Economics Placement Exam

Any student who began studying economics in high school and plans to continue taking it at Williams should take the placement exam. Department faculty will use results from the placement exam along with Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam scores or A-levels grade to determine which pathway is the most suitable for each student to start their economics study at Williams. There are three different pathways:

I. Begin with ECON 110, typically followed by ECON 120 or by a 200-level elective requiring ECON 110: this is by far the most common pathway and is where all students will begin except those who have demonstrated understanding of introductory microeconomics. Students who have demonstrated understanding of introductory macroeconomics but not microeconomics will begin with ECON 110 and then move on to any 200-level ECON course.

II. Begin with ECON 120, followed by any 200-level ECON course: this is the pathway for students who have demonstrated understanding of introductory microeconomics but not macroeconomics.

III. Begin with a 200-level elective, followed by the 200-level core theory courses: this is the pathway for students who have demonstrated understanding of both introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics. Students who also have a strong calculus preparation may instead begin with the 200-level core theory courses.

Incoming first year students who studied economics in high school and plan to continue at Williams must complete the placement exam. The placement exam is available on Glow, the college’s course management service. Dates for the placement exam are yet to be determined.

You will need to activate your Williams College email account to access Glow.

Currently enrolled students interested in taking the placement exam should email the current placement chair (Professor Lucie Schmidt: [email protected]) to request an invitation to a special Glow course that hosts the placement exam. Currently enrolled students should complete the exam prior to preregistration for the fall semester.

The placement exam consists of two sections, and should take about an hour to complete. The two sections are:

Section 1: Honor Code Statement

The placement exam, which helps us learn about your economics background, is closed-notes, closed-book, and thus access to information and help other than that provided with the placement exam is in violation of the Honor Code.

Williams College prides itself on the Honor Code. In this section, you will be asked to acknowledge that you have read the Honor Code statement and that you agree to abide by the code. Note that it is also in your best interest to provide the faculty with a fair description of
your background in economics to allow us to place you most appropriately.

Section 2: Placement Test

In this section, we want to learn about your economics and mathematics background, using both survey questions about what classes you have taken and content-based questions to learn more about your understanding of introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with the subject of the question–your choices of answers include “I have covered this in a class, but can’t remember how to do it now” and “I don’t think I’ve seen this before.” Select the appropriate choice and continue with the placement exam. We will use your answers from this section along with your reported Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam scores to determine which pathway is the most suitable for you to start your economics study at Williams. In some cases, department faculty may want to meet with you to discuss what the most appropriate pathway might be.

Note that you are not required to take the placement exam if you have never taken a course in economics—just register for ECON 110 and we look forward to introducing you to the study of economics!