Math Placement Tests - Frequently Asked Questions

Points to Remember

  • All incoming Freshman who may need to take an entry level Math class or who need to take a Science course (most require placement) must take the placement exam regardless of transfer credit, AP/IB Credits or Dual Enrollment Courses.
  • Transfer students who wish to enroll in a UA Math course at or below the Calculus I level (Math 122A/B or 125) are encouraged to take the UA ALEKS Online Placement Test. Transfer students should refer to the information on the transfer website. If your math credits were completed more than 18 months ago, you may need to test.
  • The UA does not accept other institutions placement exam. If you want to take a UA Math class, you must place using the UA ALEKS Math Placement Exam.
  • The ALEKS Math Placement Exam scores are valid for one year. If you did not take a Math course you may need to retest.
  • You must have the correct score to be placed in a Math class — there are no exceptions even if you missed the cut off by one percent
  • There is no limit to number of times you may take the exam, however you must wait 24 hours before retesting. We recommend you review before you retest.

General ALEKS Assessment and Placement

What is the UA ALEKS Online Placement Test?

ALEKS is a powerful artificial-intelligence based online assessment tool that zeros in on the strengths and weaknesses of a student's mathematical knowledge, reports its findings to the student, and then if necessary provides the student with a learning environment for bringing this knowledge up to an appropriate level. The University of Arizona Department of Mathematics is currently using the ALEKS assessment tool for placement into all of its entry-level courses.

The ALEKS assessment covers a broad spectrum of algebra or pre-calculus material. The ALEKS system is fully automated and the ALEKS assessment is adaptive. The first questions asked will be drawn from across the curriculum, and may be too easy or too hard. As the assessment proceeds, your answers will be used to give the system an idea of your knowledge, and it will gradually focus the questioning in an individually appropriate way. By the end of the assessment you should find the questions generally challenging but reasonable for your individual level of knowledge.

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How many questions are on the test?

The length of the assessment runs from 20-35 questions. The exact number of questions will vary due to the adaptive mechanism just described. It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, "I don't know." On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. "I don't know" is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results. Try your best to solve any problems that you think you might be able to solve. It is better to answer incorrectly on a topic that you have seen before, than to use the "I don't know" button and then skip related topics. If you do not do your best on the assessment, ALEKS will underestimate your knowledge.

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Once I answer a question, can I go back and change my answer?

No. The placement exam uses an adaptive mechanism to select appropriate test questions for each user. The first questions asked will be drawn from across the curriculum, and may be too easy or too hard. As the assessment proceeds, your answers will be used to give the system an idea of your knowledge, and it will gradually focus the questioning in an individually appropriate way. By the end of the assessment you should find the questions generally challenging but reasonable for your individual level of knowledge.

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There is an "I don't know" button that can be used to answer questions. What is this for?

It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, "I don't know." On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. "I don't know" is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results. Try your best to solve any problems that you think you might be able to solve. It is better to answer incorrectly on a topic that you have seen before, than to use the "I don't know" button and then skip related topics.

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Is there a fee for taking this test?

There is a $26 fee for the first test for incoming Transfer students. The first test for Freshman and International students is included in their new student fees if the first test is completed before the first day of class. After the first test or on the first day of class, testing is proctored through the UA Testing Office for a $41 fee . Current students must test through the UA Testing Office.

Incoming students can retest using an online service called ProctorU. Please refer to the math links in your Next Steps Center for more information. Current students must test through the UA Testing Office.

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How is my score calculated?

There are several topics on the ALEKS Online Tests. In a relatively short period of time (about 45 minutes to two hours for most courses), ALEKS assesses the percentage of the student's current knowledge of topics from Prep for College Algebra or Prep for Calculus (how many of the total topics has the student already mastered) by asking a small number of questions (usually 20-35).

ALEKS chooses each question on the basis of a student's answers to all the previous questions. Each student, and therefore each set of assessment questions, is unique. It is impossible to predict the questions that will be asked. By the time the student has completed the assessment, ALEKS has developed a precise picture of her knowledge of the course, knowing which topics she has mastered and which topics she hasn't out of all of the topics in the course.

