UW System Placement Test

All freshmen students who are admitted to a UW school are required to take placement tests in English and mathematics (foreign language is optional). The results of these tests play a significant role in determining the number of English and mathematics courses a student will be required to complete in college. Students who score low on either of these placement tests may be required to successfully complete noncredit remedial courses in English and/or mathematics (such as Communication Skills, Elementary Algebra, and/or Intermediate Algebra) before they are allowed to register for credit level English and mathematics courses. Therefore, it is very important that students take these placement tests very seriously and actively prepare for them.

UW System Center for Placement Testing website that states the contents of all three placement exams: english, mathematics and foreign language. Visit the Mathematics Placement Test page on Center for Placement Testing website for math specific information. We recommend that students visit this website because it gives a brief background about the mathematics placement exams, gives a blueprint for the exam, and then gives sample problems from each section on the exam.  The link also includes additional information about the high school preparation that is necessary for the study of college level mathematics.

Below are some specific items that students should keep in mind when preparing for the mathematics placement test:

  1. Students should begin their preparation by going to the above website to become familiar with the test format and sample questions.
  2. It is critical that students review their Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry skills before taking the exam. For example, many students believe that having had Intermediate Algebra two years ago is the same as knowing Intermediate Algebra NOW*.
  3. Students are only allowed a scientific calculator during the mathematics placement test. Therefore, students should be able to do algebra and trigonometry problems without the aide of a graphing calculator.
  4. High school students should take a mathematics class (that includes some algebra) in their senior year of high school, regardless of their intended major. This definitely improves a student’s mathematics placement score.
  5. The results of these tests are very important in determining initial placement in college, and therefore students should take these placement exams very seriously. A poor performance on a placement test will require a student to take noncredit remedial courses and/or additional testing in college.

*Students need to be made aware that the placement test measures their CURRENT mathematical knowledge. Therefore, they should review mathematical concepts that were covered in their freshmen and sophomore years of high school before attempting the placement test.

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