# ACCUPLACER Articles

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Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-16-2022

The Accuplacer exam is your ticket out of taking no-credit remedial courses in community college. Your scores on the Accuplacer tests will help indicate to college admissions officers whether you're ready to start college-level coursework. The Accuplacer includes the following five separate tests: Reading test Writing test Three math tests: arithmetic test quantitative reasoning, algebra, and statistics advanced algebra and functions This Cheat Sheet helps to get you started with important information to help boost your score on the Accuplacer.

View Cheat SheetArticle / Updated 08-30-2019

Here is a quick overview of the types of reading passages you'll see on the ACCUPLACER. The ACCUPLACER Reading Test includes 20 questions, organized in a specific way. Here, all of this information is pulled together in a single outline so you can see exactly what your ACCUPLACER Reading Test will look like. For easy reference, the following table contains this outline, breaking down the 20-question reading test into separate sections. Overview of ACCUPLACER Reading Passages and Questions Type of passage Number and length Number of questions 1 literary set 1 long passage 4 questions 1 informational set 2 medium passages 4 questions 12 informational discrete 12 very short or short passages 12 questions Total questions = 20 One long literary passage with 4 questions The test begins with a single long literary passage that includes a four-question set. This is the only literary reading passage you face on the ACCUPLACER. This passage is a selection from a fictional narrative work, such as a novel or a short story. As you read a literary passage, determine as soon as you can whether the narrator is first-person (a character in the story talking from the "I" perspective) or third-person (not a character in the story). Next, get clear on the names of the main characters — usually, there will be two or three at the most — how they relate to each other, and especially how they differ. After you understand the basics of who the main characters are, try to figure out "what's at stake" — that is, what each character wants or is trying to achieve. Here’s an example: "The narrator (Blair) is a daughter who wants to help her mother, but the mother (Arla) becomes defensive and keeps pushing her daughter away." "The father (unnamed) and son (Kevin) are talking about Kevin's older brother (Stephen), who is planning to join the Army. The father objects to this plan and gets angry when Kevin points out that the father is usually overcritical of Stephen." "The narrator (Aaron) is a 22-year-old Jewish man thinking back on his recent trip to Israel, where he met his girlfriend (Fadilah), a Muslim woman whom he plans to ask to marry him." One paired set of 2 medium-length informational passages with 4 questions Next, you'll read a paired set of medium-length passages on an informational topic and answer a set of four related questions. Typically, the two passages in a paired set relate distinct viewpoints on a single topic. For example, the first passage in a paired set might focus on an advance in submarine technology, and the second might discuss a particular application of this technology for studying deep ocean plant life. Or the first might present the positive aspects of a proposed United Nations resolution, and the second could present the downsides. At least one or two of these questions will test you on the finer points that distinguish the two passages. So, as you read paired passages, try to get a sense of the differences between the two authors' viewpoints. And if possible, see if you can find actual words to describe these differences. Here’s an example: "Passage 1 talks about a possible threat to the Amazon rainforest, and Passage 2 talks about a possible solution." "The author of Passage 1 urged Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, and the author of Passage 2 criticized him for signing it." "Passage 1 discusses Billie Holliday's early years, and Passage 2 discusses her musical stardom." 12 short or very short informational passages with 1 question each Finally, the test concludes with 12 short or very short passages, each of which includes a single question for you to answer. These passages are always informational, and they tend to be a grab bag. When a passage has only one question, read the question first. This can help you focus so you know what to look for before you read the passage. Passage Form – What the Passages Look Like Reading passages for the ACCUPLACER are classified according to four different lengths: Very short: 75 to 100 words Short: 150 to 200 words Medium: 250 to 300 words Long: 350 to 400 words Each very short and short passage is followed by a single (discrete) question. Each long passage and pair of medium passages is followed by a set of four questions based on that passage. In some cases, two short passages are presented as a paired set, labeled as "Passage 1" and "Passage 2," and followed by a set of four questions. Paired passages are usually linked by a common topic or theme, each with a distinct position or point of