Placement Tests Placement Tests

Frequently Asked Questions

For a PDF file of these questions and answers you may click here.

What is the ALEKS Exam?

The ALEKS Exam covers a broad spectrum of college algebra and pre-calculus material. The ALEKS system is fully automated and the ALEKS assessment is adaptive. The first questions asked will be drawn from across the curriculum, and may be too easy or too hard. As the assessment proceeds, your answers will be used to give the system an idea of your knowledge, and it will gradually focus the questioning in an individually appropriate way. By the end of the assessment you should find the questions generally challenging but reasonable for your individual level of knowledge. The length of the assessment runs from 20-30 questions. The exact number of questions will vary due to the adaptive mechanism just described. It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, “I don’t know.” On the other hand, you should do your best to answer any question concerning topics you are familiar with. “I don’t know” is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results. If you do not do your best on the assessment, ALEKS will underestimate your knowledge.

How long will the assessment take, and what materials will I need?

Be sure you are ready to take your exam prior to logging on. Set aside at least a 2-hour block of time in which to complete the assessment. You may finish the assessment in 90 minutes or less, but allow 2 hours. You will need only pencil and paper to work on problems. ALEKS has a built-in calculator available when needed, so you do not need a calculator.

What other special directions do I need to follow when taking the ALEKS Exam?

Solve all problems on the ALEKS Exam without assistance. This means that you should not use any books or online resources, and you should not get assistance from any other person. Work the problems with pencil and paper. Enter only your final answer into ALEKS. Use a calculator only when the ALEKS calculator is given. Don’t worry if you get a problem that is too difficult. This is normal. Try your best to solve any problems that you think you might be able to solve, and click “I don’t know” only if you really don’t know how to solve a problem. At the beginning of the ALEKS assessment, you will go through a brief tutorial that will introduce you to the ALEKS system and interface. You will be shown how to enter different types of answers, how to use the ALEKS calculator, and how to graph something by hand. Although the interface is reasonably intuitive and the tutorial is very helpful, there may be times when you need help using the ALEKS system; in these situations, click on the “Help” button at the top of the screen. Sometimes you might have to use new tools to submit your answers during the ALEKS Exam. When this happens, Quick Help will be available, and will show you how to use these tools. Don’t rush through the assessment. Although we prefer that you take the assessment in one sitting, there may be situations in which you must leave your computer. If that is the case, just close the ALEKS window. When you log on again later, ALEKS will bring you to the point at which you left off. However, you must complete the exam within the 24-hour time limit.

May I practice before going to the WSU ALEKS exam?

Yes. ALEKS offers a free assessment that anyone can take at any time. To access this, go to the ALEKS site at Follow the path:

  • Higher Education (tool bar at top)
  • Mathematics (drop down menu to left)
  • Free Trial (drop down menu under Resources on the right)
  • Experience ALEKS as a Student – Try ALEKS now.

This will allow you to create a trial account and get into the free assessment area. Select Precalculus as the sample course if you are planning on a calculus–based major, otherwise try College Algebra. Remember that the free assessment does not count as a math placement test, and you must follow the instructions on the Take the ALEKS Exam in order to take the WSU Math Placement Test.

Is ALEKS available in Spanish?

Once you are in ALEKS, many topics are available in both English and Spanish. Simply click next to “English” in the main menu and pull down to “Español.”

Where do I go to access the WSU ALEKS Exam?

Click on Take the Exam

When should I take the ALEKS Exam?

New freshmen and transfer students should complete their assessments before coming to New Student Orientation or any visits with your advisor. The sooner you take it, the more opportunity there will be for you to review and re-test if you are not satisfied with your placement.

What if my computer crashes while taking the assessment?

If you have computer problems, you should be able to log back into the ALEKS Exam and resume testing. When you log on again, ALEKS will bring you to the point at which you left off.

What type of computer do I need to use?

The ALEKS Exam requires a browser that is Java-enabled, and you must install the ALEKS plug-in described below. The exam may be taken on a PC (Windows) or Mac (OS10 or higher), using any of the following browsers: Explorer 6.0 or higher, Firefox 1.5 or higher, or Safari. Additional information is online at:

How many questions are on the test?

Generally, students are asked 20 to 30 questions. None of the questions are multiple-choice. Students who are unable to answer many of the first questions may end up with a shorter exam.

Once I answer a question, can I go back and change my answer?

No. Once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Please keep this in mind while testing.

How is my score calculated?

