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Testing Preparation

You should plan on taking at least a few weeks to get ready for the placement tests. Here is everything you will need, information about the tests, sample questions, resources for refreshing your skills and test-taking tips.

Thoughtful exam preparation may generate placements that are more accurate.

The Accuplacer tests

You will take the Accuplacer or ESL Accuplacer tests. The tests were developed by The College Board, with the help of committees of college professors, to provide information about skill levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

Before you take the mathematics test, you will answer some background questions. Depending on your answers, you will take a test in arithmetic, elementary algebra or college-level mathematics.

If English is your first language, you will take the reading comprehension test that will determine your reading and writing placements. If English is not your first language, you will take tests in reading skills, language usage, sentence skills and listening.

Scores for each test will range from 20 to 120. When you have completed all the tests, you will receive a printed report of your scores.  These scores will be loaded into the student record system matching the name and MCTC ID number you gave during testing.

The math placement test you will be taking is based upon your answer to this background question: “What is the highest level math class you have completed?”

  • If the answer is “None” or “Basic Math”, you will begin with the Arithmetic test. If you score high on this test, you will be branched up to the Elementary Algebra test.
  • If the answer is “Algebra I/Beginning Algebra” or higher, you will begin with the Elementary Algebra test. If you score high on this test, you will be branched up to the College Level Math test. If you score low on this test, you will be branched down to the Arithmetic test.

Resources for refreshing your skills

These resources are free and online – no need to pay for review materials!

Test-taking tips

The test instructions are easy to understand. Entering information also is very easy. A test administrator will be there if you have any questions or problems.

Entering your name and birth date

You will enter your name on the first screen. Use the ENTER Key to move from Last Name to First Name and then to Middle Initial. Pressing the ENTER Key again will take you to the next computer screen.

The next screen asks for your Student ID and your Date of Birth. Press ENTER to move to the Date of Birth and type your birth date using a dash (-) or slash (/) to separate the month, day and year. It is especially important that this information be entered correctly. If you make an error while typing, you may utilize the BACKSPACE Key to erase the error.

Answering the questions

If you are using the mouse to enter your answers, you will click on your choice and then click on the NEXT button on the bottom of your screen. To confirm your answer, click on the CONFIRM button. This will also move you to the next screen.

If you are using the keyboard to enter your answers, you will use the space bar to move to your choice of answer. You will press the ENTER Key to select the desired answer. You will then press ENTER again to confirm your choice and move to the next question on the next screen.

A message will display when the tests are about to start.

Every test starts with sample questions that will familiarize you with the types of questions in that particular test. These sample questions are not scored. When you have completed these, you will continue with the actual test questions.

You don't have to answer as many questions as on traditional paper and pencil tests. The number of questions on the tests ranges from 12 to 20. The questions will appear one at a time on the computer screen. Most questions are multiple choice and you will use the space bar or mouse to select the desired answer. When you have completed the question and verified your answer, a new screen will appear with your next question.

The computer adjusts the difficulty of the questions depending on how you’ve answered the previous questions. So don’t be thrown if the questions seem to be getting harder as you go along. You’re just doing well!

The tests are not timed so that you can give each question as much thought as you wish. However, once you have verified your answer, you cannot return to that question.


Questions are chosen for you on the basis of your answers to previous questions. Because the test works this way, you must answer every question when it is first given. You cannot omit any question or come back later to change an answer.

You may change your answer on a particular question, but you must do so before continuing on to the next question. Once you go on to the next question, the answer is accepted and you cannot return to the question.

If you do not know an answer to a question, try to eliminate one or more of the choices. Then pick one of the remaining choices.

What’s on the tests?

Reading comprehension

You will be asked 20 questions. Some will ask you to decide how two sentences are related. Other questions ask you questions about reading passages of various lengths. You will be asked to interpret and draw conclusions from what you have read.

Reading skills test (ESL)

You will read passages of 50 to 90 words and then answer questions. You may read about the arts, science or history. Half the questions ask about information that is stated in the passage. The others ask you to identify the main ideas, facts versus opinions or the author’s point of view. There are 20 questions on this test.

