What Is a College Placement Test? | BestColleges (2023)

  • Many colleges require placement tests for incoming first-year students.
  • Placement tests assess your English, reading, math, and foreign language skills.
  • College placement test results determine your first-year English and math classes.
  • Many free resources exist to help you prepare for test day.

Congratulations on entering college! You worked hard to get to this moment, which likely included earning good scores on an entrance exam, such as the ACT or SAT. However, you may still need to prove yourself one more time before enrolling in your first college-level English and math classes.

Many colleges, especially junior and community colleges, require English and math placement tests for first-year students. Learners who learned English as a second language may also need to take an ESL college placement test.

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What Is the Purpose of College Placement Tests?

College placement tests assist schools with open enrollment to place incoming students into their first English and math classes. Some public and private four-year schools also require college placement tests. Degree-seekers take these tests to fulfill part of their orientation checklist.

Colleges use these tests to increase retention and improve students' learning outcomes. Your college math placement test scores may show you need a semester of remediation before entering a typical first-year class. Remediation helps prepare you for future academic success.

On the flip side, a high score could let you skip a first-year English or math class. This advantage helps you graduate sooner than your peers and save money on your education.

Who Is Required to Take College Placement Tests?

First-year students without college experience may take placement tests during the enrollment process. Typical test settings include your home and an on-campus testing center.

Placement tests for community college or four-year school enrollment do not apply to all students. You may receive an exemption based on your academic history. Evidence schools accept include:

  • ACT scores
  • SAT scores
  • AP scores
  • GED scores
  • Previous college credit or degree
  • High school GPA

Note that schools may accept additional or fewer forms of evidence, depending on their policies.

Research your school's standardized test score or GPA cutoff before enrolling. Do not assume your school will enroll you in remedial classes if you do not meet the cutoff. Your performance on placement tests may make the final determination.

(Video) What You Need to Know About Preparing for the College Placement Test

What Are the Different Types of College Placement Tests?

Research which college placement tests your school requires. These tests, like the ACCUPLACER, assess your math, reading, writing, and foreign language abilities.


The College Board created the ACCUPLACER test for community colleges and four-year schools. You take three multiple-choice computerized tests covering reading, writing, and math. The math section assesses your knowledge of basic math, quantitative reasoning, algebra, and introductory statistics.

The ACCUPLACER also features the WritePlacer Essay. Your essay must take a position based on a provided prompt. Graders assess your ability to focus, organize and develop an argument, and use grammar correctly.

Math Placement Tests

College math placement tests are essential in ensuring you enroll in a class aligning with your skill level.

A typical test lasts 90 minutes and requires you to answer 60 multiple-choice questions. Questions may cover functions, linear equations, and rational expressions. Your school may offer college placement test practice materials, such as an online readiness test.

Reading Placement Tests

Reading placement tests other than the ACCUPLACER may start with a self-assessment alerting you to your improvement areas.

Your school may provide study materials addressing your improvement areas. Following these recommendations may boost your skills and prepare you for placement test day. Please note that retake policies vary by school.

Writing Placement Tests

Even if you earned top grades on high school essays, you still might need help before tackling college-level English classes. Writing placement tests let colleges give you the academic support you need to excel in this subject.

You read a brief prompt or passage before responding to it in an essay. You receive approximately two hours for outlining and writing. Ensure your essay addresses the prompt, includes a thesis, and uses supporting evidence.

Foreign Language Placement Tests

You may feel confident about your foreign language skills going into college. However, your high school education may differ significantly from other first-year students who studied the same language. Colleges use foreign language tests to determine which class matches your ability level, especially if you plan to major in a foreign language.

(Video) College Placement Test Math – TIPS to Pass!

Questions cover listening, grammar, and vocabulary. Some colleges also require an in-person or virtual oral exam. Please note that your school may not let you challenge your class placement or retake the test.

How Do You Register for Placement Tests?

To register for a placement test, you must first meet with an enrollment advisor to review your academic history. Standardized test scores or good grades may exempt you from testing. Reviewing these and other documents helps advisors make a final decision.

The registration process varies by college but may include signing into your student account. Typically, the registration page features upcoming dates and times for placement tests.

Signing up for at-home testing involves downloading testing and proctoring software. Your computer must meet your school's technology requirements. Other testing regulations may apply.