There are a number of topics on the ALEKS Exam. In a relatively short period of time (about 90 minutes to two hours for most students), ALEKS assesses the percentage of the student’s current knowledge of topics from Prep for Calculus (how many of the total topics has the student already mastered) by asking a small number of questions (usually 20-30). ALEKS chooses each question on the basis of a student’s answers to all the previous questions. Each student, and therefore each set of assessment questions, is unique. It is impossible to predict the questions that will be asked. By the time a student has completed the assessment, ALEKS has developed a precise picture of his or her knowledge of the course, and has identified which topics in the course the student has and has not mastered. An overview of how ALEKS works is available online at:

Do I need to install any plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS Exam?


  • Close all documents and programs on your computer except your browser.
  • Go to the main ALEKS web page at:
  • Press the DOWNLOADS link at the upper right. Follow the instructions to install the necessary software on your computer.
  • After installation of the ALEKS plug-in, restart (reboot) your computer.

ALEKS is cross-platform accessible. If there is difficulty installing the plug-in see: For troubles related to Next Generation Java, see

Is there a fee for taking this test?

Yes, there is a $45 WSU Placement Package fee that includes: initial ALEKS Placement Exam, 6 week review module, and unlimited re-tests. The package is valid for one year from the date of your initial assessment.

How many times can I take the ALEKS Exam?

You may retake the placement assessment up to four times. There is generally no benefit to re-taking the assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. Unlike the SAT or ACT, you cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the assessment without spending time in the Prep and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten or to learn new material. In fact, you are required to spend 3 hours in the Prep and Learning module before the first re-assessment and an additional 5 hours in the Prep and Learning Module before the second re-assessment. All re-assessments for WSU Tri-Cities students are proctored re-assessments on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

How long are my ALEKS Exam scores valid?

Scores are valid for 12 months.

I took an ALEKS Assessment through another institution. Can I use this score at WSU?

No. WSU has a customized assessment specific to WSU mathematics courses, which is different from assessments offered through other institutions.

I just want to repeat my last math course. Do I need to take the ALEKS Exam?

If your last math course was at WSU (and you withdrew, did not pass with a high enough grade, or wish to receive a grade replacement), you generally should still be able to register for that course; however, if too much time has elapsed and the ALEKS Exam score that got you into that course has expired, you may have to first take the ALEKS Exam (even if you already took it in the past).

How can I find out what score I need on the ALEKS Exam?

Review the information on the Math Course Prerequisite page to see what score you need.

What if I have College Math credits, like AP, IB, or Running Start credits?

Freshman: All freshman students are encouraged to take the placement test and can talk to their academic advisor at orientation. Transfer credits will still count, but students need to know whether or not they seem to be prepared for WSU Math. The purpose of our placement process is to determine, based on your mathematical background and current mathematical ability, which math courses are appropriate for you. Past experience shows that the ALEKS Math Placement Exam may be the clearest indicator. If you have math transfer credits and place below the level you need for a particular math course, please see an advisor in your department. Remember, placement is about being successful, not skipping courses. If the placement test places you below the level that you want, you need to review or possibly need to take a lower level course, in order to be more successful in your WSU Math course. Transfers: All students who wish to enroll in a WSU Math course at or below the Calculus I level are encouraged to take the WSU ALEKS Math Placement Test. In particular, if your math credits were completed more than 18 months ago, we recommend that you take the placement exam.

What if I retest and do worse?

If a previous WSU ALEKS Math Placement test score resulted in a higher WSU math placement, the system will keep the higher score, unless the score has expired. Test scores are valid for one year.

Where does my score appear?

Your score is automatically added to your WSU student profile which is accessible by your advisor. When you complete the exam you will have a report identifying topics you know at this time, what you are ready to learn next, and, at the very bottom, the percentage you earned. We strongly recommend that you print this report and keep a copy of it. It is only available right after you finish the exam. Once you log off, it is no longer available. This report not only contains your score, but also information that will help you review before re-testing if you are not happy with your score. Your advisor will also be interested in seeing this report.

What can I do if my score does not place me where I would like to start?

You have one of three choices. Choice 1. You may review the topics you have forgotten in an attempt to improve your score by using the 6-week Learning Module part of your package. The learning module has to be accessed via the same way you accessed the placement exam, namely through ALEKS Exam. Choice 2. You many retake the ALEKS placement exam up to four times. However, re-assessments must be proctored on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Choice 3. Reconsider your plans and start your math at WSU in a course for which you are prepared as assessed by the ALEKS Math Placement exam.

Technical support

For ALEKS customer support please phone or e-mail: Phone: 714-619-7090 E-mail: Website: Refer to ALEKS Technical Support at if you have problems with the plug-in.

Last Updated: June 16, 2015