What you need to know about the TSI

Student taking the Texas Success Initiative Assessment.

The TSI Assessment was created by the College Board® in response to college success improvement efforts mandated by the Texas legislature. It is given to prospective college students in Texas and measures their level of preparedness for college-level study. A placement test is given in each of three areas: reading, writing, and math. If a student earns a pre-established “passing” score on the placement tests, he or she is cleared to enroll in any college-level classes at that institution. However, if the passing or “cut” score is not achieved in any area, shorter diagnostic tests will be administered to identify specific learning needs. A student may not have to take the diagnostic part if the score is high enough on the placement test. The diagnostic test(s) will be used to help the student plan enrollment, including remediation courses in subjects of demonstrated need.

The TSI Assessment is computer-adaptive—the computer chooses the next question based on your response to the previous question. Test results are available immediately after testing and, usually, class enrollment will begin at that time.

Modifications are available for students with disabilities, but you need to contact the disabilities office at the college or university to apply for these before testing. This process involves a review of your situation according to institution and federal regulations, so allow plenty of time before you need to take the test.

What are the costs?

The costs associated with this test seem to vary widely, according to the college or university administering it. From available information, we found testing fees between $32.00 for all three sections to a price of $20.00 per section. It is best to check with your institution for the fee schedule it uses.

What should I bring?

On test day, bring a valid ID and the testing fee or a receipt for pre-payment, whichever is required by the testing site. Arrive about 15 minutes before the start of the test to take care of check-in procedures. Test-takers who are later than the scheduled test time may not be admitted.

How is it scored?

Scores obtained from testing at one institution may be used at any other institution in Texas. You can pass (and be approved to take college-level courses) in one area, but be required to take developmental courses in another. If you do not achieve a passing score in any area, the institution is required to provide counseling about your options for developmental help. This may include registration for developmental classes—at the same time you are taking a college-level course in the same area—and support provided by other than institutional sources.

Below are the scores you need on each test to automatically qualify for college-level class enrollment, according to the information currently available. Be aware, however, that the test administrators may adjust these based on student performance and the link to success in college. Studies regarding changes to passing scores are conducted on occasion, so you should check with your testing site immediately prior to your testing date to obtain up-to-date information about passing scores.

Even though these passing (benchmark) scores may be increased in the future, the passing scores on your testing date are in effect for you, with one exception in writing (see note below). Test scores and passing status will be good for 5 years from the date you take the test. There is no need to retake the TSI Assessment if passing scores change during that time.

Important Note about Writing Cut Score Revision: As of August 18, 2017, the cut scores for Writing were reduced (from 350 to 340 on the multiple-choice section and from 5 to 4 on the essay) to better reflect students’ abilities and learning readiness. The scores in our list, below, are reflective of that change. Also, the TSI status of students entering school during the fall of 2017 or after will be determined by the 340/4 cut scores, even if 350/5 were the cut scores when they took the TSI Assessment.

Minimum passing scores for students currently entering college:

  • Reading: 351 (scores can range from 310 to 390)
  • Writing: 4 (out of possible 1-8) on the essay and 340 on the multiple-choice section OR a multiple-choice score of less than 340 and an ABE Diagnostic level of at least 4 and an essay score of at least 5.
  • Math: 350 (scores can range from 310 to 390)

What kind of job can I get?

In today’s world, an increasing percentage of jobs require post-high school education and/or training. Even if it’s not absolutely required for employment, a college degree can give you more choices and more opportunities for gainful employment as an adult.

Am I eligible?

You can take or retake the TSI Assessment at any time. If you are not satisfied with your score(s), it is highly recommended that you seek additional practice and assistance before attempting a retake.This test is required of every student entering a college or university in the state of Texas.

Exemption possibilities:

If any of these is true in your case, you may be exempt from taking the TSI test before entering college in Texas:

  • ACT composite 23 or higher and 19 or higher on each of English and Math ACT
  • SAT (prior to March 2016): combined verbal/critical reading and math score of 1070 and at least 500 on both sections
  • SAT (March 2016 and later) Evid. Based Reading and Writing minimum of 480 and Math minimum of 530 (No combined score necessary)
  • TAKS scale score minimum of 220 Math and/or 220 ELA AND writing subscore minimum of 3
  • Veteran, active duty student presently serving and has served in reserves for at least 3 years before enrolling
  • Transfer student with satisfactorily completed college-level courses
  • Enrollees in a Level 1 public institution certificate program of 1 year or less

Please see this link for additional information on exemptions.

Why does it matter?

To succeed in college, you must be ready to learn college-level material and this is what the TSI Assessment assesses. It is important to do your very best on this test so that the scores truly reflect what you can do.

If you don’t pass all sections, the college may require you to take developmental courses before you can enroll in college-level classes. You will probably pay the same fees for these developmental courses, but they will not count as college credits toward any degree. Thus, you will waste both time and money in your quest for a higher education degree.

What salary can I expect?

Reports in Forbes and U.S. News and World Report both affirm that college-educated individuals earn more than those without that degree. Figures of $400 more in earnings per week are not uncommonly cited. A college education can also put you ahead in line for promotions and advanced training opportunities, which can lead to even higher salaries.

When is it available?

Institutions vary as to when the TSI Assessment is offered. Some offer it on a walk-in basis at a testing center on campus, while others require pre-registration for specific testing sessions and locations.

Each test-taker is also required to complete a “Pre-Assessment Activity” offered by the institution before sitting for the TSI Assessment. It must include:

  • Information on test and its importance
  • Practice questions and feedback on them
  • Information about options if you don’t pass
  • Information about the institution and community’s resources to support college success

You will need to schedule this activity through your college or university.

Time Allowed

The TSI Assessment is not timed, so its length may vary widely. You are encouraged to do your very best and not to rush, so plan to allow a wide window of time for testing. Estimates from our sources range anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the number of diagnostic tests required due to placement test scores. Time also depends, in part, on the type of worker you may be: thorough, but quick or slower and reflective.

Another item that may extend the time needed is the practice by some institutions of administering an advanced placement math test (such as an Accuplacer® higher level math test) automatically if you score high enough on the TSI Math test. This would be especially likely if you are good at math and plan to major in an area that requires a great deal of math, such as a STEM or medical field.

In any case, be sure to check with your testing site before test day to determine any specific testing provisions or regulations. Some institutions may have a provision for stopping an unfinished test and restarting it, with a delay of “up to 48 hours” to “anytime within 14 days.” Also inquire about any fees assessed for resuming at a later time.

Practice using our expertly crafted questions!