view on that topic. For example, a pair of passages might both discuss an innovation in video game design, one written by a game designer, and the other from the perspective of a game blogger. Passage Content — What the Passages Are About The passages you'll read on the ACCUPLACER fall into two categories: literary content (fiction) and informational content (non-fiction). The texts fall into three categories: narrative, explanatory, and persuasive. Understanding the genre of the passage On the ACCUPLACER, passage genre falls into two basic categories: literary (fiction) and informational (non-fiction). In this section, I discuss both of these types of passages. Literary On the ACCUPLACER, you'll read one literary passage and answer four questions about this passage. Literary passages are selected from fictional works of prose, such as short stories and novels. (Note: The reading passages on the ACCUPLACER don't include works of poetry.) A literary passage is typically a narrative storyline depicting one or more characters. Informational Informational passages are selected from factual works and break down into the following three topic areas: Careers/history/social studies, humanities, and science. Here, you get a quick take on all three types. Careers/history/social studies: One informational topic area for reading passages on the ACCUPLACER is careers/history/social studies. These passages focus on career-based information, the lives of people and civilizations in other times, and texts in social studies (such as anthropology, cultural anthropology, economics, psychology, sociology). Humanities: Humanities passages are typically about the fine arts (visual art, music, dance, theater, and literature), architecture, movies, and other forms of creative work discussed from an academic perspective. Science: Common topics in science passages are biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, earth science, and medicine. Information often includes important scientific discoveries, how theories developed, important experiments, and technological advances. Informational text types The informational reading passages on the ACCUPLACER include texts whose organization and purpose fall into three different types: narrative, explanatory, and persuasive. Narrative passages: A narrative passage describes the progression of events as they occur in time. Most literary works — and all of the literary passages on the ACCUPLACER — are organized as narratives, for the purpose of telling a story that unfolds over a period of time. Additionally, a few of the informational passages you read here may be organized as narratives, although this is somewhat uncommon. Explanatory passages: An explanatory passage explains an event or process, or otherwise provides information. This is the most common form of informational passage on the ACCUPLACER, and most likely the most common form of reading you've done in classes such as history, social studies, and the sciences. Persuasive passages: A persuasive passage attempts to convince the reader that a particular viewpoint is correct, and in some cases to take a specific action based on this viewpoint (for example, to vote for a certain candidate or to begin recycling plastic bottles). As you read an informational passage, see if you can tell whether the author's main purpose is simply to explain something, or if he or she is attempting to persuade. Remember, every informational passage will have explanatory elements. However, a persuasive passage will use these elements to craft an argument. See also, "What’s on the ACCUPLACER."

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-30-2019

The ACCUPLACER is a placement test for community college (also known as junior college). It's used to assess your current skill level and readiness for the types of schoolwork you'll be required to do in community college — specifically, reading, writing, and math. If you've been told that you have to take the ACCUPLACER test, you probably have a bunch of basic questions about it, such as the following: Just what is the ACCUPLACER? Do I have to take it (really)? When, where, and how do I take it? What kind of stuff does the ACCUPLACER test? What happens after I take the test? If you're reading this, you've probably been advised to take the ACCUPLACER. Who makes the ACCUPLACER? The ACCUPLACER is made by the College Board. These are the same folks who created the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program (the AP Tests). Is the ACCUPLACER like the SAT or ACT? Yes and no. The ACCUPLACER tests a lot of the same skills that the SAT and ACT test. However, the SAT and ACT are entrance tests. This means that you take these tests before you've been accepted to a college. Getting a low score on the SAT or ACT can cause a college to reject your application. In contrast, the ACCUPLACER is a placement test. This means that you take it after you've been accepted to community college. A low score on one or more parts of the ACCUPLACER means, at the very worst, that you may need to take one or more non-credit remedial courses. Do you have to take the ACCUPLACER? The short answer is no. But if you don't take it, your community college may place you in a set of