Placement Testing Information

Placement Testing Information

Unless a student transfers in college-level credit that waives them from testing, they are required to take placement tests as part of the new student enrollment process before they can register for classes.

Students should take these placement tests very seriously and prepare ahead of time so they can do their best. The scores will be used to help decide which courses a student may take in their first semester at Tompkins Cortland and may impact how many semesters they will need to complete their degree.

It is extremely important that students and their academic advisor have the most accurate assessment possible of their writing, math, and reading skills when their courses are selected. Based on an overall assessment, including results of placement tests, some students may be required to complete pre-college courses before moving on to program courses that require college-level writing, reading and mathematics skills, which could extend their time to degree. Placement testing is just one part of the assessment process. To give the admissions staff and academic advisors the most complete information possible, students should be sure the Admissions Office has received official copies of transcripts from any colleges they have attended, whether or not credit was earned. The College also needs their high school transcript or GED as part of the admissions process. Students should also send score reports if they took any AP exams while in high school.

NOTE: Students should bring a photo ID to the test. Government issued photo ID is best (e.g., driver’s license, learner’s permit, state issued photo ID card, or passport). If a student only has a high school photo ID, they should also bring a photocopy of their birth certificate.

Students are advised to be well-rested and have eaten before coming to placement testing. Most of the students take two to three hours to complete their tests.

IF A STUDENT WILL NOT BE A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE AND DOES NOT HAVE A GED, they will need to need to speak to the Admissions Office about the federal admissions regulations regarding non-graduates. Call admissions at 607-844-6580 for more information.

IF A STUDENT HAS A DISABILITY, they contact Access & Equity Services in the Baker Center for Learning at 607.844.8222, Ext. 4415 or 4283 to arrange accommodations for placement testing, and to discuss any other needs. Test accommodations must be arranged before the test date. Accommodations may include, but are not limited to, screen magnification, taped administration, writing accommodations, or use of a calculator.

IF ENGLISH IS NOT THE STUDENTS FIRST LANGUAGE, they will take tests different than those described here for the English and reading sections. Students should call the Enrollment Services Center at 607.844.6580 to find out about the tests they will need to take.

What students need to know about the placement tests:

Students will be taking a test called ACCUPLACER on a computer. Only basic keyboard and/or mouse skills are necessary. The test will begin with a tutorial explaining how to respond to each question type. Most questions are multiple-choice.

The multiple-choice portions of the tests are not timed; students may work at their own pace. Students should proceed thoroughly and carefully through the test, taking their time to ensure the best possible results. The essay has a time limit of one hour. Depending on how many tests a student is required to take, they can expect to spend 2 to 3 hours on the tests. The main tests are described below.

Reading Comprehension Test (20 questions) – This test assesses the ability to understand different types of college-level reading materials. Students will be given a number of short reading passages followed by questions. The questions will relate to comprehension of what was read and the ability to reason from the information in the passage. The score will help determine whether a students needs to take a pre-college reading course (RDNG099), a college-level reading and study skills course (RDNG116), or no reading course. The reading test score will also help determine placement in your initial English course (ENGL099, 098/100, 100 or 101).

Sentences Skills Test (20 questions) – This test assesses understanding of sentence structure – how sentences are put together and what makes a sentence complete and clear. The score will help determine whether a students needs to take a pre-college writing course (ENGL099) or are ready for Academic Writing I (ENGL100) or Academic Writing II (ENGL101).

WritePlacer Test (essay) – This test will allow a student to demonstrate your writing skills. Grammar and spelling will count, along with punctuation, focus, and organization. This part of the test will have a time limit of one hour. Students will type their essay on the computer. The results of this test will be used in the decision about which writing course will be taken in the first semester (ENGL099, 100 or 101).

Arithmetic Test (17 questions) – This test assesses the ability to perform basic arithmetic operations and to solve problems that involve fundamental arithmetic concepts. Students may not use a calculator on the test. Problems will involve use of fractions, decimals, and percentages. The score will help determine whether a student needs to take a pre-college numerical skills course (MATH090) before taking other math courses required in their program. Use of a calculator is NOT permitted on this test.*

Elementary Algebra (12 questions) – This test assesses the ability to perform algebraic operations. Problems will involve use of integers, rational numbers, monomials and polynomials, factoring, and other algebraic expressions. The score will help determine whether a student needs to take a pre-college algebra course (MATH095) before taking other math courses required in their program. Use of a calculator is NOT permitted on this test.*

College-Level Math (20 questions) - This test assesses proficiency in intermediate algebra through pre-calculus. The score will help determine whether they will be placed in Intermediate Algebra (MATH100) or a higher-level math course as required by their program. Use of a calculator is NOT permitted on this test.*

* Students are provided with scrap paper and a pencil to make math calculations by hand. Some questions on the math tests provide a calculator within the Accuplacer system that may be used, however students usually must know the required formula in order to use the calculator to find the correct answer.

Where to find materials to help prepare for the placement test:

There are numerous websites that contain practice tests and information to help “brush up” on your skills. If a student does not have a computer at home, they can access these materials at their local public library or in the computer labs at Tompkins Cortland.  
Use this site to obtain basic descriptions and sample questions for all the ACCUPLACER CLASSIC tests. Students can also download a free study app.

Go to Guide
To review math, this page provides an overview of the content of MATH090, 095, 100, and 132. There are additional “self-assessments” students can take to practice and links to videos that review the math concepts covered in these courses.
This link is to Passaic County Community College’s website. It provides helpful tabs including: Introduction to Accuplacer, Arithmetic, Algebra, Reading Comprehension, Sentence Skills, and Written Essay and also provides links to other test prep sites. 
Use this site to search for additional practice questions and skills instruction. Type in “Accuplacer practice” or “Accuplacer sample questions.”

General Review Books

Find review/preparation books and software in bookstores and libraries. There are no books available specifically for ACCUPLACER tests; however, materials directed at the TASC (GED), ACT, or “basic skills” may be helpful.