An overview of how ALEKS works is available.

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What if I take the wrong test?

Unfortunately, if you take the wrong test and do not place high enough, you may need to retest through the testing office for a fee. It is the student's responsibility to determine which test to take and also to know the math requirement for a particular major.

Once you select a test (Prep for College Algebra or Prep for Calculus), you cannot switch to the other version, even if you have not yet started a test question.

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What if I retest and do worse?

If a previous UA ALEKS placement test score resulted in a higher UA math placement, the system will keep the higher score, unless the score has expired. Test scores are good for one year.

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How do I check if my placement test score was processed into the UA system? How do I check my percentage on ALEKS or my Math Milestone Level?

UA ALEKS placement test results are converted to a percentage and uploaded into the UA system at 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily. Your percentage on the test is used for placement.

  • All students can check their ALEKS percentage here using their NetID.
  • ALEKS Test percentages and Math Milestone Levels can be found on your Academic History Report in UAccess Student. Go to the Student Center, then go to the arrow next to Other Academic, find Transfer View: Unofficial, and run an Academic History report.
  • Incoming freshman, transfer and international students can verify scores in the Next Steps Center before their orientation or registration date. After your semester begins, go to the above Web Authorization link or your Academic History Report in UAccess Student.
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How long will the assessment take, and what materials will I need?

Be sure you are ready to take your exam prior to logging on. Set aside at least a 2-hour block of time in which to complete the assessment. Most students will finish the assessment within an hour or so, but every student will be different. You will need only pencil and paper to work on problems. ALEKS has a built-in calculator available when needed, so you do not need a calculator.

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What if I do not obtain the required minimum score for UA Math? What are my options?

Review is recommended for all students. After your UA ALEKS assessment, you can print out topics to review. You can also try ALEKS Learning Mode. You can test again, but should not do so unless you have spent a significant time reviewing. You can see a list of options on the Math Placement Website.

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Do I have to take the highest course that I place into?

If you place high, you can always take a lower course. Often, this is a good idea. Many students opt to take a review course to build a more solid foundation. For example, if you place into Calculus (Math 122A+122B), you can take Calculus Preparation (Math 120R) or College Algebra (112) instead.

Please note that once you successfully complete a UA Math course, you will not receive credit for a lower level or prerequisite math course without special permission from the Math Department.

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Technical and Computer Related Information

ALEKS troubleshooting, plug ins and system requirements

Additional troubleshooting instructions are available here.

View computer system requirements here. A PC is recommended over a MAC. Any technical issues need to be directed to ALEKS Customer service.

Plug ins are no longer required to access the assessment.

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What if my computer crashes while taking the assessment?

If you have computer problems, you should be able to log back into the UA ALEKS assessment and resume testing.

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How do I get technical support for ALEKS?

Any technical difficulties while testing need to be directed to ALEKS customer support:

ALEKS Corporation Customer Support
M-F 4 a.m.- 7 p.m. Pacific Time (7 a.m. -10 p.m. Eastern Time)
(714) 619-7090

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ALEKS Learning Mode

Why would I use ALEKS Learning Mode?

You might choose this option if you feel that your pre-calculus or algebra skills are weak and you would like to review that knowledge in an effective online learning environment. This may be a good option if you have taken the initial placement exam and did not reach the minimum ALEKS score for your course. Learning Mode may assist you in reaching the required minimum score for placement into a UA Math class. Using Learning Mode does not result in a new UA Math placement. Students will need to retake UA ALEKS Online Placement in order to attempt to place higher, after using Learning Mode or other review methods.

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Are other Learning Modules available through ALEKS?

The UA ALEKS Web Auth system only allows access to Prep for Calculus and Prep for College Algebra Learning Mode. Students can access Intermediate Algebra, Basic Algebra, and other Learning Modes directly through the ALEKS website. Students who wish to use Prep for Calculus or Prep for College Algebra Learning Mode should do so through the UA Web Auth system.

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How do I purchase Learning Mode available through ALEKS?

To access UA ALEKS Learning Mode, students will need to purchase an access code from McGraw Hill. A 6 week subscription is available for $32. Instructions are available on the UA ALEKS web page.

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