The ACCUPLACER is a computerized placement test designed to assess proficiency in reading, mathematics, and writing for incoming college students, including sections for students for whom English is not the first language. The ACCUPLACER helps to determine the correct college-level course placement. Like the ACT®, the ACCUPLACER was developed by the College Board®.
All of the questions on the exam are multiple-choice, with the exception of an essay portion. The test is untimed, although it takes most students approximately 90-120 minutes to complete. It is a computer-adaptive exam, meaning that the difficulty of the questions is determined by the test-taker’s previous responses. This also means that the number of questions in each section will vary.
The exam was revamped in 2016, when it adopted “Next Generation” exam sections and the computer-adaptive format. The ten sections—four of which are specific to English as a second language students (ESL)—currently found in the ACCUPLACER exam are:
Students may have to take all or only parts of the exam, depending upon the recommendation of the institution to which they are applying. Some colleges do accept substitution scores from alternative exams, such as the ACT® or SAT®, meaning that it is possible to “test out” of certain sections.
The ESL Language Use section measures how well you can use correct grammar in English sentences. There are 20 questions of two different types. The first type requires you to choose the correct form of a word, or words, to use in the blank space in a sentence. The second type asks you to choose the correct form of a complete sentence, including revising the order of the words.
For this test, you have to listen to people speaking in various settings. Then, you will be asked to answer questions about what you heard. There are 20 questions and all of the conversations are in English. Our practice test uses the same audiotape for each 5 questions. The ACCUPLACER ESL Listening Test is not timed.
This part of the ACCUPLACER test evaluates your ability to read a short passage, understand it, and answer various types of questions about it. There are 20 questions in this section and the answers range from things stated right in the passage, to things that may just be assumed, based on what the author said. You may have to deal with such concepts as main idea, fact and opinion, vocabulary in a phrase, and applying the author’s point of view.
The ESL Sentence Meaning section tests your ability to read and understand sentences written in English. There are 20 questions in this section of two different types. The first type of question asks you to choose one of four words, or groups of words, to fill in the blank for the sentence to make sense. The other type requires you to answer a question based on information you read in one or two sentences.
The Next Generation Advanced Algebra and Functions test is designed for students who plan to study in a STEM field or another field that requires a great deal of math, such as medicine or economics. It covers a wide range of higher math skills, including Algebra II concepts and Trigonometry. You’ll need to be able to be conversant in relating equations to their corresponding graphs and relying on theorems to solve problems.
The Next Generation Arithmetic section is the most basic of the ACCUPLACER Next Generation math tests. It assesses the most commonly used math operations and number formats. The questions require you to do only math procedures that might be required in daily life or while performing the duties required of an employee in any career. There are a few “real life” problems (read: “word problems”) but most of the questions contain either a simple equation to solve or one question to answer. To ace this section you should feel comfortable solving problems involving percentages, decimals, fractions, and equivalencies.
Students who are entering a field of study that is not part of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) curriculum or who have not decided on a field of study will take the Next Generation Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics math test. It assesses higher-level skills than the ACCUPLACER Next Generation Arithmetic test, but most of them are still pretty basic for life in today’s world. You will be required to thoroughly understand graphs and basic components of Algebra I and Geometry, including concepts like exponents, probability, and ratio.
The ACCUPLACER Next Generation Reading test (previously called the ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension test) assesses your ability to read and understand text in various genres: literature, nonfiction literature, social sciences, and natural science. You also need to be able use what is explicitly written to form summaries and draw conclusions. Finally, you will be asked to compare and contrast two texts written about the same subject. All the information you need is in the passage, so you need not have any prior knowledge about the subject.
The ACCUPLACER Next Generation Writing test is an updated version of the previous ACCUPLACER Sentence Skills test, but assesses editing skills in entire paragraphs and passages, as well as those pertaining to single sentences. This test assesses your ability to proofread and edit the writing of another person, revising it in the areas of clarity, effectiveness, usage, and grammar. Unlike the Sentence Skills test, which used only single sentences as prompts, all of the questions on this test are based on a written passage of between 300 and 350 words. Passages may be on topics from any of these areas: literary nonfiction, social sciences, humanities, or natural science. No prior knowledge of the subject is required to answer the questions.
During this ACCUPLACER test, you are given a prompt, or a subject, on which to write. You should plan, write, review, and edit an essay with 300–600 words and containing several paragraphs. The essay will be graded in these six areas:
Development and support
Organization and structure
Purpose and focus
Sentence variety and style
Note that your WritePlacer essay will not be judged based on which side you took on an issue or on other content matters, but rather on the quality of the writing you provide.
