What Are College Placement Tests?

After you’ve been accepted by a college, you may need to take placement tests. Colleges use placement tests in subjects like math and English to check the academic skill levels of entering students. Then the college can place each student in classes at the right level.

Who Uses Placement Tests?

Almost all two-year colleges and many public four-year colleges require new students to take at least one placement test when they first get to campus. Some private four-year colleges also use these tests.

Community colleges — most of which admit all students with a high school degree — tend to rely on these tests because their entering students can have very different skill levels.

What Do the Results Mean?

Your test results may mean that you can skip some introductory courses. Or they can show that you need more preparation before taking on college-level work.

If you need more preparation, a college may require you to take a remedial course. A number of four-year colleges and most community colleges offer remedial classes.

What Are Remedial Courses?

Remedial classes allow you to improve your skills in a subject so you can take on college work in that area. If you find out that you need to take remedial classes in subjects like math and English, don’t get discouraged. These classes will show you your strengths and weaknesses so you’ll know where you need to focus. They also will increase your chances of academic success in college.

What Are Placement Tests Like?

Colleges use several common placement tests. The tests usually measure skills in these subjects:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Writing

Some colleges also offer placement tests in foreign languages and areas of science. Some placement tests are given on computers, and some give you your scores as soon as you finish. Several states and individual colleges have developed their own placement tests.

How Can I Prepare?

Placement tests measure the skills you’ve already learned in high school, so taking them doesn’t require much preparation. To get ready for these tests, you can do the following:

  • First, check with an admission officer at your college to find out if you have to take a placement test.
  • If so, find out what subjects the test will cover.
  • Ask the admission officer what you can do to get ready. Or check the college website for information about the test and ways to prepare for it.

What Happens After I Take the Test?

Once your test results are available, you may be assigned automatically to the course level that fits you best. Or you may have a meeting with your academic adviser to decide on your first-semester courses.