How to Prepare for Placement Tests

Although placement tests do not award a letter grade, the results can affect your college experience. Underperforming may result in your taking a math or English class that doesn't align with your abilities. Other negative outcomes may include earning a poor GPA, failing a class, or dropping out of college.

Fortunately, the College Board offers practice materials, including free reading, writing, and math questions, for the ACCUPLACER. Other guides cover the WritePlacer Essay.

Your school's testing or admissions office may provide more practice college placement tests. Online tutoring services like Khan Academy can help you do your best on test day. Use these and other resources to ensure you earn the best score possible.

Frequently Asked Questions About College Placement Tests

How much do placement tests cost?

(Video) College placement exam college level math 1

Unlike the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests, college placement tests do not charge additional fees. However, you may need to pay your tuition or enrollment fee before your school lets you take a placement test.

Some colleges let you retake a placement test if you think the result does not match your ability level. Retakes do not cost anything. Avoid paying for any study materials before asking whether your school provides them for free.

When do I receive my results of the placement test?

(Video) What are placement tests?

Multiple-choice placement tests for college deliver results almost immediately after you finish. You can typically find these results in your student account alongside your recommended or required class placement. You may request a meeting with an academic or enrollment advisor to discuss your placement. Consider asking for a retake if you feel you did not do your best on test day.

Writing test results usually take longer. The College Board grades your WritePlacer Essay offsite. English professors or other employees may grade writing tests developed by the school.

Are there placement tests for English as a second language (ESL) students?

The ACCUPLACER ESL Tests assess your reading, sentence meaning, language use, and listening skills. Unlike the regular ACCUPLACER, the results provide more than a score and a class placement. You'll also receive proficiency statements and strategies to improve your English.

(Video) Placement Tests

Earning a high score on the ACCUPLACER ESL Tests or a school-developed test generally lets you skip English remediation classes. Take advantage of free test prep resources by signing into your ACCUPLACER account.


What Is a College Placement Test? | BestColleges? ›

The purpose of placement testing is to determine knowledge levels in Reading, Writing and Math. Our goal is to place you in appropriate courses that will increase your chance of success and program completion.

What to expect on a placement test for college? ›

Placement tests assess your English, reading, math, and foreign language skills. College placement test results determine your first-year English and math classes. Many free resources exist to help you prepare for test day.

Is the college placement test hard? ›

Key Takeaway. Preparing for the college placement exam can be challenging, especially if you're a first-timer. While there are various online tools that you can utilize to assist you in your preparation, it's also important to create a comprehensive plan that can serve as your exam guide.

Is it OK to fail a placement test? ›

You cannot fail a placement test.

But you still need to study! The test determines what courses you will be placed in when you begin at college. Depending on your score, you may need to take extra developmental courses or you may be able to start regular college courses right away.

Do college placement tests matter? ›

Placement tests are weak predictors of students' performance in college. A second CCRC study found that standardized reading and writing tests explain less than 2 percent of the variation in students' college grades.

What is the highest score you can get on a college placement test? ›

Reading, Writing, and Math Tests

ACCUPLACER Reading, Writing, Quantitative Reasoning and Statistics, and Advanced Algebra and Functions tests each have a score range of 200–300.

How do I prepare for a college placement exam? ›

Use School Resources

Most schools that offer placement testing also have studying resources available. These often include practice problems, review packets or workshops. Your school's resources may be accessible online, or you may need to visit a student learning center on campus to prepare.

What type of math is on a placement test? ›

What math is on a placement test? The math on a placement test falls into three categories: arithmetic, algebra, and advanced math. Mastering the arithmetic on the test will place you out of one remedial math course. Acing the algebra will allow you skip remedial math entirely.

What happens if you fail a placement test in college? ›

You can't fail a placement test for college. If you receive a low score, you'll be placed in developmental classes for that subject to help increase your knowledge of the topic before you advance to more rigorous courses.

What math do you need to know for a placement test? ›

You should study the following topics to make sure that your college math placement test prep covers everything you need to know.
  • Algebraic Expressions.
  • Equations and Inequalities.
  • Word Problems.
  • Graphing and Functions.
  • Systems of Equations.
  • Polynomials.
  • Factoring.
  • Radicals.

Do placement tests affect GPA? ›

Placement test scores are positively—but weakly—associated with college grade point average (GPA).

