Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

So, you’ve been accepted by a university you’re interested in attending, congrats! Once you’ve been accepted, you may be asked to take a college placement exam. Don’t fret too much; they won’t revoke your acceptance because of these. Most colleges merely use these to serve as academic indicators so that you’re not placed into a class that’s too advanced for you, therefore you wouldn’t be able to pass. Don’t be discouraged by this, because in many ways this is your college’s way of looking out for your future GPA.

The Who’s, What’s, When’s, Where’s, and Why’s

All admitted students may be required to take 1 or more placement tests upon commitment to the school. The most popular subject placement tests are usually math, English, writing, or foreign languages. The number of placement tests you take may vary by academic program or courses you’ve previously taken, but typically almost all colleges have at least 1. The tests are put out by the school, so some may be exceedingly long while others are pretty short. If you are required to take one, it will probably become available to you once you gain admission, and there will be a deadline that states when the test must be submitted by.

In some cases, you might have to wait and take certain placements tests on-campus at orientation days and you’ll have to take them in person. In other cases, the test might be available to you online, and you can take it from the comfort of your own home. If you have a curious mind, you should try to take the placement test as soon as possible so that you can gauge what classes will be available for you to take.

What if I do worse than expected?

Don’t fret! On the bright side, you can’t fail. The test is strictly to enroll you in the right courses. Honestly, when I was a senior in high school I took calculus (which, admittedly I was not the best at), but when I took my math college placement exam I placed into pre-calculus. At first I was discouraged, but ultimately being placed at a level lower was for the best because I needed to brush up on some more concepts and make better math grades than I did in high school before proceeding to college level advanced courses. College courses are considerably harder with a lot more work than high school ones, so you don’t want to be put into a class you’re not prepared for.

Sometimes if you don’t do as well on a placement test, you might be placed into a remedial course. If this happens, don’t be too discouraged. These classes will really help you brush up skills that you might need for the rest of your college career. Remember, these tests really aren’t on a pass or fail basis. They’re judging your current academic level and knowledge, and there’s no shame in needing some extra help before progressing to more advanced classes. This will save you the embarrassment of taking a class that’s too advanced for you, where everyone else is a step ahead.

Do I need to prepare?

This depends. If you just want to brush up on a few concepts that might be on the exam, there’s no harm done. It’s important to not cheat on the exams (if you’re taking them virtually) or try to give yourself a crash-course on the concepts that you won’t remember in the long run, because you might get placed into a course you really weren’t ready for. So please, don’t try to cheat the system in order to get an impressive result. The ending consequence will only be detrimental to your GPA. A little preparation should suffice, and some schools even offer sample questions so that their students know what to expect.

Remember, a placement test is not that big of a deal, and you should be proud of yourself for getting into the college you’re taking the test for. Good luck!

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the author

Allison Capley is an editor, college life writer, and a member of James Madison University’s class of 2016 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At JMU she studies Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, with a minor in Health Communication. Allison’s favorite hobby is horseback riding. In the future, she aspires to live life to the fullest and obtain a career in medical and pharmaceutical writing.

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