Sentence meaning test (ESL)

You will be asked to fill in a blank with a word or phrase or to combine two sentences. The test covers writing skills including the proper use of nouns and verbs. There are 20 questions on this test.

Language use test (ESL)

This test measures your understanding of English vocabulary. The sentences come from a variety of subject areas. Included will be descriptive words (particularly about beauty, age, greatness and size) and prepositions (from, to, at, etc.) There are 20 questions on this test.

Listening test (ESL)

You will listen to a series of brief passages with one or two speakers. Following each passage, you will hear a question and respond to a multiple choice question. You may take notes as you listen and may replay the passage and answers twice. There are 20 questions on this test.

Arithmetic test

You will start with this test if the last math class you completed was Basic Arithmetic or you have not completed any math course. If you do well on this test, you will also take the Elementary Algebra test.

There are 17 questions total in the following categories.

  • Operations with whole numbers and fractions
    • Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
    • Recognizing equivalent fractions and mixed numbers
  • Operations with decimals and percents
    • Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
    • Percent problems, decimal recognition and fractions
    • Percent equivalencies and estimation problems
  • Applications and problem solving
    • Rate, percent and measurement problems
    • Geometry problems
    • Distribution of a quantity into its fractional parts

Elementary algebra

You will start with this test if the last math class you completed was Algebra 1, Elementary Algebra or higher. If you do well on this test, you will also take the College Level Math test.  If you do not do well on this test, you will take the Arithmetic test.

There are 12 questions total in the following categories.

  • Operations with integers and rational numbers
    • Computation with integers and negative rationals
    • Use of absolute values and ordering
  • Operations with algebraic expressions
    • Evaluation of simple formulas and expressions
    • Adding and subtracting monomials and polynomials
    • Evaluation of positive rational roots and exponents
    • Simplifying algebraic fractions and factoring
  • Equation solving, inequalities and word problems
    • Solving verbal problems presented in algebraic context
    • Geometric reasoning
    • Translation of written phrases into algebraic expressions
    • Graphing

College-level mathematics

You will not start with this test. You will take this test IF you do well on the Elementary Algebra test.

This tests skills from intermediate algebra through pre-calculus. There are 20 questions total on topics in the following categories.

  • Algebraic operations
    • Simplifying rational algebraic expressions
    • Factoring and expanding polynomials
    • Manipulating roots and exponents
  • Solutions of equations and inequalities
    • Solution of linear and quadratic equations by factoring
    • Expanding polynomials
    • Manipulating roots and exponents
  • Coordinate geometry
    • Plane geometry
    • Coordinate plane, straight lines, conics and sets of points in a plane
    • Graphs of algebraic functions
  • Application and other algebra topics
    • Complex numbers
    • Series and sequences
    • Determinants and permutations
    • Combinations and fractions
    • Word problems
  • Functions and trigonometry
    • Polynomial, algebraic, exponential and logarithmic
    • Trigonometric functions

Testing policies

Testing regulations

Textbooks, notebooks, dictionaries, calculators or other papers of any kind (except scratch paper provided by the test administrator for use with the mathematics tests) are not allowed in the testing room. Electronics are prohibited. Further, anyone who gives or receives help during the test or uses notes or books of any kind will not be allowed to continue the test. Following the test period, no test materials or notes may be removed from the room. The college may cancel any test score if there is reason to question its validity. Coats, backpacks, drinks of any kind and other items brought to testing will need to be stored in the testing room and not brought to the computer workstation. We will provide storage for these items.


Your test scores and the information you provide when taking the tests will be used by the college for counseling and placement purposes. It may also be used by MCTC and the College Board or Educational Testing Service for research purposes. Your test information will not be used for any other reason without your permission. If the data is used for research purposes, special precautions will be taken to ensure that your identity is kept confidential. Any data received by ETS will be held for no more than three years. If you have any questions about the confidentiality of the data you have provided or about your test scores, you should see the college's test administrator.