remedial courses that are too easy for you. Passing the ACCUPLACER — or any of the five sections of the ACCUPLACER — allows you to place out of these non-credit courses, so you can begin earning college credits immediately. So, you can think of the ACCUPLACER not as a required test that you must pass, but rather as an opportunity to jump over a bunch of lower-level courses that you may not need to take. What is the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER? The current version of the ACCUPLACER is called the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER. This name distinguishes it from the older and now defunct version. The Next-Generation ACCUPLACER is the only version of the test being administered in 2019 and for the foreseeable future. So, heads up: If you've bought any other ACCUPLACER books along with this one, check to make sure that they're explicitly for the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER. If not, don't use them! (Or, perhaps, use them to prop open a door or, in a pinch, give them as birthday presents to people you plan never to see again.) Discovering When, Where, and How to Take the ACCUPLACER If you've read (or even skimmed) this far, I'm going to assume that you've decided to take the ACCUPLACER. Now, you may want to know some specifics about where and how to register for and take the test. That's what this section is about. How do you register for and take the ACCUPLACER? The ACCUPLACER is administered by your community college. If you've recently enrolled in a community college, an administrator probably mentioned the ACCUPLACER among a short list of important things to take care of as a new student. The ACCUPLACER is most often done either by appointment or by just walking into the right office and asking the nice person behind the desk to take it. But the procedure can vary a bit between institutions. If you have any doubts as to how to get started, call your community college to get specifics. How long does the ACCUPLACER take? The ACCUPLACER is an untimed test, which means that you can take as long as you like, which is unlike other tests, including those that you're used to taking from high school. Do you need to take all sections of the ACCUPLACER on the same day? No! You can opt to take all five sections at the same time or break them up in any way you like. How is the ACCUPLACER administered? Most often, the ACCUPLACER is administered via the Internet, at a computer located in the administrative office or testing center of a community college. Some schools, however, administer the ACCUPLACER on paper, in its COMPANION format. If you're not sure which format your school uses, the office that administers the test can tell you. What do you need to bring to the ACCUPLACER? When taking the ACCUPLACER, be sure to bring your student ID. If your school administers the ACCUPLACER using its computer format (this is most common), scrap paper will be provided. You won't need or be allowed to use a calculator for the math portions of the test — though for some questions, a calculator will appear on your computer screen. If your school offers the ACCUPLACER on paper, in its COMPANION format, then you'll be allowed to use a simple four-function calculator on some portions of the test, which they should provide for you. (Your fancier scientific or graphing calculator, however, is out.) What accommodations does the ACCUPLACER make for disabled students? If you have a documented disability that requires special accommodations for taking the ACCUPLACER, contact your community college to let them know, and they'll get you set up. If you have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a medical condition that allows you to receive extra time on other standardized tests, no worries: the ACCUPLACER is an untimed test, so you (and everybody else!) can take all the time you need to answer the questions. However, just to be practical, arrive early enough in the day that the administrative office isn't about to leave for the day! What Happens After You Take the ACCUPLACER You may be wondering what happens after you take the ACCUPLACER. How is the ACCUPLACER scored? Each of the five sections of the ACCUPLACER are scored separately on a scale from 0 to 100, just like the grades that most students receive in school. Any score of 80 or above is passing. You don't get a letter grade such as an A or a B, but what you do get is a free pass out of taking the no-credit college course associated with that test. Yay! However, different community colleges draw the pass-fail line in different places. So, a score of 78 on one section may be a passing score at your school. Or, a 78 may be a passing score on the Arithmetic Test but not on the Writing Test. Additionally, some schools allow students who are only a few points below the passing score to take more accelerated no-credit courses or even partial-credit courses. (Who says "close" only counts in horseshoes?) The person who administers your test is probably the best person to ask for information about what the passing ACCUPLACER scores are at your community college. If you do well on the ACCUPLACER, what happens? Every section of the ACCUPLACER that you do well on enables you to skip