Prospective Undergraduate Students

Advising/Registration FAQ


  • Please note that registration assistance is handled centrally by the Department of Chemistry. Please do not continually contact course instructors for registration assistance.
  • If your question remains unanswered, please complete the Advising/Registration Inquiry Form.


(Click here to expand all questions)
(Click here to restore all questions)


Do I have to take the courses in my program exactly as they are listed in the calendar?

Every Chemistry program has both courses that are key prerequisites for future offerings, and courses that build breadth. The calendar listing provides one way to complete all the required courses in four years of study. However, it is possible to take courses in a different sequence, especially if five years of study is being used. Note especially that entry into Chemistry specializations requires only first year MATH and CHEM courses. It is NOT required that all the courses listed in first year be completed before admission to a program is sought.

What is the difference between biochemistry and chemical biology/biological chemistry?

Acording to Wikipedia, biochemistry is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms while chemical biology is the application of chemical techniques, tools, and analyses, and often compounds produced through synthetic chemistry, to the study and manipulation of biological systems. Roughly speaking, biochemists study the complex signalling and chemical processes in cells to understand the basis for life. Chemical biologists/biological chemists use knowledge of synthetic chemistry to change or study molecules involved in biochemical processes with the goal of trying to understand the detailed chemical mechanisms at play. For example, a biochemists might ask, "What proteins and pathways are needed to produce glucose?" while a chemical biologist might ask, "How do enzymes in those pathways synthesize compounds under ambient conditions while chemists in the lab require complex procedures?".

What average do I need for admission to Chemistry programs?

The precise minimum average for admission varies among Chemistry programs, and even from year to year. However, generally speaking, an average above 70% is usually sufficient for admission.

How many students are accepted into Chemistry programs?

Typically, the Department admits 100-150 students in total to Chemistry (pure and combined) programs. In preparation for the specialization selection process, seats are assigned to each Chemistry program based upon historical enrolments. This helps the Department sort through various logistical issues, such as the preparation of standard timetables. The key point to remember though is that these initial seat allocations CAN and DO change once student choices are known. In other words, if the demand for a particular program is greater than originally estimated, the Department creates additional seats to help meet this demand. Due to lecture and laboratory capacity, there are limits on the total number of admitted students summed over all the Chemistry programs. However, this aggregate limit does not usually become a factor in the admission process for a student. In almost every case, qualified students are admitted to the Chemistry program of their choice.

Do Chemistry programs have a lot of labs?

Laboratory experience is a critical component of a Chemistry education for two main reasons: i) most chemical advances are based on experiment, and ii) a wide range of techniques and principles are needed to be a chemist. Furthermore, a combined program involving chemistry may also involve building laboratory skills in another scientific discipline. These skills can prove very valuable after graduation when looking for employment or graduate studies. Generally, laboratory courses are designed to build a set of skills in both techniques and instrumentation, specific to the particular program.

If I graduate in a combined program, can I pursue post-graduate opportunities in either of the combined disciplines?

Yes. For example, graduating in the Chemical Biology program allows you to pursue employment or graduate studies in either biology, chemistry or chemical biology. All Chemistry combined programs are designed to allow students to pursue post-graduate opportunities in either of the combined disciplines. One has to remember though that combined programs target a specific area. So, for example, a graduate in Chemical Physics has a very strong background to pursue atomic and molecular physics, condensed matter physics, physical chemistry or theoretical chemistry but a much weaker background to pursue relativistic physics, cosmology or synthetic organic chemistry. It is assumed the interests of students lie in the areas targeted by the combined programs. Students with broad interests in a specific discipline usually do not choose combined programs.


I haven’t taken Grade 11 chemistry. Can I still register in CHEM 111 without this prerequisite?

Yes, but we only encourage this if you are a strong student.

I have taken Grade 12 chemistry but it was a few years ago. Can I register in CHEM 111 instead of taking CHEM 121?

In general, all students with Grade 12 chemistry must take CHEM 121 rather than CHEM 111. If 5 or more years has lapsed since you took high school chemistry, you would be permitted to take CHEM 111. You will need to contact the department for assistance with registration since CHEM 12 on your record will prevent you accessing CHEM 111.

I have only taken Grade 11 chemistry. Can I register in CHEM 121 instead of taking CHEM 111?

