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Math Placement


North Carolina State University 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. The Placement Assessment is up to 30 questions and generally takes 60-90 minutes to complete. After the Placement Assessment, an individualized Prep and Learning Module is available for students to refresh their knowledge on forgotten topics. Students then have the opportunity to retake the assessment up to 3 additional times improve their placement.

ALEKS consists of three parts:

  • An Initial Placement Assessment
  • The Prep and Learning Module, an individualized, self-paced online review
  • Access to 3 additional Placement Assessments

North Carolina State University 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. In order to retake the assessment, students must use the Prep and Learning modules for at least 3 hours between attempts.

What is the purpose of placement testing? The Placement Assessment results will be used to determine the most appropriate courses for each student as they move forward with college coursework. After taking a Placement Assessment, students should meet with their advisor to review their results and enroll in the best classes based on their scores.

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. 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 so that they will be successful in mathematics courses. Please review the NC State Code of Student Conduct:

Who should take the Placement Assessment? All incoming students who need to take calculus for their desired major should take the Placement Assessment in order to enroll in the appropriate math course. After taking the Placement Assessment and initially enrolling in a math course, you may earn placement in a higher level math course through AP calculus exam scores or transfer credit. However, not taking the Placement Assessment and instead waiting for transfer credit or AP credit to post to your account means possibly not enrolling in a math class until July or August when available seats can be scarce.

Thus, even if you anticipate this situation occurring, you should still plan on taking the Placement Assessment to avoid delays in enrolling in a math course. Once your AP credit or transfer credit posts to your account, you will be able to adjust your schedule accordingly.

How do I take the Placement Assessment? Using the link below, you will be asked to log in with your NCSU email address and password and will be taken to the placement assessment in ALEKS. There is a short practice tutorial before your assessment begins. You may have up to 4 attempts, but between attempts there is a 48 hour ‘cool-off’ period when you will be unable to access the test. Between attempts you must also use the Prep and Learning Modules for 3 hours between  each attempt and again for 5 hours between subsequent attempts. More FAQs about the assessment are found below.




Why must I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment? The Placement Assessment is used to determine the mathematics course in which you will have the greatest success. Upon completion of the Placement Assessments, your scores are sent to your academic advisor. Your advisor will review your scores and help make appropriate recommendations for course registration.

Who has to take the ALEKS PPL Assessment? All incoming students must take the ALEKS PPL Assessment.

When do I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment? In order to enroll in a math course, you must have completed the ALEKS PPL Assessment and qualified for the course. Enrollment begins in early June so we recommend you to complete your Placement Assessments by mid-May, allowing yourself enough time to retake it as necessary.

Is there a fee for using ALEKS PPL? There is currently no fee for the use of ALEKS.

Do I need to install any software or plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment? No. There are no required plug-ins or applets required with your use of ALEKS PPL. 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:

What topics are covered during the ALEKS PPL Assessment? 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 NC State. 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).

Can I practice using the ALEKS input tools before I begin the Placement Assessment? 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, how to use the ALEKS calculator, 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 palette tools. Going to the tutorial during your Placement Assessment will NOT impact your Placement Assessment results.

Taking the Placement Assessment

What is the format of the questions 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 while using ALEKS? ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem. Otherwise, you may not use a calculator.

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.

Can I review a question after I’ve answered it? 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.

Are Placement Assessments timed? No, you are free to complete the Placement Assessment at your own pace. Most people need 60-90 minutes to complete the Assessment and we strongly recommend doing it in one sitting. However, 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.

What happens if I do not complete a Placement Assessment in the allotted time? You will have to restart the Placement Assessment. An incomplete Assessment will not count as an attempt.

Placement Result

What is my placement result?
Your placement result (overall score) is a number between 0 and 100. It represents the percentage of topics ALEKS has identified you have mastered.

Course placement is determined as follows:

0 60 75 100
MA 107  (scores of 0-60 permitted but we recommend scores of 45-60)  
MA 111 (score 0-75 permitted but we recommend scores of 61-75)  
  MA 121, MA 131, or MA 151  (scores of 61-100)
  MA 141  (scores of 76-100)

The placement test is not required for entry into MA 103, 105, 107, 111, and 114 is allowed with any placement test score but taking the placement test is required of all incoming students. Because students often change plans of study or add second majors, taking the placement test and doing as well as you can on it is encouraged even if you don’t anticipate needing to take calculus.

For a greater chance of success in MA 107 and MA 111, we encourage you to use the Prep and Learning Modules to score within the recommended range described in the above chart.

The math course you should take depends on your major, your academic goals, and more. Please work with your academic advisor to determine the right course for you based on your placement results and these factors.

Where can I see my score? You will receive your score immediately upon completion of your Placement Assessment. Your ALEKS score can also be viewed by re-entering ALEKS using the same access link for which you took the Placement Assessment.

What if I do not place into the course I wanted? This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Prep and Learning Modules offered within ALEKS PPL. An individualized study plan will be created based on your performance on the Initial Placement Assessment. ALEKS will identify what you know and what you are ready to learn next so you can brush up on lost knowledge.  After using the Prep and Learning modules for at least 3 hours, you will be able to retake the assessment.

I did not place into the class I wanted. Can I take it anyway? No, you must achieve the minimum placement result to take each corresponding class. However, as described above you can use the Prep and Learning modules for at least 3 hours and then retake the placement assessment.

Which math course is required for my program? You can explore degree requirements for different programs at

What if I placed into the class I wanted? Congratulations! Continue to use your Prep and Learning Module to improve your chances for success. The placement result required is the minimum preparation for your course. Take advantage of the individualized review and learning features in ALEKS to get a better grade in your class.

Can I retake the ALEKS PPL Assessment? Yes, you may take up to 4 Placement Assessments. However, to make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments so that you can improve your skills. Between each attempt, you must spend at least 3 hours in the Prep and Learning Modules.

Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment immediately? You must wait 48 hours between Placement Assessments. There is generally no benefit to re-taking the Placement Assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. You cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the Placement Assessment without spending time in the Prep and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten.

Prep and Learning Modules

How long do I have access to my Prep and Learning Module?
You will have six months of access to your Prep and Learning module. Access to the prep course will not begin until you select start on the top of your screen. DO NOT select into the Prep and Learning Module until you are ready to start working.

Is there an additional fee for my Prep and Learning Module? Access to a Prep and Learning Module is included along with the additional Placement Assessments.

Must I work in my ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments? You can retake the Placement assessment up to three additional times to improve your score. (The highest score will be used for math placement). Students are required to work in the Prep and Learning Modules for 3 hours between each assessment to increase success.

What are ALEKS Knowledge Checks? While working in a Prep and Learning Module, you will periodically complete a Knowledge Check to make sure you have mastered the topics you gained in Learning Mode. If you do not show mastery during the Knowledge Check, the topics will be added back into your Learning Pie so you can review them again.

Does progress in an ALEKS Prep and Learning Module count toward placement? No. You must complete a new Placement Assessment to change your placement result. Select the placement tab in the upper right corner of the ALEKS page to start a new Placement Assessment.

Can I change to a different Prep and Learning Module later? No. You may only use one Prep and Learning Module. If you are unsure which module to select, use the module recommended by ALEKS or consult with your advisor.

Technical Support

What do I do if my web browser gets stuck or my computer crashes while I’m taking the Placement Assessment?

Where can I get help with ALEKS?