the no-credit remedial course work in that subject. This means that you don't have to spend a semester (or more!) taking a course that adds no credit towards your college degree. Even better, because passing the ACCUPLACER demonstrates your competence in a subject area, you can move on to upper-level courses with the confidence that you're ready to do the work! If you DON'T do well on the ACCUPLACER, what happens? This is key: if you don't do well on the ACCUPLACER, you still won't be kicked out of community college. It's just not that kind of test. This feature makes the ACCUPLACER different from college entrance tests like the SAT and ACT. Most colleges and universities set a minimum SAT and ACT score. And while there may be some wiggle room in special cases, scoring on the low side lowers your chances of being accepted. And, naturally, more competitive schools tend to require higher scores. But, the ACCUPLACER isn't an entrance test. In fact, if you're scheduled to take the ACCUPLACER, this means that you've already been accepted into community college (congratulations!). Failure to pass any portion of the ACCUPLACER simply means that your community college is going to require you to take at least one remedial no-credit course before they allow you to enroll in a credit course in that subject area. Essentially, they want to set you up for success, to make sure that you have the skills necessary to pass your courses when the time comes. What if you pass some sections of the ACCUPLACER but not others? When you pass any section of the ACCUPLACER, you're done with that section forever! You never have to take it again, and you're exempted from taking remedial courses in that area of study. How many times can you take the ACCUPLACER? Usually, your community college will give you two chances to pass each section of the ACCUPLACER. In some cases — especially for a good student with good grades — they may stretch this to three times. The good news is that when you pass any section of the ACCUPLACER, you're officially done with that section, and you don't have to take it again.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-30-2019

Every question on the ACCUPLACER, a community college placement test, is a multiple-choice question with four possible answers, A through D. The ACCUPLACER has a total of five sections: Reading Test Writing Test Three Math Tests: Arithmetic Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics (QAS) Advanced Algebra and Functions (AAF) ACCUPLACER Reading Test The ACCUPLACER Reading Test is similar to many other reading tests you've probably taken throughout your life. Most of the test requires you to read a passage and then answer one or more comprehension questions. Additionally, a few questions give you a sentence with a word or short phrase missing, and you're asked to supply the missing word. One passage is a work of fiction, and the rest are nonfiction. Each question presents you with four answers that test you on the following reading skills. Information and ideas: Reading closely for factual details in the passage Determining the central idea (or main idea) — the most important point that the writer is making Summarizing — restating the information in the passage in a different way that conveys its meaning effectively Understanding relationships among elements within the passage, and especially making inferences about what is not specifically stated but can be reasonably understood Rhetoric: Word choice — why the writer chose to use a specific word or phrase Text structure — how the writer organizes the information that they are presenting Point of view — what the writer believes or feels about what they are writing about Purpose — why the writer chose to write this passage Arguments — how the writer frames their case to persuade the reader Synthesis: Given a pair of tests that discuss a common theme from two different perspectives, comparing and contrasting information or rhetoric in the passages Vocabulary: Demonstrating comprehension of the meaning of a specific word or phrase ACCUPLACER Writing Test The ACCUPLACER Writing Test presents you with essays that are in need of editing. Your job is to answer questions, each of which presents you with a choice of four possible ways to express an idea. The questions test your understanding of the following information. Standard English conventions: Sentence structure — avoiding sentence fragments and run-on sentences, understanding coordination and subordination of clauses, making sentences readable with parallel structure, and avoiding inappropriate verb shifts Usage — subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, clarifying frequently confused words, and following the conventions of English expression Punctuation — how and when to use the punctuation that students most often misuse, such as commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, and hyphens Expression of ideas: Development — expressing an idea clearly, adding supporting information, and maintaining focus Organization — introducing ideas in a logical sequence, and helping the reader to understand your point through the use of introductions, conclusions, and transitions Effective language use — choosing the precise