Frequently Asked Questions about the UW System Mathematics Placement Test

1. What are the tests used for?

The tests are administered to students after they have been admitted to a UW campus. The placement test is used to place students into the course, ranging from fundamental mathematics to first semester calculus, that is most appropriate for them to begin their college-level mathematics study.

2. Will my students get credit for the placement tests?

No. Placement tests are used for placement only, not proficiency. On some campuses, it may be possible to satisfy a general education requirement with a sufficiently high score on the test, but the placement test itself does not result in college credit. To learn more about general education policies, contact the particular campus of interest.

3. Do all UW campuses use the same test?

All campuses who participate in the placement testing program use the same test; however the cutscores and placement test decisions are campus-specific.

4. Can I find out how my students score?

No. Placement scores are considered part of the student’s confidential record. A student can request that his/her score be sent to you but that request must be in writing and signed by the student. Some campuses provide high schools with summary data on students that attend that college but only if there are enough students to mask individual data and often only on request from the school district.

5. What do the tests measure?

The tests measure elementary, intermediate, and college-level algebra and geometry, and trignometry. A blueprint of the particular objectives and sample questions are provided in the "Description and Samples" booklet.

6. Is the test appropriate for students who completed an integrated/reform mathematics curriculum?

The placement test is designed to predict success in the UW mathematics courses. The test is not modeled after any particular high school curriculum. The test is designed to measure three major competency areas which have been deemed essential for success at the college level: mathematics basics, algebra, and trigonometry (these are defined more fully in the Mathematics Description and Samples or at the Center’s website). To the extent that the high school curriculum emphasizes these objectives, students should be able to demonstrate their mathematical skills.

7 How does this test reflect the Wisconsin State Standards?

The test is not designed to show how well students have mastered the State Standards, nor to assess how well students have mastered the mathematics presented to them in High School. The sole purpose of this test is to determine how well prepared students are to begin taking mathematics courses at a University of Wisconsin campus. Therefore, tests are designed solely with the University of Wisconsin curriculum in mind.

8 Why can’t students use a graphing calculator on the test?

Mathematics curricula and faculty throughout UW are divided on whether or not to permit graphing calculators in classrooms. There remain many college-level courses for which graphing calculators are not allowed. Therefore, students may not use graphing calculators for the mathematics placement test. The test, however, has been designed to allow the use of non-graphing, scientific calculators. Students should be advised to bring their own non-graphing calculator, as calculators may not be provided at the test site.

9. Why isn’t the test computerized?

We are currently working on a model that would allow students attending some campuses the option to take the test on a computer in a proctored environment. The computer based test would be in addition to the paper and pencil test and therefore, paper based testing would not be discontinued. Further, the content of the computer and paper based versions will be the same, thus students will be taking the same test regardless of the platform they choose to test in. Students who opt to test on computer would likely need to pay an additional fee and take the test at an approved testing site, which may be outside of the UW System. We anticipate that computer based testing will be available beginning in the Spring of 2012. Further information will be available on our website as the rollout date gets closer.

10. Why is the test all multiple-choice items?

The mathematics placement test is part of a battery of tests that is given prior to registration and needs to be administered and scored efficiently.

11. Can I get a copy of the test?

No. The tests are secure placement instruments but you can find sample items and the test blueprint in the "Description and Samples" booklet or on our website.

12. Are there preparation materials available?

No. The tests are to determine proper placement and thus it is assumed no special preparation will be done. Students may find a test description and sample items on our website.

13. How is the test developed?

The test is written by a committee consisting of one mathematics professor from each UW System campus and one high school mathematics teacher. The committee has developed and continues to maintain a detailed set of test objectives reflective of University of Wisconsin mathematics curricula, and test items are written to match these objectives. All items are subjected to rigorous item review procedures and are, for purposes of field testing, embedded in actual placement test forms, which are administered to several thousand students. The statistical properties of each item are studied. Only those items that best predict success in mathematics are added to the pool of items that will be considered for inclusion on a future form of the mathematics placement test.