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.

Math

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.

  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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 45 minutes
    • 37 questions
SAT/ACT Math Exemptions

You may be exempted from parts of the placement test if you have earned SAT/ACT scores that meet the criteria listed below. 

  • If your Math SAT score is 550 or higher, or your Math ACT score is 23 or higher, you will have the opportunity to take the Intermediate Algebra and Functions and Graphs placement tests. Scores on these placement tests may qualify you for placement into a higher level math class. See Why should you take the Functions & Graphs placement test?
  • If your Math SAT score is below 550, or your Math ACT score is below 23, you will take the Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra Test and the Intermediate Algebra Test.

Scores must be sent to Penn College directly from the College Board or ACT to be considered for satisfying any part of placement testing.

Calculators

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.

Reading

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 comprehension skills are sufficient to support the type and amount of reading you will find in college-level programs.

We use the Accuplacer reading comprehension test. It is a self-paced, computerized test that adapts to your skill level. Specifically, when you answer a test question correctly, the next question increases in difficulty. This design allows us to see the skill level at which you most consistently operate.

  • 25 - 35 minutes
SAT/ACT Reading Exemptions

You may be exempted from parts of the placement test if you have earned SAT/ACT scores that meet the criteria listed below. 

  • An SAT Critical Reading score of 450 or higher, or an ACT Reading score of 18 or higher, will result in exemption from the Reading placement test.
    • OR
  • A combination of the following SAT scores will result in exemption from the Reading placement test:
    • 400 or higher on Critical Reading
    • 400 or higher on the Writing test
    • 400 on the Math test.

Scores must be sent to Penn College directly from the College Board or ACT to be considered for satisfying any part of placement testing.

English

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
  • 30 minutes
SAT/ACT English Exemptions

You may be exempted from parts of the placement test if you have earned SAT/ACT scores that meet the criteria listed below. 

  • SAT Writing sub scores of 2 or higher will result in exemption from the English placement test in one of the following ways:
    • A score of 6 or higher will place you directly into the first required English course for your major.
    • For scores between 2 and 5, English faculty will evaluate your SAT essay to determine your placement.
  • An ACT Writing sub score of 8 will result in exemption from the English placement test, and placement into the first required English course.

Students have the option of taking the English placement test regardless of their SAT/ACT Writing sub-scores.

Scores must be sent to Penn College directly from the College Board or ACT to be considered for satisfying any part of placement testing.