word, keeping your language concise (avoiding extra words and redundancy), maintaining a consistent style and tone, and using standard English syntax ACCUPLACER Math Tests The three ACCUPLACER math tests break down as follows: Arithmetic Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics (QAS) Advanced Algebra and Functions (AAF) Arithmetic The Arithmetic Test is the most basic of the three ACCUPLACER math sections. It tests your knowledge and ability in five areas. Whole number operations: The four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) applied to whole numbers Estimation and rounding numbers Applying the order of operations (PEMDAS) Word problems that provide real-world context Fraction operations: The four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) applied to both fractions and mixed numbers Estimation and rounding numbers Applying the order of operations (PEMDAS) Word problems that provide real-world context Decimal operations: The four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) applied to decimals Estimation and rounding numbers Applying the order of operations (PEMDAS) Word problems that provide real-world context Percent: Calculating the percent of a number Percent increase and decrease Word problems that provide real-world context Number comparisons and equivalents: Comparing values on the number line Using inequality symbols to compare values Comparing values expressed as fractions, decimals, or percents Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics The Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics Test (QAS for short) is the second of the three ACCUPLACER math tests in terms of difficulty. Here's what the QAS covers. Rational numbers: Calculating with rational numbers (fractions, decimals, and percents) Word problems that provide real-world context Ratio and proportional relationships: Calculating rates, ratios, and proportions Word problems that provide real-world context (finding rates and using ratios to set up and solve proportional equations) Exponents: Calculating exponents and radicals (roots) Working with negative and fractional exponents Working with scientific notation Algebraic expressions: Evaluating algebraic expressions given values of the variable or variables Simplifying algebraic expressions by combining like terms and distributing Word problems that provide real-world context (rewriting a story as an algebraic expression in terms of a variable) Linear equations: Creating and solving linear equations in one variable Creating and solving systems of linear equations in two variables Understanding and simplifying linear inequalities Linear applications and graphs (y = mx + b): Understanding and identifying slope and y-intercept Graphing basic linear equations Working with parallel and perpendicular lines on the graph Working with systems of equations on the graph Understanding linear inequalities Word problems that provide real-world context (rewriting a story as a linear equation) Probability and sets: Defining a sample space and events within it Understanding and calculating simple, compound, and conditional probability Understanding basic set notation, including union and intersection Descriptive statistics: Describing a sample set using visual tools such as boxplots Calculating mean and median as measures of center of a sample set Finding the shape (skew) and spread (range) of a sample set Geometry concepts for pre-algebra: Calculating the area and perimeter of squares and rectangles Calculating the area and circumference of a circle Finding the volume of a solid using a formula Geometry concepts for Algebra 1: Expressing area, perimeter, and volume as algebraic expressions Using the Pythagorean theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) Using the distance formula to calculate length on the xy-graph Working with basic geometric transformations (translations, reflections, and rotations) Advanced Algebra and Functions The Advanced Algebra and Functions Test (AAF for short) is the most difficult of the three ACCUPLACER math tests. Not every community college requires you to take this test, so be sure to check with your school before drilling down on the following topics. Factoring: GCF (greatest common denominator) factoring Quadratic factoring (reverse FOILing) Factoring using the difference of squares and the sum and difference of cubes Factoring cubic equations Quadratics: Identifying and creating quadratic equations Solving quadratics using factoring Using the quadratic formula to solve quadratics Working with quadratic inequalities Solving systems of equations that involve a quadratic equation Functions: Understanding and working with function notation (f(x))) Evaluating linear functions (f(x) = mx + b) and quadratic functions (f(x) = ax2 + bx + c) Graphing the most common parent functions Understanding basic function transformations Word problems that provide real-world context Radical and rational equations: Understanding radical and rational equations Graphing radical and rational equations Knowing how to find the domain and the range Polynomial equations: Understanding polynomial equations (especially linear, quadratic, cubic, and quartic equations) Graphing polynomial