How to Prepare for Your University Placement Test

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Hadeel Hossam

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02 November, 2021

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3 mins read

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Universities and colleges in the USA use several types of placement exams to test the capabilities and skills of students and help them enrol into the appropriate classes. If you want to start your academic college career the right way, you need to take this test seriously and prepare well. We’re here to help you crack the code with these simple tips on preparing for your university placement test.

1. Make Sure You’re Not Exempt First

Before you delve into preparations for your university placement test, you need to determine whether you need one in the first place. That’s right; there are some cases where students are exempt from taking a placement test. These exemptions are for those with an SAT score of 500 or more per section or an ACT score of 21 or over in each section. If you prepare for your SAT well, you are more likely to avoid a placement test. Furthermore, if you’ve already taken a placement test in the last two years, you probably don’t have to take another one. Additionally, you can skip the placement test if you have transcripts proving you completed college-level coursework before.

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2. Check Which Type of Placement Test You Need

There are three main types of placement tests, and they all test key skills in reading, writing, and math. Each college uses a different type of test, and it’s important to check which format you’ll take to prepare accordingly. The three test types are ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, or ASSET.  

  • ACCUPLACER is a computer-adaptive test, and it’s the most commonly used one in universities. It is divided into five sections: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Advanced Algebra and Functions, and Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics (QAS). 

  • COMPASS is also an adaptive, computer-based placement exam developed by ACT, and it consists of reading, writing, and mathematics skills tests that include multiple-choice questions. 

  • ASSET is the only paper and pencil test that ACT developed. It is designed to know a student’s strengths and weaknesses to determine which subjects you’d succeed in. 

  • Tests If English is Your Second Language

There are slightly different testing procedures for students whose first language is not English. COMPASS ESL and ACCUPLACER ESL are placement tests designed especially for these students. They place you in developmental (ESL) or college-level courses by testing grammar, reading, and listening. Check with your university beforehand which exam type you will have to take. 

University placement Test

3. Register Early

For international students, you need to contact the admissions office early enough to schedule a time for your placement test. Remember that you can sometimes schedule a test in a remote location if you are in a different state, so ask for that option. 

4. Gather Resources 

Most placement tests use the knowledge you gained through high school to test you, so go dogging through your school library and old books to prepare for college placement tests. Most schools also offer workshops, review packets, and other helpful tools. A great hack is also to ask admission officers for a list of suggested resources while registering.

5. Practice Tests Are Your New Best Friend

Another great tip to help you prepare for your university placement test is to take a couple of practice tests. Placement test practice will help you identify your weak points to focus your studying efforts on them. Don’t be surprised; placement tests do require some studying and freshening up of the information you have. Many believe otherwise since you technically cannot fail a placement test. However, even though it’s not a pass or fail test, it does determine which subjects or classes you will enrol in and study for a whole term, so it matters how much you score.

That’s pretty much all you need to do when preparing for your university’s placement test, the whole process is quite simple. Just remember the basics of any test-taking: remaining calm, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy breakfast on the test day! The test will be all on things you already studied and passed its examination; you’ll just need a quick revision to freshen your mind!


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