Yes, but it is strongly recommended that students with Grade 11 chemistry take CHEM 111 rather than CHEM 121. However, if you opt to take the higher-level course (CHEM 121) and are unsuccessful you must repeat this course rather than “dropping back” to CHEM 111.

My transfer credits are shown as a generic credit such as “CHEM 1st” or “CHEM 2nd”. How does this translate to UBC courses?

A transfer value of 3 - 4 credits of CHEM 1st is roughly equivalent to CHEM 121 and you may register for the waitlist for CHEM 123 (the Department will try to place you). A transfer value of 6 - 8 credits of CHEM 1st is roughly equivalent to the introductory two semesters of chemistry at UBC. If you wish to take additional chemistry courses, you may register on the waitlists for 2nd year UBC courses (the Department will try to place you). CHEM 123 is particularly relevant as a prerequisite for CHEM 233 (and CHEM 203).

IMPORTANT NOTE: In some cases students may be permitted to enroll in CHEM 233 or CHEM 203 without its prerequisite, CHEM 123 or SCI 001. Students in those instances will have an alternative course or a generic transfer credit such as CHEM 1st on their academic record instead of CHEM 123. If a student in this situation then fails CHEM 233 or CHEM 203, it becomes MANDATORY for students to enroll in and pass the appropriate prerequisite course, CHEM 123, before they can reattempt CHEM 233 or CHEM 203.

Do I really have to have taken a mathematics course to register in CHEM 205?

Yes, the official prerequisite to CHEM 205 is both a course in differential calculus (e.g. MATH 100 or equivalent) and two semesters of general chemistry. A course in integral calculus (e.g. MATH 101 or equivalent) is not required but is recommended.


I have to repeat a course. I previously passed the laboratory but not the lecture. Do I need to repeat the laboratory?

No, as long as you received a satisfactory mark (determined by the laboratory director) for the laboratory, you do not need to re-take the laboratory. Just register for a lecture section. A faculty member will review all registrations and will see that you have registered this way, and will register you in the XMT (exempt) laboratory section. The previous grade in the laboratory will be reused.

I have to repeat a course. I previously passed the lecture part but not the laboratory. Do I need to repeat the lecture part?

No, as long as you received a satisfactory mark in the lecture part, you do not need to repeat it. Just register for a laboratory section. When registrations are reviewed internally, you should be transferred to the XMT (exempt) lecture section. The previous grade in the lecture part will be reused.

I passed a course previously but want to take it again to get a higher grade. I previously passed the laboratory. Do I need to repeat the laboratory?

It is a Faculty of Science regulation that students may NOT repeat a course for higher standing. If you are registered in a chemistry course in order to obtain higher standing, YOU WILL BE DROPPED FROM THE COURSE WITHOUT NOTIFICATION.

It is generally not advantageous to repeat a course for higher standing in any case. Both marks would appear on your transcript (the average is not used; a higher mark does not override a lower one). It is recommended that students accept their existing grade and move on in their academic program.


A course is shown as “blocked”. What should I do?

This is the message that appears when a department has set aside a specific number of seats for students who have certain program or faculty restrictions (i.e. 3rd year standing; non-BA; chemistry majors, etc.). YOU SHOULD TRY TO REGISTER FOR THE SECTION – YOU MAY BE PERMITTED TO REGISTER. If you are denied access to this section, please accept that you do not meet the course restrictions. Register onto the waitlist for the course and you may be assigned a seat in the course if one becomes available. Do NOT continuously contact members of the Department over this situation.

Can I register for CHEM 203 if my major is not Chemistry or Biochemistry?

No, these courses are available exclusively to students in majors, combined majors, honours and combined honours programs in Chemistry and Biochemistry. No exceptions are made..

Why can’t I register in CHEM 203 or CHEM 213? I could not get into these courses last year but I now have third-year standing and thus register before second-year students and yet I still can’t register even though there is lots of space in the course.

There is a very high demand for these key courses in both the Chemistry and Biochemistry programs. There is an absolute limit to the capacity of these courses. We will place the maximum number of students that we possibly can. It is not appropriate that students whose average was non-competitive for placement in these courses last year may now do so simply because they are a year older. Other students must contact the department regarding a possible program change and will be considered for manual placement when their average matches that of the current group of incoming second-year students. If you are unable to obtain these critical courses after two registration cycles it is strongly advised that you discuss alternate programs with an advisor in the Science Student Centre.

If I have passed CHEM 233 and then decide to switch into a Chemistry degree program, will I have to take second year organic chemistry (CHEM 203)?