Should you guess on placement test? ›

If you're not sure of the answer to the question, take your best guess, but be sure to answer each and every question. You won't have points deducted if the answer is wrong, so even just guessing on a question could help you achieve a higher score on the exam.

How long does it take to do a placement test? ›

How Long Do College Placement Tests Take? Placement tests vary in length but expect to spend about 90 to 120 minutes on a math-reading combination test. Your college can give you a better idea of how long individual tests take. Just remember, the better prepared you are, the faster you'll work through the questions.

How to do well on placement test? ›

11 Tips and Tricks For Placement Testing
  1. Register early. ...
  2. Location, Location, Location. ...
  3. Plan ahead. ...
  4. Brush up on your skills. ...
  5. What to bring. ...
  6. Rest up. ...
  7. Eat a healthy breakfast. ...
  8. R-E-L-A-X.
Feb 27, 2017

How long is a college placement test good for? ›

All developmental reading, math, writing and ESL course placements are valid for one year from the date of assessment. College level placements in reading, math and writing are valid for three years from the date of assessment.

What is a placement test score? ›

Placement test scores are used to decide which courses you should start to ensure you are successful. ▪ Tests include the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT), Accuplacer, ACT and SAT. ▪ Scores used for placement must be under two years old.

Can you use a calculator for placement test? ›

It is not advisable to use a calculator during the Mathematics placement test or Fact Fluency. When it comes to lessons, the majority of students should refrain from using a calculator since our curriculum begins with simple sub-skills, and a calculator could impede their ability to learn those sub-skills.

Do you need to pass a math placement test? ›

While you can't pass or fail a placement test, your score will determine which mathematics class you should be placed in based on your knowledge and skills. Before you take the test, review basic math concepts, geometry, algebra, and calculus.

How many times can you take the ACCUPLACER? ›

There is no fee for the first time you take the Accuplacer placement test. All re-tests are $10 per section. You may only retest once per semester.

What type of questions are asked in placement test? ›

A. The type of aptitude tests decides the question types, but in general aptitude test for placements mainly consists of multiple-choice questions, multiple answer questions, true or false, and fill in the blanks, and a few other domain-specific types of questions.

What questions are asked for placement? ›

General questions
  • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What do you consider your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Can you describe your ideal work environment?
  • How would your peers describe you?
Aug 8, 2022

What questions should I ask in placement test? ›

  • Let's talk about your friends. ...
  • Tell me about something you did with your friends recently. ...
  • What do you think your friends are doing now? ...
  • Tell me about your best friend. ...
  • Let's talk about your house or home. ...
  • How about your country/town. ...
  • What kinds of things do people in your country/town do in their.

How hard is a math placement test? ›

Is a Math Placement Test Hard? College math placement tests are not certainly difficult. These examinations basically cover Algebra which you studied in high school, so whether or not the math placement test is hard relies on your high school performance.

What is a passing score on the math accuplacer? ›

Classic Accuplacer Test:

Passing score for Arithmetic is 77. Passing score for Algebra is 76. Passing score for English Basic Skills (EBS) is 250 total of the three English tests.

What is an example of a placement assessment? ›

Placement assessments are used to “place” students into a course, course level, or academic program. For example, an assessment may be used to determine whether a student is ready for Algebra I or a higher-level algebra course, such as an honors-level course.

Can you take the college placement test more than once? ›

Individuals may also take the Accuplacer tests at the postsecondary institution they plan to attend. However, test attempts in high school may count towards the number of attempts a student is allowed while in college. Specific retake policies can vary from college to college.

How many questions is the accuplacer math placement test? ›

The ACCUPLACER Arithmetic, Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics tests are computer-adaptive tests comprised of 20 questions of varying complexities.

Do employers look at GPA out of college? ›

Employers care most about your GPA when you are applying for your first job out of school, whether you are a recent college graduate or a recent high school graduate who is directly entering the job market.

Do colleges care more about GPA or test scores? ›

When it comes to the GPA and the ACT, students often wonder which one is more important. Although college admissions officers often say that they give much more weight to a student's GPA, even they will admit that your ACT score is of considerable importance.

Do colleges look at GPA or test scores? ›

As they evaluate your academic performance throughout high school, colleges will look at both your overall GPA and the individual grades you received in your courses. Different high schools have different ways of calculating GPAs, including various weighting systems.