equations Exponential and logarithmic equations: Understanding exponential and logarithmic equations Graphing exponential and logarithmic equations Geometry concepts for Algebra 2: Finding the volume of non-prism solids (especially spheres, pyramids, and cones) Applying basic theorems for intersecting lines (especially vertical angles, supplementary angles, corresponding angles, and total angles in a polygon) Working with congruent and similar triangles Working with circles on the xy-graph Trigonometry: Understanding the trigonometric ratios (especially sine, cosine, and tangent) Working with the special right triangles (45° – 45° – 90° and 30° – 60° – 90°) Understanding radian measure Measuring arc length Solving basic trig equations Understanding basic trig identities Applying the law of sines and the law of cosines

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-30-2019

The ACCUPLACER is different from tests you're used to taking in a variety of ways that change the game and the strategies that work best. Here, these differences are explained and a few possible strategies are suggested for doing your best on the test. Getting comfy with the CAT In most cases, the ACCUPLACER is administered over the Internet, on a computer in an office of the community college where the student is enrolled. (Less commonly, it's given as an on-paper test in its COMPANION format.) The computer format provides a dimension to the ACCUPLACER that you won't find with an on-paper test: computer-adaptive testing, or CAT for short. Computer-adaptive testing means that the computer selects each question you see from a large pool of questions, basing its selection in part on the answers that you've previously given to questions. So, when you answer a question right, the computer tends to make the next question a little tougher. Conversely, when you answer a question incorrectly, the computer often gives you a question that's a little easier. That is, the computer adapts the test specifically for you in response to your answers. One reason for the CAT feature is that it makes cheating difficult. For example, even if you're sitting next to your best friend taking the same test at the same time, the two of you probably won't even receive the same first question. But the main reason for computer-adaptive testing is that it finds out your strengths and weaknesses more quickly and effectively than a paper test. This makes sense when you think about it. It's like the difference between answering a questionnaire on paper versus being interviewed. An interviewer can shift the focus of the next question they ask based on your answer to the last question. The good news here is that the ACCUPLACER doesn't have to be as long as, say, the SAT or the ACT. On the flipside, however, try not to get spooked knowing that the computer is, in a sense, grading the test as you're taking it. Try to remember that computers aren't sentient beings (yet!), and that the computer-adaptive feature isn't really "grading" or "judging" you; it's just pulling each question from a pool based upon a program written by the test designers. And most of all, do not to dwell on what it means when you get what feels like an easy question ("Does that mean I messed up the previous question?") versus a hard question ("Did I get the previous question right?"). More than likely, if you fall down this particular rabbit hole (or should I say CAT hole?), you'll just distract yourself from the question you're trying to answer. Multiple-choice or guess Every question on the ACCUPLACER is a multiple-choice question with four possible answers, A through D. Unlike tests that are administered on paper (like the SAT), once you see a question, you're stuck with that question until you answer it. The computer doesn't provide a way to leave a question blank and then come back to it later. On the bright side, you don't lose points for choosing a wrong answer, so if you're really and completely stuck with a question, make your best guess and move on. Time and time again The ACCUPLACER isn't a timed test. Once more, with feeling: the ACCUPLACER is NOT a timed test. You can take as long as you like (within reason!) to complete each section of the ACCUPLACER. From a strategy perspective, this fact makes the ACCUPLACER virtually unique among all the tests you've ever taken and ever will take in your life. How do you conquer a test that isn't timed? How do you use this feature to your best advantage? In a timed test, the pressure is on, and you have to work quickly to get as many right answers as you can before the clock runs out. In contrast, a non-timed test presents a different sort of opportunity — and challenge. The opportunity is to take your time with the test. For example, Read every question very carefully so you don't "answer a question they didn't ask." In the ACCUPLACER Reading and Writing tests, read each passage thoroughly so you really understand it. In the ACCUPLACER Math tests, work each step of the problem carefully, and check your solution before clicking the answer. The challenge here is the same as the opportunity: to take your time. Taking a test is uncomfortable, like wading belly deep through a swamp full of snakes. The temptation is