What’s on the ACCUPLACER - dummies

By Mark Zegarelli

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