Is C the most common answer? ›

Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

What is the best letter to guess on a test? ›

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

What happens if you fail the accuplacer test? ›

You can take the test as many times as you need to until you pass. The test is untimed and is open book.

How many questions are on the English placement test? ›

This test contains 60 questions and lasts 60 minutes. Based on the results, a student may be required to complete the Writing Sample Test or placed in either UNIV 1115, ENGL 1101 or ENGL 1102.

Why should you take a college entrance exam? ›

College entrance exams are an important part of the college admissions process. These standardized tests help schools evaluate applicants from a variety of educational backgrounds. As you narrow your list of preferred colleges, research each school's testing preferences and requirements.

How do I prepare for my first placement? ›

Useful things to do on placement
  1. Get to know the environment.
  2. Make use of your time - don't sit and wait as you will be bored.
  3. Seek out learning opportunities; ask first to observe and then to be supervised.
  4. If you find difficult to interact with mentor/staff, work out what you think you could do in this placement.

Can you use a calculator on the ACCUPLACER test? ›

There are some questions that allow you to use an onscreen calculator; these questions will have a calculator icon in the top-right corner of the screen. You're not allowed to bring a physical calculator into the test center or use handheld calculators on any ACCUPLACER Math test.

Do I need to study for the ACCUPLACER? ›

Anyone who needs to take Accuplacer tests can prepare for the examinations by using reputable study materials and employing good study habits. The specific information that a test-taker will need to review can vary depending on which Accuplacer exams they are taking.

How do I study for the ACCUPLACER writing test? ›

Understand the Test Objectives
  1. Sentence Structure Test. An individual's ability to understand how to organize information in a sentence is part of the focus of this test. ...
  2. WritePlacer. ...
  3. Sample Questions. ...
  4. Practice Tests. ...
  5. Accuplacer Study Courses. ...
  6. Use Grammar and Spell Check Apps. ...
  7. Schedule Study Time. ...
  8. Join a Study Group.

What happens if you fail the Aleks test? ›

All students will have one opportunity to retake the exam during the summer, and additional opportunities during the school year. Before retaking the exam you will need to spend eight hours in an ALEKS learning module.

Should I practice for a placement test? ›

Practicing before an exam helps relieve anxiety about what to expect, and reminds you of skills you may not have used in a while. Here are some suggestions and resources you can use to review and prepare before the placement exam.

What math is on college placement test? ›

What math is on a placement test? The math on a placement test falls into three categories: arithmetic, algebra, and advanced math. Mastering the arithmetic on the test will place you out of one remedial math course. Acing the algebra will allow you skip remedial math entirely.

What are the benefits of placement tests? ›

Placement tests allow students to take an exam that evaluates their understanding of a subject. Test results can then be used to determine if a student is placed at the correct level in a course series. Placement tests do not satisfy credit requirements but can impact the need for a student to take prerequisites.

What questions are asked at a student placement interview? ›


What do you believe you will contribute to this agency? Why are you interested in this placement, and what educational opportunities would you like to see? What previous experience do you have that qualifies you for this internship and that makes you a competitive candidate here?

What are placement test scores? ›

Placement test scores are used to decide which courses you should start to ensure you are successful. Tests include the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT), Accuplacer, ACT and SAT. Scores used for placement must be under two years old. The highest component score is used to determine placement.

Can you take a placement test online? ›

Placement testing is done online, so you can choose the day when it is most convenient for you to take the tests that you need to take.

Do you get a calculator for college placement test? ›

Practice at Home without a Calculator

As we have seen in the previous section, the answer to “Can you use a calculator on the Accuplacer” is a resounding “No!” Since you can't use your own calculator on the test, you should get used to doing most of the math questions by hand.

Are calculators allowed on college placement tests? ›

No, strictly they are not allowed. Placement exams are conducted to test your problem solving skills and time management. so, you need to do calculations by your own. How is an IQ calculated?

What is a good math placement test score? ›

A score of 30 or higher reflects that a student is adequately prepared for college-level mathematics. Higher level scores representative an adequate preparedness for higher level courses.

What are the most important topics for placement aptitude test? ›

Which are the most important topics in aptitude? The most important topics for aptitude tests include – time and work, pipes and cisterns, age problems, profits and loss, percentages, allegations and mixture and permutations and combinations.


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