Testing Overview & Contents

Placement tests are skills tests. As part of the placement process, the test results will be used to place you into the first semester courses that match your skill levels. There are three test areas: math, reading, and English.


Every major requires one or more math courses. The math placement test series is designed to place you into the highest math placement your skill level will allow.  There are three parts of the math test. Not all students will take all three math tests; see below.  The three parts are as follows:

  1. Pre-algebra/elementary algebra - measures ability to perform basic operations and to solve problems that involve pre-algebra and elementary algebraic skills and concepts.
    Test length: 45 minutes - 58 questions.
  2. Intermediate algebra - measures ability to perform basic algebraic operations and to solve problems that involve intermediate algebraic skills and geometry concepts.
    Test length: 30 minutes - 26 questions.
  3. Functions and graphs - measures ability to perform operations and to solve problems that involve functions and graphs. Readiness for calculus is determined through use of algebraic, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions. 
    Test length: 45-minutes - 37 questions.

The parts you take will be determined by demonstrated skill levels. Specifically, students who score a 550 or higher on the Math SAT or a 23 or higher on the Math ACT will have the opportunity to take the intermediate algebra and functions and graphs tests, which determine possible placement into a higher level math course. Students testing below 550 on the SAT or below 23 on ACT will take the pre-algebra/elementary algebra and intermediate algebra tests; those who do well on those tests will be invited to take the functions and graphs test.

For all parts of the math test, calculators are optional. If you are not comfortable using a calculator, it is best not to use one. The math tests can be completed using pencil and paper. Struggling with a calculator while testing will cost you time. If you choose to use a calculator, bring a four-function scientific or graphing calculator, such as the TI-84 Plus.

Math test FAQs
Questions about the math tests may be answered by reading the Math FAQs provided by the School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications.


Your ability to read and comprehend complex information will be important to all courses in your major.  The purpose of the reading placement test is to determine if your reading skills are sufficient to support the type and amount of reading you will find in college-level programs.

The reading test consists of two parts: vocabulary and comprehension.  You will have 15 minutes to answer 80 vocabulary questions and 20 minutes to read 7 short passages and answer 38 questions.


All majors require writing assignments.  The English essay is used to determine if you are ready for college-level writing.  For the English placement test you will be given a choice between two topics and asked to write an essay exploring a central or controlling idea; it is important that you use details, examples, and specifics to provide strong support for your ideas. Your essay will be evaluated with the following skills in mind:

  • organization
  • idea development
  • sentence structure
  • grammar
  • word choice
  • spelling and punctuation

You will have 30 minutes to complete the essay.

Visit Preparing for Test Day for links to samples for all test parts as well as tips for improving your readiness.

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