Placement Assessments

All SCI students are required to take placement assessments prior to the beginning of their first term at Pitt. These assessments are used to help you and your academic advisor understand your preparation for college-level courses. It is important to remember that there is no “pass” or “fail” for these assessments. You will discuss the results of these assessments with your academic advisor who will help you determine which courses you should take during your first year at Pitt.

ALEKS Mathematics Placement Assessment

The Mathematics Placement Assessment will help you and your advisor determine the right Mathematics course for you. After completion, a targeted Prep and Learning Module will be available for you to review and learn material, and to improve placement. Learn more on the Department of Mathematics website.

Computational Biology Python Requirement Waiver Exam

This exam is used to assess a student’s knowledge of programming in Python. It is intended only for students declared (or intending to declare) the Computational Biology major. A passing score will result in a waiver of the CS 0011/Python requirement for the major. Students will not earn credit for this exam.

The Python Waiver Exam will be given in two parts:

  1. Registrants complete an objective exam electronically via CourseWeb. It will be taken in a proctored environment in a computing lab at Pitt. This portion of the exam will consist of 77 multiple-choice, true/false, and fill-in questions and you will have 60 minutes to complete it. A score of 70% or better is required to pass this part of the exam. Students passing this part will proceed to part two. See the schedule for the next offering of this exam.
  2. Students who pass part one of the exam will submit a programming project, similar to a final project in an introductory Python course at Pitt. To complete this project, students will be expected to be familiar with all of the topics covered in an introductory Python course (see topic list below). The project will be graded based on correctness and programming style. You will have two weeks after receiving your part one score to complete this project. A score of 75% or better is required to pass this part of the exam. Students passing this part will be given the Computational Biology Python waiver.

Topics that students taking this waiver exam are expected to know include:

  • Introduction to Computers and Programming
    • Hardware and software; encoding in binary; using Python
  • Input, Processing, and Output
    • Variables; print, input, and format functions; calculations
  • Decision Structures and Boolean Logic
    • If-elif-else; logical operators
  • Repetition Structures
    • While and for loops; sentinels; input validation; nested loops
  • Functions
    • Writing functions; scope; passing arguments; return values; using modules
  • Files and Exceptions
    • Try-except; binary and text files; input and output
  • Lists and Tuples
    • Slicing;  in operator; list/tuple methods; nested lists
  • More About Strings
    • Slicing; string methods and manipulation
  • Dictionaries and Sets
    • Dict and set methods; serializing with pickle
  • Classes and Object-Oriented Programming
    • Procedural vs. object-oriented; writing classes; instances


  • Students may attempt the Computational Biology Python Waiver Exam only one time. If you do not pass the exam and wish to major in Computational Biology, you must take the CS 0011 Introduction to Programming for Scientists course at Pitt.
  • The Computational Biology Python Waiver Exam does not result in any Pitt credits, and it does not count for any other majors at Pitt. If you are in a major other than Computational Biology that needs a Python course as a requirement, you should take CS 0010 / CS 0011 / CS 0012.

Schedule and Registration

The Python requirement waiver exam is offered once per fall and spring terms. Students wishing to complete the exam must email Dr. Thumrongsak Kosiyatrakul at to register.

Upcoming Exam Date: Friday, February 26 from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. via Canvas