What is a Placement Test?

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  • Written By: K'Lee Banks
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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A placement test is one taken to determine where a student ranks in a variety of particular subjects, as well as in basic academic and career skills. For instance, many home schooling parents administer placement tests to their K-12 students in areas such as reading, writing, language skills, and math. Grade 8 public school students often take placement tests in similar areas prior to advancing to high school, while most incoming students for any college or university must take some form of college placement tests to determine if they have at least entry-level skills for English, reading, and math. The placement test results act as an initial student evaluation to ascertain eligibility for specific certificate or degree programs. Likewise, career placement tests help high school and college students, or other individuals, assess aptitudes, interests, personalities, and skills for a variety of potential jobs.


An advanced placement (AP) test can give a student an advantage as he or she enters a college or university setting. High school students may choose to take college-level AP courses in a variety of subjects, and then complete AP tests, typically in May. Test results are then usually available by July, providing students with valuable data for prospective college acceptance and placement. Excellent AP test results receive favorable attention from college admissions personnel, and can often earn students college credits, as well as placement in upper level courses. AP tests, therefore, provide a “win-win” situation for students and the prospective colleges or universities these students choose to attend.

A computerized placement test (CPT) provides a convenient means for a student to fulfill the requirement to provide placement test scores to prospective colleges or universities. Although obviously computer-based, the CPT may not be completed independently by the student; a proctor must administer and supervise the test. The CPT is not a timed test, but the student should plan on spending three to four hours to complete it. CPT results provide insight into a student’s current skill levels and knowledge in reading, sentence skills, math, and science.

Anyone considering entering college should plan on taking a college placement test. The test is available in several formats, with some available internationally, and others relevant to particular regions within a specific country. Some tests focus on one subject area, while others cover all the basic or primary academic skills, such as reading, writing, and math. Accuplacer® is one of the most well-known college placement tests, available worldwide, to evaluate a student’s abilities and knowledge in areas including reading comprehension, sentence skills, college math, and algebra. Placement test results from Accuplacer® help academic advisors determine the best course selections for the student’s abilities.


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