Since you will be writing an essay for this portion of the test, it would seem impossible to write practice questions, but, we can give you some practice in proofreading, one of the essential skills required to submit your best writing effort. It is also one of the hardest writing skills to master and any type of practice will help. Our practice questions will help you learn to see common errors in all of the writing skills listed above.
The essay portion of the ACCUPLACER is the WritePlacer®. It evaluates your ability to read through a passage, take in information, and formulate your own opinion or response in a way that is cohesive, coherent, and well-supported. The WritePlacer® can be used to supplement the writing portion of the ACCUPLACER, for people who are seeking entry into a college-level course, or who are seeking placement as ESL students.
Taking the ACCUPLACER exam can be stressful—after all, it determines which courses you’ll have to take. But in many instances, anxiety can be eased greatly by preparing for the test adequately and having an idea of what to expect on the day of the exam.
The test is not timed, although you should expect to be at the testing center for a total of at least two hours. To ensure you give your best performance, it’s recommended that you get a good night’s rest and a nutritious meal before arriving to take the exam. This will ensure that you aren’t distracted by an empty stomach or drowsiness. It’s also a great idea to plan to arrive at least 20-30 minutes early. This extra time can be helpful if you have any difficulties finding the test center or during the registration process.
You will need to bring a valid form of identification with you on the day of the exam. If you are taking the exam at your school, they may accept a school-issued ID. In all other instances, you should ensure that you have a government-issued form of identification. You may check with your testing center before the day of the exam to determine what their requirements are.
You do not need to bring anything with you on the day of the exam. The ACCUPLACER is a computerized test. While there are sections of the test in which you can use a calculator or scratch paper, these applications are available within the computer program itself, eliminating the need for students to bring anything.
You should also refrain from bringing any electronic devices or personal items. They are prohibited from being in the testing room. There may or may not be storage areas for personal items, but to know for sure, you may want to check with your testing center.
One of the best ways to ensure that you are prepared for the ACCUPLACER is by taking plenty of practice tests beforehand. These practice tests can help you to identify areas where you may want to devote extra time for studying, and they can help you to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will see and the format of the test itself. Practice tests for the ACCUPLACER are one of the most effective preparation tools available to ensure you are ready to succeed on the day of your exam.
Many students also find that they can better retain information by incorporating alternative study methods in with taking the practice tests. Flashcards for the ACCUPLACER are especially useful for the multiple-choice sections of the test and study guides for the ACCUPLACER are great for ensuring you study all of the covered topics. These materials, when combined with practice tests, can help you develop a comprehensive study plan.
It’s also a great idea to simulate the testing experience by completing a good number of questions from each section of the test that you are required to take. While this test is not timed, simulating the testing experience can give you a better idea of how you will perform when taking each section back-to-back.
The ACCUPLACER exam is not timed, which means there is no need to rush through it. And it’s computer-adaptive, meaning that a greater number of correct answers will lead to fewer questions being asked. For these reasons, it’s a far better idea to take your time to carefully answer each question than it is to skim through the question and guess. Time is on your side with this exam, so be sure to use it wisely.
If you do not know the answer to a question even after reading it through several times, it’s a good idea to take some time to read through the answers and try to eliminate the ones you know are wrong. This process will help you narrow down your final selection and increase the odds that it is correct.
If you are truly nervous about how you will perform on the ACCUPLACER, it may be a good idea to break up your testing across several days. You are not required to take all sections in one sitting, so it may be good to plan for a couple testing days. This will narrow down what you need to study and prepare for before each day.
There are no scores on the ACCUPLACER exam—the results will only tell the level of courses for which the test-taker is prepared. The computer-adaptive nature of the test means that the software will continue asking questions in a section until it is confident that it has determined the appropriate level of placement in related courses.
The College Board allows students to retake the ACCUPLACER as many times as they need. However, your individual school may have different guidelines, so be sure to check your school’s testing policy and associated fees, if applicable.
You can request that the testing center print a score report for all multiple-choice sections immediately after completing the exam. You will also receive a follow-up email with your full score report and a Skills Insight Statement.
The exam fees associated with the ACCUPLACER exam vary from institution to institution, but generally range from $0 to $50. You should check with your school to determine exactly what fees you will be charged for taking the exam.
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