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Prepare for Entrance & Placement Exams

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Some schools use exams to see how ready you are for college-level work.

An entrance exam is used by schools to select students to enroll. Most four-year colleges and universities use standardized entrance exams, like the SAT or ACT for enrollment. Your score can help you get into your school of choice, earn scholarships, or receive advanced placement or college credit. See the resources at the end of this article for more information about the SAT and ACT.

A placement exam is used to decide what level of classes a student should take within a certain subject. For example, if you take a math placement exam, your score will determine which level of math you can take your first year.

Your score may also determine whether or not you need to take developmental courses. Schools will have "cut scores" to decide what scores are required for developmental courses. Developmental courses must be completed before you can register for the required courses for your program. You do not get college credit for developmental courses, but you must pay the tuition for them. In Minnesota, the Accuplacer is a common placement exam.

What is the Accuplacer?

The Accuplacer is a group of tests that determine your knowledge in math, reading, and English. All two year public colleges in Minnesota require students to take the Accuplacer.

The Accuplacer is completed on a computer. It is not timed. Each test is adaptive, which means the computer will determine what question to give you based on your answers to previous questions. If you are getting answers correct, the questions get harder. If you are getting the answers wrong, the questions get easier. So the first few questions are important to answer well.

There is no charge to take the Accuplacer the first time. Some schools will let you retake all or part of the test, usually for a fee. Make your testing appointment with the school you plan to attend.

Most schools require you to take the Accuplacer after being accepted at the college, but before you enroll in classes. Your Accuplacer score will determine if you can get into the courses for your chosen program. Check with the school for specific instructions.

Be sure to prepare for the Accuplacer. Many local Adult Basic Education programs offer free Accuplacer preparation courses. Several websites have test questions and preparation tips. Resources are provided at the end of this article.

Does Everyone Take the Accuplacer?

There are some cases when a student does not need to take the Accuplacer:

  • Successful completion of college level courses from another school
  • Satisfactory scores (determined by the school) from another college within the past two years
  • A minimum score (determined by the school) on the ACT test

Each school is different, so check with the test coordinator or admissions office for specific instructions.

Are Entrance and Program Requirements the Same?

Not always. Some programs will require a certain "cut score" on entrance or placement exams for acceptance. In these cases, you may be enrolled at the school, but not accepted into the program. Each program will have different requirements. Speak to representatives in your specific program for the details.

Additional Resources

Use the resources below for more information about placement and entrance exams.

Resource Use if I'm looking for... Source
Accuplacer General information about the Accuplacer test. Links to sample questions and study aids, including study apps. College Board
ACT Official source of information about the ACT test. Includes preparation tips and links. ACT
SAT Official source of information about the SAT test. Includes preparation tips and links. College Board
College Admissions Tests General information about admissions tests, including links to common undergraduate and graduate tests. CAREERwise Education
College Admissions and Placements Tests General information about admissions and placement tests, with information on average scores Minnesota Office of Higher Education