Information for Students Interested in Taking Their First Biology Course

General information about the Biology Placement/Advisory Test:

Beginning in the Fall of 2013, Biology 11 will no longer be a prerequisite for the four Biology Foundation courses: Biology 12, 13, 15, and 16.  As a result, students can decide whether to begin study of Biology at Dartmouth with Biology 2, Biology/Chemistry 8, Biology 11, or with one of the Foundation Courses.  To aid students in making this decision, we have assembled a Biology Placement/Advisory Test.  As the name suggests, the result of the Biology Placement/Advisory Test is advisory, not binding.

The Biology Placement/Advisory Test consists of 30 multiple-choice questions that cover basic concepts molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, and evolution.  The test must be completed within one hour in a single sitting.  You will be given only one opportunity to take the Biology Placement/Advisory Test; once you complete the test, you will not have a second opportunity to take it.

Members of the Class of 2016 or the Class of 2017 may go directly to the Biology Placement/Advisory site on Blackboard.

Members of the Class of 2014 or the Class of 2015, please email Prof. Natasha Grotz or Prof. Thomas Jack to gain access to the Biology Placement/Advisory site.

How to choose your first Biology course at Dartmouth:

The Biology curriculum is designed with numerous points of entry. We encourage students to choose their first Biology class to match their interests and background. For the 2013 fall term, there are several choices: Biology 2, Bio/Chem 8/9, Biology 11, or one of two foundation courses: Biology 12 (Cell Structure and Function) or Biology 16 (Ecology). For many, the decision will be to whether to take BIOL 11 (or Bio/Chem 8/9), or a foundation course.

Here are some considerations regarding these choices.

Biology 11 versus a Foundation Course

  1. Subject matter. Choose a course that is of high intellectual interest to you. Nothing begets academic success like being genuinely interested in the subject matter. Read the course descriptions for BIOL 11; each offering has a different intellectual theme customized by individual faculty to be timely and engaging. BIOL 11 generally spans a broader spectrum of the science of biology than individual foundation courses. The content of the foundation courses is designed to cover core knowledge within the topic area that every biologist should possess.
  2. Work load. Both BIOL 11 and the foundation courses have rigorous fast-moving lectures associated with technical readings and problem solving. The foundation courses also have a laboratory component, which substantially increases the contact hours and makes the foundation courses considerably more demanding than BIOL 11.
  3. Probability of scholastic success. BIOL 11, by virtue of not having a laboratory component, permits students to spend more hours per week gaining a mastery of the lectures and associated materials.

What is Biology 11:

Biology 11 is a topics based introductory Biology course. There are several offerings of Biology 11 each year, each organized around a different topic. Each offering is designed to provide a synthetic overview of the life sciences, and to introduce the fundamental ideas, processes and theories on which the modern life sciences are built. Different offerings of Biology 11 have different themes that the instructors have chosen to introduce fundamental concepts and develop a perspective on the life sciences. Each offering may also be organized somewhat uniquely, based on how professors combine their approach to give the lectures, the scheduling of discussions, and the role of quizzes, exams and papers in student assessment. Students are free to choose the offering they prefer

All Biology 11 offerings will cover the key basic principles and concepts in biology. For example, all Biology 11 offerings will cover the basics of cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, evolution, and energetics. However, the specific details of what you learn in one offering will be different from what students learn in other offerings of Biology 11. A useful analogy is to think about Biology 11 as a first year seminar in biology. Dartmouth’s first-year writing seminars are focused on different topics, but all first-year seminars teach valuable writing skills. Similarly, Biology 11 offerings feature different specific information, but all will teach you how to think critically and in a more sophisticated way about biology.

There are several objectives of Biology 11. The first is to stimulate interest in the science of biology. The second is to encourage critical, analytical thinking in science. The third is to communicate key concepts in biology. The fourth is to develop an appreciation for the specific topic that is the focus of each offering. By the end of any offering of Biology 11, students will have acquired knowledge of key biological concepts such as evolution, the relationship between structure and function, information flow, and the interconnectedness of living systems. Students also will have developed analytical skills about how present-day research in Biology is carried out and interpreted.

Students MAY consider starting with a Foundation Course if they satisfy two or more of the following criteria:
1) SAT (verbal plus math) > 1500
2) score of 22-30 on Biology Placement/Advisory Test
3) score of 5 on the AP Chemistry Test
4) score of 5 on the AP Biology Test
We recommend that students should strongly consider starting with Biology 11 (or Biology 8&9 or Biology 2) if
they satisfy either of these categories:
1) students with SAT scores (verbal plus math) < 1400
2) students with a score of 1-4 on the AP Biology Test

Link to Biology 11 offerings for 2013-2014