Frequently Asked Questions


Q&A: Mathematics Placement Testing

Q: What topics are covered on ALEKS?
A: Topics, much of the math you learned in high school are:
     Real numbers: fractions, integers, and percentages;
     Equations and inequalities: linear equations, linear inequalities, systems of linear equations, and quadratic equations;
     Linear and quadratic functions: graphs and functions, linear functions, and parabolas;
     Exponents and polynomials: integer exponents, polynomial arithmetic, factoring, and polynomial equations;
     Rational expressions: rational equations and rational functions;
     Radical expressions: higher roots and rational exponents;
     Exponentials and logarithms: function compositions and inverse functions, properties of logarithms, and logarithmic equations;
     Geometry and trigonometry: perimeter, area, and volume, coordinate geometry, trigonometric functions, and identities and equations.
Q: What are the questions on ALEKS like? 
A: ALEKS is an open-response test (not multiple choice) of (typically) 30 questions. You work problems out with paper and pencil and then enter your answers. Before the assessment begins, ALEKS provides a short tutorial to make sure you know how to enter answers and how to use the online calculator and graphing tool, which come up for items that allow their use. 
Q: Why do I have to take ALEKS? I know some people who don’t have to take it.
A: The only students exempt from ALEKS are those who have satisfied the math requirements of their major—including the Core 3 requirement, or have transferred in coursework that fulfills all the prerequisites of the math courses required by their major.
Q: I think I am exempt, but I still have the Math Placement Test (i.e., ALEKS) in my to-do list. What is wrong?
A: Until your transfer credit has been evaluated, or relevant AP/IB credit has been awarded, the to-do items on your online student account will include the placement test, and you may receive reminders to take it. Whether or not the Math Placement Test appears in your to-do list, you can register for courses. However, you will be blocked from registering for any mathematics course whose prerequisites you have not fulfilled. The placement test appears on your to-do list, because before credit transfer is complete, a qualifying score on ALEKS is only way to fulfill the prerequisites of math courses.
Q: Can I take ALEKS even if I am exempt?
A: You may take ALEKS, even if you don’t need to.  The score would be considered advisory for you, and you could choose to follow its recommendations or not. Taking the assessment for the first time generates a customized learning module for you, and that could be very helpful to you in your review.
Q: What if I don't take ALEKS and I am not exempt?
A: Your registration will be blocked until you have a placement test score or a recognized exemption. If you don’t complete a mathematics course in your first year, you will be out of compliance with state mandates. Depending on your major, this could ultimately hold up your graduation. So, take ALEKS!
Q: What if I missed the deadline to take the placement test?
A: You can still access the placement test the same way, and you should take it immediately! 
Q: I have documented disabilities and require accommodations. How do I get them?
A: If you are a student with a disability in need of assistive technology, such as a screen reader, ALEKS is accessible via reading and writing software. Students with disabilities who have questions regarding accommodations should contact Disability Support Services at 410-704-2638.  
Note: Extra time accommodations are built into the 24-hour timeframe, since the actual test only takes on average 90 minutes.
Q: I just got admitted to TU! When can I take ALEKS?
A: You can take the ALEKS assessment as soon as you have paid the enrollment deposit. For freshmen, to ensure timely enrollment in the appropriate mathematics course for the fall semester, you should complete the test by May. Even if you are waiting for transfer credit to come in, you should take the test; any change can be handled later.
Q: I want to practice before I take ALEKS. What should I practice? 
A: There is no reason to practice first. You have two online attempts, and the very first one you take will generate a customized learning module for you to review. Do the very best you can on that test, so that the learning (review) module that ALEKS constructs for you accurately targets your areas for improvement. In order to access the second online attempt, you must wait at least 48 hours after completing the first assessment and spend at least 5 hours working in the learning module.
Q: How long does it take to complete ALEKS?
A: ALEKS is an adaptive test of approximately 30 questions.  It generally takes approximately 90 minutes to complete, although you have a 24-hour window in which to work.
Q: What happens if I stop taking the test in the middle?
A: You may log out and back in during the 24-hour timeframe, and you can pick up where you left off each time. If you don’t complete the test within 24 hours, no score will be rendered, and you will have to start over. You have not completed the test until you see your score.
Q: You are making it really easy for me to cheat! Why shouldn’t I do that?
A: The obvious reason: You would only be cheating yourself. Seriously. If the answers you put into ALEKS are not actually your own, you will likely end up in a class for which you are unprepared. You will struggle, and data shows, you will likely be unsuccessful and have to repeat a course. Also, the learning module constructed from responses that are not yours will not reflect your needs, so you will lose the opportunity to get a customized learning module.
Q: What if ALEKS is not working?
A: 1. Check to make sure that your Towson University NetID (username) and password are working by logging into you TU online student account. If you are not able to log into your TU online student account, use the recommendations on online student accounts to reset or change your password.     
2. Check the list of supported browsers.  
3. If you are still having difficulty, please contact ALEKS's online customer support or call their support line at 1-800-258-2374.
Q: How do I know my results?
A: When you complete the test, you will immediately see your score, as well as your learning “pie,” the learning module constructed for you. You can always log back into ALEKS to see your score and learning pie.
Q: I took ALEKS. How do I know what the score means?
A: Your score determines what mathematics courses you are eligible to register for, but your major determines what courses you should take. See our special page that displays the most common math pathways and the current cut scores used to determine course eligibility within those pathways.
Q: I am unhappy with my score. Can I take ALEKS again?
A: Yes! Hopefully you did the best you could, so that the learning (review) module that ALEKS constructed for you accurately targets your areas for improvement. In order to access the second online attempt, you must wait at least 48 hours after your first attempt and spend at least 5 hours working in the learning module.
Q: I took ALEKS twice online and I still think I can do better. Can I take it again?
A: Yes! Once again, you need to spend at least 5 hours in the learning modules. To take ALEKS a third (or fourth) time, contact the Mathematics Department at to make an appointment.
Q: What happens if I score lower when I retake ALEKS?
A: The higher score will determine your placement.