" or "fail" this diagnostic. The results are meant only to help you and your freshman advisor choose the appropriate version of freshman physics. Your score will place you in 8.01L, 8.01, or 8.012. Details of these versions of Physics I appear on the Physics Department website.

Who must take the Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement?

The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is mandatory for all freshmen.

When must I take the Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement?

The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is given as a paper/pencil test on Monday, August 25, 2:30-4:00 pm. You do not need to register in advance; locations will be given you at Orientation check-in.

There is no make-up for the Math Diagnostic. If you do not take it, you will not be allowed to enter 8.012; you and your advisor will need to evaluate independently your preparation to succeed in either 8.01 or 8.01L.

Why is it especially important to evaluate my high school math preparation?

Pre-calculus is the language of physics. In Physics subjects, you are presented with problems that will assume that you have instant recall of pre-calculus. Over the years we have found that many students, including those who have completed a high school calculus course, do not perform as well in pre-calculus as they need to.

How can I practice for the Math Diagnostic?

We recommend that you brush up on pre-calculus over the summer before taking the Math Diagnostic during Orientation, especially if you started calculus early in high school.

Download the practice version of the Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement. The practice version has the same number and type of problems as the real test, at the same levels of difficulty. Work through the test without looking at the solutions first; then check your answers and use the solutions to figure out where you went wrong on the incorrect answers.

The Physics department recommends in general the Schaum Outline series, published by McGraw-Hill. These books are concise, well-written, inexpensive, and widely available throughout the U.S. and abroad. The following volumes in particular will be of most use:

Also check out relevant sections of the Khan Academy website.

For More Information

If you have questions or concerns about the Math Diagnostic, please contact