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Math Placement Test

UMBC requires an ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning (ALEKS PPL) Assessment to determine readiness for mathematics courses. ALEKS PPL is a web-based program that uses artificial intelligence to map a student’s strengths and weaknesses. It is very important that you take this test as soon as possible, and as seriously as possible, as this will place you in the appropriate math course at UMBC.

For students with disabilities seeking accommodations for placement testing, please note that the ALEKS PPL is untimed and extended time accommodations are not necessary. However, students with visual impairments are advised to discuss their access needs with the Office of Student Disability Services in advance to ensure software compatibility with the technology they are using or to explore alternative format testing options.

The Math Placement test is not the same as the Math Diagnostic.  If you are petitioning to repeat a course for the third time, please fill out the form here.

What is the Math Placement Test

The Placement Test covers topics in numerical operations, algebraic operations, geometry, and trigonometry.  It is a 30 question adaptive test designed to pinpoint for UMBC where you should start your math pathway.  It generally takes 60-90 minutes, so please take your time with it and answer every question to the best of your ability.

ALEKS consists of three parts:

  • An Initial Placement Assessment
  • The Prep and Learning Module, an individualized, self-paced online review
  • Access to 2 additional Placement Assessments

UMBC encourages each student to spend time in the Prep and Learning Module, even if the desired score is achieved, because time spent in ALEKS will ultimately lead to better preparation and improved grades.

The Placement Assessment results will be used to determine the most appropriate courses for each student as they move forward with their Math Pathway.

This is a “Placement Assessment,” not a test. The difference is that a Placement Assessment is designed to determine what a student knows and what a student needs to work on. At the end of the ALEKS PPL Assessment, a student will have a much better sense of their strengths and weaknesses in math. Students then have a chance to brush on topics that may have been forgotten or haven’t been practiced for some time.

Be honest when testing. It is important that the Placement Assessment is taken seriously and each student gives it an honest effort so that the Placement Assessment truly reflects their current level of knowledge and math preparedness. There is no benefit to cheating on the Placement Assessment – the only result will be that a student enrolls in a class that is too difficult, or not challenging enough, potentially costing time and money. Therefore, while taking the Placement Assessment, students should not consult any outside sources for help (friends/family, internet searches, textbooks, notes etc…). The purpose of the Placement Assessment is to give an accurate measure of a student’s current mathematical knowledge state so that he/she will be successful in mathematics courses. UMBC takes Academic Integrity very seriously, please click here if you would like to read more about maintaining this integrity while at UMBC.

What Topics are Covered?

ALEKS PPL is an online, adaptive system that covers a broad spectrum of mathematics topics. The length of the Placement Assessment will vary, but can be up to 30 questions. You will see some, but not all, of the math you have learned in high school. It is a Placement Assessment, not a preview of math courses at UMBC. It is designed to identify if you are prepared for a particular course. After you take your first Placement Assessment, you will have the opportunity to review and master additional topics to reassess and improve your placement.

Topics covered:

  • Real numbers (including fractions, integers, and percentages)
  • Equations and inequalities (including linear equations, linear inequalities, systems of linear equations, and quadratic equations),
  • Linear and quadratic functions (including graphs and functions, linear functions, and parabolas), exponents and polynomials (including integer exponents, polynomial arithmetic, factoring, and polynomial equations), rational expressions (including rational equations and rational functions
  • Radical expressions (including higher roots and rational exponents)
  • Exponentials and logarithms (including function compositions and inverse functions, properties of logarithms, and logarithmic equations)
  • Geometry and trigonometry (including perimeter, area, and volume, coordinate geometry, trigonometric functions, and identities and equations).
Do I have to take the Math Placement Test?

All students who are not bringing in a Math Credit, either through AP, transfer, CLEP, or IB, needs to take the Math Placement Test.  This test will help you, and your advisor, decide where to start on the math pathway.

When should I take it?

Since all students are required to take a Math course in their first year at UMBC, you should take the test a few months before your orientation so you can enroll in the appropriate course.  You will receive a letter from Admissions about enrolling into Placement tests.  Please be on the lookout for that letter and try to test as soon as possible.

Should I study for it?

You can review some Algebra before taking this test.  Once you finish, the Aleks program will let you know your current Math level, and then give you a strategic review of what to study before taking your class or retesting.

Can I retake it?

Yes, if you do not feel that you are not placed correctly you can retake the test at least two times.  Before retaking it, you will need to complete at least 5 hours of the Review recommended by the Aleks Placement Test.  Completing this review will help build up your math skills and prepare you for a better start in your Math Course at UMBC.  The Math Placement Assessment is only valid before you start your math pathway.  Once you start a math course, you can no longer challenge the math placement results (unless it is your first math course, and it is still the add/drop period.).

What are the technical requirements to take the test?

Aleks is a web-based program and runs on most computers, browsers, and tablets.  As long as you have access to the internet and are using an updated browser, you should not experience difficulties in taking your Placement Assessment.  For a list of preferred browsers, please review the ALEKS system requirements on their support site:

If you have any technical problems, please contact Aleks support through their website at

Can I practice with Aleks before Starting?

ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial to make sure you are comfortable with the math palette tools before your Placement Assessment begins. The tutorial shows you how to enter different types of answers and how to graph. If you aren’t sure how to input an answer, or need help while you are taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment, select the Help button below the answer pallet tools. Going to the tutorial during your Placement Assessment will NOT impact your Placement Assessment results.

Starting Aleks Math Placement Assessment

What is the Question Format on Aleks?

ALEKS is not a multiple-choice Placement Assessment. It is open-response and requires you to work out solutions with a paper and pencil, then enter them into ALEKS. Be sure to have scratch paper with you.

May I use a Calculator?

Outside Calculators are not permitted during the Placement Assessment.  A calculator will pop up on ALEKS when needed.

May I use any other resources during a Placement Assessment?

You may only use a pen or pencil, paper, and the resources provided within ALEKS. You should not receive assistance from friends, family, other websites, textbooks, or any other resource not provided by ALEKS. Using outside resources will lead to improper placement and potentially course failure. This is also a violation of UMBC’s Academic Integrity Pledge

Can I review a questions after I’ve answered?

Because ALEKS is adaptive, once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Be sure to carefully check your answer before submitting your response.

What If I see questions I don’t know?

It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, I don’t know. On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. I don’t know is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know how to solve the topic, and this will be reflected in the Placement Assessment results. There is no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the Placement Assessment, it only helps ALEKS understand what you know and don’t know.

Is the Placement Assessment Timed?

No, you are free to complete the Placement Assessment at your own pace. Once you begin the test, the system will allow you to access your Placement Assessment for 48 hours. If you need to exit the Placement Assessment for any reason, you will be able to log back in and pick up where you left off.

How do I start!

You will be registered for a Placement Testing Window in Blackboard and will be able to access the test through there.

Before testing, you should determine your placement goal.  This is determined by what math courses are required for your major.  Please visit the link above to get an idea of your placement goal.  Choosing a goal does not lock you into that pathway, but it will help you start at UMBC.

What if I have questions?

Then let us know!  Feel free to call the LRC front office at 410-455-2444 or email us at, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If it is a technical problem, you should contact Aleks through their website at