to hurry through it as quickly as possible to avoid the discomfort. You may well prefer to blow through the ACCUPLACER at top speed, but if you do that, you'll probably make careless mistakes on questions that, with a little time and thought, you could have answered right. And for every section of the ACCUPLACER that you fail, you'll be spending 15 to 30 weeks in a no-credit class. Take just one, or at most two, sections of the ACCUPLACER on a single day. You want to be fresh as a daisy for each section, right? Before you begin a section, make sure that you'll have at least an hour and a half to complete it. So, if the office where they give the test is getting ready to close in 45 minutes, you probably want to reschedule! Take your time answering each question. If you really don't know the answer, guess! On the ACCUPLACER, there's no penalty for guessing, so answer every question. Check to make sure you selected the answer you meant before clicking the SUBMIT button. The computer interface requires you to select an answer and then submit it. As you answer each question, think of the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and ask yourself, "Is that your final answer?" To calculate or not to calculate? The ACCUPLACER math tests include some questions that permit you to use a calculator, and other questions that don't. But remember that because the ACCUPLACER is a computer-based test, you don't need to bring a calculator to the test. Instead, when a math question permits you to use a calculator, it will appear on the screen for you to use. No-calculator questions No-calculator questions usually require arithmetic that's not too complex — the kind of calculations that you can do either mentally or by hand. The person who sits you down to do the test should provide you with some scratch paper to work on — especially for the math tests. Please feel free to ask them to provide it if they forget. The Arithmetic Test — the first of the three math tests, covering the most basic math — typically includes only no-calculator questions. This feature makes sense, because the test makers are specifically trying to see whether you can do basic math without the help of a calculator. Calculator questions Apart from the Arithmetic Test, the ACCUPLACER includes two, more difficult math tests: the Quantification, Algebra, and Statistics Test (QAS) and the Advanced Algebra and Functions Test (AAF). These tests contain more difficult math than the Arithmetic Test, so they include a mix of questions that may or may not require the on-screen calculator. Calculator questions tend to include long numbers that are difficult to calculate by hand, or may include one or more calculations (such as finding a square root) that can't easily be done without a calculator. When a question allows for the use of a calculator, you'll see an icon at the top-right corner of the screen. In some cases, more than one calculator — including a graphing calculator — may be made available.

View ArticleArticle / Updated 08-30-2019

Following are ten ways to help improve your performance on the ACCUPLACER community college placement test. Some are specific to the test, and others are just a good idea no matter what type of performance you’re trying to enhance. Good luck! Know which ACCUPLACER sections your school requires The ACCUPLACER includes five separate sections: Reading, Writing, and three separate Math tests. But not every community college requires all five tests. For example, not all community colleges require its students to take the ACCUPLACER Advanced Algebra and Functions Test (AAF). That’s the most difficult of the three Math tests! Before you spend a moment worrying about (or studying for!) a test that you may not have to take, be sure to find out exactly which sections of the ACCUPLACER your school will require you to take. Take care of yourself the night before and the day of the ACCUPLACER exam This goes for any situation when you want to turn in a good performance: Take care of yourself! This includes getting enough sleep the night before (no big parties!), and perhaps doing something you enjoy that relaxes you. Additionally, don’t make any sudden changes to your usual habits the day of your ACCUPLACER exam. For example, eat the same type of breakfast you typically eat. If you usually start the day with coffee, do so on your test day. Conversely, if you don’t usually drink coffee, don’t pick your test day to experiment with it! Pick your best time of day to take the test If you’re familiar with the SAT or ACT, you probably know that these tests are administered only on a preset number of very specific times and days throughout the year — usually, on Saturdays starting at around 8:00 a.m. In contrast, the ACCUPLACER is administered directly by your community college rather than by a third party. This usually makes the process a lot more informal and friendly. For example, many community colleges allow you to take the ACCUPLACER anytime during administrative hours — say, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You may not even have to make an appointment — just show up ready to sit in front of a computer for a few hours. (Obviously, you’ll want to call your school and find out the