In some cases, yes; it mainly depends on your CHEM 233 grade. Students with 76% or higher in CHEM 233 and completion of CHEM 235 are able to take CHEM 213 and CHEM 245 without first taking CHEM 203. If possible, students considering this degree program switch should consult the CHEM 235 instructor prior to the start of the course.

What is the difference between CHEM 233-235 and CHEM 203/213-245?

CHEM 233-235 is the track for Life Sciences majors (Organic Chemistry for Biological Sciences). CHEM 203/213-245 are the courses needed for Chemistry and Biochemistry specializations. The course content of CHEM 203/213-245 is both more comprehensive and detailed, and is presented at a higher level than in CHEM 233-235.

Do I have to take CHEM 235 in the same term as CHEM 233?

The lecture capacity of CHEM 233 is more than double that of the laboratory course CHEM 235. It is thus necessary that approximately half of the students in CHEM 235 take this course after completion of CHEM 233. There is absolutely no detriment to taking the laboratory course subsequent to the lecture course. Indeed, it may be more suitable for many students to have been exposed to the lecture material beforehand. They will thus have a better understanding of the theory that underlies the experiments being performed in CHEM 235.

I failed the lecture part of CHEM 203 but passed the laboratory. Can I be exempted from CHEM 235?

Students who have successfully completed the laboratory component of CHEM 203 or its equivalent will normally be exempted from having to take CHEM 235 if it is required in their specialization. Such students should contact the CHEM 235 laboratory director, Dana Zendrowski for assistance no later than August since these exemptions are only granted in the first semester of the winter term.

I am an Unclassified (UNCL) student and am waitlisting for a course. The term is about to begin. What are my chances of being placed in the course?

It is University policy that Unclassified students (i.e. those who already hold an undergraduate degree) may not displace an undergraduate student who is currently pursuing a degree. Accordingly, UNCL students will be the last to be placed. Historically virtually all such students are eventually placed into the courses for which they are waitlisting. However, this placement often may not occur until even the first week of term. Do NOT continuously contact members of the Department over this situation.

Can I have my courses moved in order to optimize my timetable?

In the early stages of registration there is considerable flexibility in building an “ideal” timetable. However, once courses are at their maximum capacity it is difficult to accommodate non-essential changes. Students may request a change of section (except for those who registered via Standard Timetables) but should be aware that such a request may not be acted upon. Some sections of both lecture and laboratories are in high demand and not everyone who wishes to be in such sections can be placed. Often such moves will only be done if they involve mutual requests (i.e. interchange of registration assignments) of two or more students.


Why does the Chemistry department use standard timetables in second year?

The demand for chemistry courses is high in second year, especially in the organic stream. Standard timetables balance the load among lecture and laboratory sections so that all students are guaranteed access to the courses they need for their program. The Department makes every effort to produce standard timetables that are compact and efficient, given the scheduling constraints imposed by the diversity of program course requirements.

Do standard timetables force me to take 5 courses per term?

The standard timetables are constructed to provide students the second year courses required in their programs, including laboratory sections. Students can opt to take fewer courses than scheduled in the standard timetable.

I’m a third-year student and am having difficulty registering on a second-year chemistry/biochemistry standard timetable.

Third-year students do not qualify for registration in the chemistry/biochemistry STTs. Third-year students wanting to take courses offered only in STTs must register in the individual courses or on their waitlists.

I’m having trouble adding a standard timetable to my worklist.

Have you declared your program? If not, this is likely the cause of the problem. Students cannot add a chemistry/biochemistry STT to their worklist until they declare a program. This may not be possible until your actual registration date. However, since the schedules of the various STTs are listed you can still plan your registration. Note that you are advised to have alternative plans since some of the STTs will fill faster than others.

Students in other programs wishing to be considered for a change to a Chemistry specialization should contact the Undergraduate Advisor for assistance.

Can I request that a course in a standard timetable be dropped before I am registered in the STT?

No. Please register for the STT before you request that any course(s) be dropped.

Once I request that a standard timetable course be dropped, how long might it take for the course to be removed from my timetable?

We will process STT course drops as quickly as possible. The drops are usually done within a day of the request being received (and often sooner).


If I am on a waitlist, what is the likelihood that I will get into the course?

We can’t give you a definitive answer to this question. Seats will be assigned to waitlisted students if/when seats become available. (Seats can become available through factors such as students dropping the course, failing prerequisite courses, etc.) You must be patient do NOT continuously contact members of the Department over this situation.

