Placement Testing Information
Unless you transfer in college-level credit that waives you from one or more tests, you are required to take several placement tests as part of your START process (Student Testing, Advising, Registration, and Transition) before registering for your first classes.
You should take these tests very seriously and prepare ahead of time so you can do your best. The scores will be used to help decide which courses you may take in your first semester at Tompkins Cortland and may impact how many semesters you will need to complete your degree.
It is extremely important that you and your academic advisor have the most accurate assessment possible of your writing, math, and reading skills when your 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 your 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, make sure the Admissions Office has received official copies of your transcripts from any colleges you have attended, whether or not credit was earned. Of course, we also need your high school transcript or GED as part of the admissions process. And, don’t forget to send us score reports if you took any AP exams while in high school.
NOTE: Please 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 you only have a high school photo ID, please also bring a photocopy of your 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 YOU WILL NOT BE A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE AND DO NOT HAVE YOUR GED, you 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 YOU ARE A STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY, contact Access & Equity Services in the Baker Center for Learning at 607-844-8222, Ext. 4415 or 4283 to arrange accommodations for your placement testing, and to discuss any other needs. Test accommodations must be arranged before your 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 YOUR FIRST LANGUAGE, you will take tests different than those described here for the English and reading sections. Call the Enrollment Services Center at 607-844-6580 to find out about the tests you will need to take.
What you need to know about the placement tests:
You 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; you may work at your 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 you are required to take, you 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 your ability to understand different types of college-level reading materials. You will be given a number of short reading passages followed by questions. The questions will relate to your comprehension of what you have read and your ability to reason from the information in the passage. Your score will help determine whether you need 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 your placement in your initial English course (ENGL099, 098/100, 100 or 101).
Sentences Skills Test (20 questions) - This test assesses your understanding of sentence structure – how sentences are put together and what makes a sentence complete and clear. Your score will help determine whether you need 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 you 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. You will type your essay on the computer. The results of this test will be used in the decision about which writing course you will take in the first semester (ENGL099, 100 or 101).
Arithmetic Test (17 questions) - This test assesses your ability to perform basic arithmetic operations and to solve problems that involve fundamental arithmetic concepts. You may not use a calculator on the test. Problems will involve use of fractions, decimals, and percentages. Your score will help determine whether you need to take a pre-college numerical skills course (MATH090) before taking other math courses required in your program. Use of a calculator is NOT permitted on this test.*
Elementary Algebra (12 questions) – This test assesses your ability to perform algebraic operations. Problems will involve use of integers, rational numbers, monomials and polynomials, factoring, and other algebraic expressions. Your score will help determine whether you need to take a pre-college algebra course (MATH095) before taking other math courses required in your program. Use of a calculator is NOT permitted on this test.*
College-Level Math (20 questions) - This test assesses your proficiency in intermediate algebra through precalculus. Your score will help determine whether you will be placed in Intermediate Algebra (MATH100) or a higher-level math course as required by your 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 you may use, however students usually must know the required formula in order to use the calculator to find the correct answer.
Where you can find materials to help prepare for the placement test:
There are numerous websites that contain practice tests and information to help you “brush up” on your skills. If you do not have a computer at home, you can access these materials at your 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 tests. You 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” you can take to practice and links to videos that review the math concepts covered in these courses.
This link is to Aims Community College’s website. It provides several Accuplacer study guides and resources for: Sentence Skills, Reading, Arithmetic, Elementary Algebra, College Level Math, and Accuplacer sample questions from other colleges. Also, there is a compiled list of resources specifically for Accuplacer math test prep.
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
You can also 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.