specific details.) If your community college offers this level of flexibility, take advantage of it. If you’re a morning person, show up early; if not, plan to arrive in the early afternoon. In either case, be sure to arrive early enough that the office isn’t getting ready to close! Consider taking the ACCUPLACER in two or more sessions Here’s an important tidbit: You don’t have to take the entire ACCUPLACER in one sitting. Each section of the ACCUPLACER stands discretely on its own. Furthermore, your score on each section is independent of your other scores. So, consider taking your ACCUPLACER exam on several separate days. In any case, start with what you believe will be the easiest test. Most of my students find this to be the Writing Test. But if your native language isn’t English, or if you’re confident with basic math, you may well find the Math Test to be the best place to start. As you start the test, breathe! and keep breathing It’s natural to feel nervous as you start taking a test. You may find, for example, that your heartbeat increases, your hands shake, and your mind races. These effects are all physical manifestations of the fight-or-flight response, your body’s response to anxiety. Adrenalin and other hormones pump into your bloodstream to give you immediate energy to, say, face down a wolf or run away from a bear. Unfortunately, adrenalin isn’t terribly helpful as you take the ACCUPLACER. To counter it, simply focus on your breathing for a moment. (The test will wait.) Notice your breath and then slightly deepen it — not so much as to hyperventilate. Do this for two or, at most, three breaths — say, for 20 seconds. Then resume the test. If you notice your nervousness returning, take another 20 seconds and repeat this exercise. You may want to do this half a dozen times during the course of the first section of the test. After that, the worst of your anxiety should begin to settle down. Take your time Unlike most other tests, the ACCUPLACER isn’t a timed test. Each section includes 20 to 25 questions, which you can answer at your own pace. Take the time that you need to do your best. If you’re taking the Reading Test, read slowly and carefully, and allow the information to seep in. On the Writing Test, take the time to read the entire passage, and then for each question focus on the sentences you’re being asked about. And on each of the Math sections, take the time to proceed slowly and check your work before entering your final answer. Check in with yourself before you start each new section As you finish each section of the ACCUPLACER, take a few moments to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Strong? Comfortable? Discouraged? Tired? Hungry? You don’t have to take the entire test in just one sitting. Each section stands on its own. If you’re not in good shape as you finish a section, feel free to tell the nice person behind the desk who’s giving you the test that you’d like to stop for the day. Keep the ACCUPLACER in perspective The ACCUPLACER is just a test, not a firing squad. And by far, the ACCUPLACER is not even the most important test you’ll ever take. Of course, you’d love to ace the ACCUPLACER and kick off community college with courses that give you college credit. But if the specter of the test has you worried enough to affect your performance, put the importance of the ACCUPLACER in perspective. If you have test anxiety, any test can be scary. Remind yourself as you take the ACCUPLACER that no matter what score you get, you’re not in any danger of being thrown out of school or having your financial aid package revoked. It’s just not that kind of a test. The very worst outcome is that you’ll have to attend a few remedial, no-credit courses to get up to speed so that you’re ready to do well in your later college courses. Sometimes, two is a charm! More good news: Most community colleges allow you to take the ACCUPLACER twice, and in some cases possibly more. Before you take the test, ask to see what your school’s policy is. Assuming your school permits two tries, you may want to take the first round without too much preparation. If you kept up with your work in high school, you may well pass some or even all of the ACCUPLACER sections without extra work. When you’ve received your scores for the first round, find out what your community college considers a passing grade on each section. This number varies from one school to the next, so be sure to ask. Knowing how many more points you need to pass each section of the ACCUPLACER gives you a lot of information about how much studying you need to do, and in which areas. Repeat after me: “I’m doing my best.” Your life will contain wonders you haven’t even dreamed of yet. When you’re standing at the altar on your wedding day, or holding your first child in your arms, or climbing Mount Everest, or completing a marathon, or taking a call from your new boss telling you about your promotion when any of these things happen for you, you won’t find yourself saying, “I could be happy right now, if only I’d done better on my ACCUPLACER exam!” Here’s the thing. Just do your best. And keep telling yourself, “I’m doing my best.” That’s all you can do.

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