Why College Placement Tests Are Important and How They Can Benefit You

by Ashley Eneriz

Everyone arrives at college with different knowledge and ability levels due to their unique schooling situation and academic strengths. Some students can soar past the General Education (GE) requirements, while others might need a few more classes to polish their foundational skills before tackling higher division courses.

This is why college placement tests are a requirement for all incoming Azusa Pacific University students. They are used to place each student in the proper class according to their current—and potential—competency. Here’s what you need to know about placement tests, and how they can benefit your college experience.

The College Placement Tests You Need to Take

The placement tests you take will depend on the requirements of the university you are attending. At Azusa Pacific University, all incoming students need to take the writing, math, and foreign language assessments. All students who have not yet fulfilled the GE Writing 2 requirement need to complete The Write Class, even if they are not incoming freshmen or if they have already satisfied the GE Writing 1 requirement through transfer work or AP credit. The Write Class takes 20-30 minutes and cannot be retaken if you are unhappy with your placement.

The math placement test can be retaken, however. And, if possible, you should try to improve your scores on the math placement test. Doing so can enable you to skip lower level classes—which must be taken before entering higher level math and science courses, but do not fulfill degree requirements. You’ll be given access to a Prep and Learning Module so you can increase your math placement test scores if you wish to.

All APU students need to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language for GE requirements. To prove proficiency, you must take (and pass) the qualifying courses through APU, submit passing AP or IB scores in an accepted language, or pass one of the three assessments available (the CLEP, FLATS, or OPIc). These tests can be retaken after three to six months, but there is a fee for each exam. Incoming students who are bilingual or feel confident in their second language skills from high school studies will benefit from passing one of these proficiency assessments.

Benefits of Scoring Well on Placement Tests

“The goal of APU’s math placement test is to have students start their college career in the highest-level math class in which they will be able to succeed,” explains Bryant Mathews, Ph.D., chair and associate professor for APU’s Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics.

Coursework—especially in higher division classes—can be challenging, so it is crucial that every incoming APU student grasps the skills and disciplines of the core writing and math courses. At the same time, APU acknowledges that many incoming students have already developed the necessary skills in high school and are often ready to tackle harder classes.

Scoring well on these placement tests can allow you to test out of freshman-level courses and get placed in the next level of classes.

“Many students find that spending 10-20 hours reviewing and learning with ALEKS can help them to pass out of one or more 3-unit courses, potentially saving hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars,” Mathews says, explaining the benefits of ALEKS, APU’s math placement system that allows students to take the test up to five times from their own homes. “ALEKS helps many students to get higher grades in the math courses they do end up taking.”

You’re likely eager to get to the core classes of your degree, but it is important to start with fundamental GE courses to satisfy graduation requirements and ease into college life. Remember, doing well on the writing, math, and foreign language assessment tests can help you bypass the classes you already excel in!

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