How will I know if I get into a course for which I am on the waitlist?

Check the Student Service Centre website. If you get a seat in the course, it will show up on your timetable. As is mentioned on the website, the Department will NOT advise students who are eventually placed into a course from a waitlist. You must check yourself.

How soon will seats be assigned from the waitlist?

PLEASE BE PATIENT! Remember that courses do not begin until September (January). If a seat becomes available for you, it will show up on your timetable on the Student Service Centre. You can check the website on a regular basis to see any changes to your situation. See the previous question.

Why was I dropped from the waitlist for a course?

There are two major reasons for being dropped from a waitlist. If you lack the prerequisites for the course, you will be dropped from the waitlist. If your timetable will not allow a complete registration in a course you will be dropped from the waitlist. For example, although your timetable may be compatible with a lecture section, you have other courses blocking every possible laboratory offering and thus cannot have a complete registration in the course.

Why was I put back onto a waitlist after I added the lecture for a course?

This situation almost invariably happens for courses that have both a lecture and a laboratory component. Once waitlisting becomes common due to capacity issues in courses, there may be a mismatch between any remaining lecture sections and compatible laboratory sections. Students must add themselves to both a lecture and a laboratory to complete their registration in a course. If only the lecture is added and no compatible laboratory is available, registration is incomplete. The Department will not overbook laboratories and thus the student is moved to the waitlist.

Why was I placed in the T2 section of CHEM 211 when I had waitlisted for the T1 offering of the course?

CHEM 211 is one of only two chemistry courses (CHEM 235 is the other) that are offered in both semesters of winter session. It is assumed that a waitlisted student’s priority is to get into the course. Whenever possible the requested term is provided. Once the course is full and placement depends on other students dropping their registration, we still will continue to try and get everyone into the course, but this may mean registration in the other term. An alternate term placement will only be done if it does not create a conflict nor exceed the number of permitted credits for that term. If you are registered in the alternate term and wish to only be considered for registration in the term indicated, drop your lecture and place yourself back on the appropriate waitlist. Contact the Department to confirm that you wish placement, should space become available, only in the term indicated. As with any waitlisted situation, placement is not guaranteed.

I’m waitlisted for a Term 2 course (e.g. CHEM 123 or CHEM 213), but am fully registered in the Term 1 prerequisite course (e.g. CHEM 121 or CHEM 203). Do I have any priority to be placed into the Term 2 course?

All students who successfully complete a first-term course which is a prerequisite course for a second-term course in the same year level will eventually be moved from the waitlist for the second-term course. This change in registration will not normally happen until late in December when the results of the prerequisite course become available.

What are my chances of being moved from the waitlist for CHEM 203 or CHEM 213? I really want to take a Chemistry or Biochemistry program.

There is a very high demand for these key courses in both the Chemistry and Biochemistry programs. There is an absolute limit to the capacity of these courses. We will place the maximum number of students that we possibly can.


I have registered for a lecture but all the laboratories that fit my timetable are full. What should I do?

It is suggested that you try to rebuild your timetable to access the space that is available. If you are unable to find a laboratory section that fits your timetable, you must drop the lecture section and register on the waitlist for the course.

I wish to register for a course, but it would create a conflict in my timetable. What should I do?

Conflicts are not permitted. You must choose between the courses, or wait for space to open in a section which fits your timetable. It is expected that students can generally resolve most potential timetable conflicts by moving the existing courses in their timetable. If you are unsuccessful in doing so, you should contact one of the departments concerned for assistance. This should be done well before the start of classes. Do NOT simultaneously contact both departments for assistance as this may lead to action from both departments resulting in an even more complex situation. Requests for Chemistry course changes should be submitted using the Advising/Registration Inquiry Form. Note: the Department may rebuild timetables in order to complete your registration. You may not get the specific lecture or laboratory that you requested – you will get a timetable with no clashes. As is mentioned on the website, the Department will NOT advise students who are eventually placed into a course. You must check yourself.

Can you move a chemistry course so that I can add another course that would cause a timetable conflict?

Timetable conflicts will not be allowed. If you have another course that you wish to add which will be in conflict with a course in which you are currently registered, you will have to drop your current registration and place yourself on the waitlist for the course. Add the new course and wait for possible re-registration in the original course. As with any waitlisted situation, placement is not guaranteed.