University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Additional Information & Frequently Asked Questions about Placement Exams

Additional Information & Frequently Asked Questions

The Mathematics placement assessment will help you and your advisor determine the right Mathematics course for you.

The assessment will take approximately 90 minutes to complete. After the assessment, a targeted Prep and Learning Module is available for you to review and learn material, and to improve placement and eventual course outcomes.

All students are strongly encouraged to spend several hours using the ALEKS Prep and Learning Module. Even if you have achieved placement in your desired course, time spent in ALEKS will better prepare you for your upcoming course and can ultimately lead to better grades.

First of all, RELAX. This is an "assessment," NOT A TEST. The difference is that an assessment is designed to determine what you know. At the end of the ALEKS Placement Assessment, you will have a much better sense of your strengths and weaknesses in math. You will then have a chance to work on those weaknesses. There is really no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the assessment. The most important thing is that you take the assessment seriously and give it an honest effort so that the assessment truly reflects your level of knowledge and math preparedness.

Be honest about your skill level. There is no benefit to cheating on the placement assessment – your only reward will be that you are placed into a math class for which you do not yet have the skills to succeed. Therefore, while you are taking the assessment, do not consult any other source for help (friends, family, internet searches, etc.). The purpose of the placement assessment is to give an accurate measure of your current mathematical skills so that you will be successful in your mathematics courses.

I took the AP Calculus exam. Do I still need to take the ALEKS Placement Assessment?

If you have already sent your AP score to Pitt-Johnstown and it is a 4 or 5, you do not need to take the assessment. If you do not yet have an AP score, you should take the assessment.

Is there a fee to take the Math Placement Assessment?

Yes, there is a one-time $25 fee to take the ALEKS Assessment.  This allows you up to 3 attempts on the assessment.  A successful placement into a higher level math course allows the student the ability to skip a lower level chemistry or math course. 

What topics are covered on the Placement Assessment?

The Placement Assessment covers only pre-calculus topics. Specifically:

  • Whole numbers, fractions, and decimals
  • Percents, proportions, and geometry
  • Signed numbers, linear equations, and inequalities
  • Lines and systems of linear equations
  • Relations and functions
  • Integer exponents and factoring
  • Quadratic and polynomial functions
  • Rational expressions and functions
  • Radicals and rational exponents
  • Exponentials and logarithms
  • Trigonometry (students can earn 0 points here and still qualify for Math 0121)

Will I learn how to use ALEKS before I begin the assessment?

ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial before your placement assessment begins.

Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment?

Yes, you may take up to 3 placement assessments. Only assessments taken before the last add/drop date will be considered for placement. To make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS Prep and Learning Module in between placement assessments so that you can improve your skills.

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 assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. Unlike the SAT or ACT, you cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the assessment without spending time in the Prep and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten or to learn new material.

Must I work in my ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between placement assessments?

Yes, after completing the assessment, you must spend a minimum of 5 hours in your Prep and Learning Module before repeating the assessment.

What if I am a transfer student?

If a student has taken a math or chemistry course and the course transfers as equivalent to ours then placement would be the next course in the sequence. This would hold for either of the following cases:

  • The transfer credits are for a course that is already on our list of “equivalent” courses or:
    • If the course is not on our existing list, but after evaluation by the Chemistry or Math Departments it is deemed equivalent.
    • If a student does not have any math courses that are equivalent, then the student will take the math placement test and we will use those scores for both chemistry and math placement.
  • If a student transfers with an equivalent math course, but no equivalent chemistry courses, the student can take the on-line math placement assessment for their appropriate chemistry placement.

For more information regarding transfer students and placement exams, please contact the Director of Advanced and Continuing Education, Stephanie Korber, at 814-269-7074 or

What if I am an international student?

For information regarding international students and placement exams, please contact our Director of International Recruitment, Sui Chen, at 814-269-7048 or

Are placement assessments timed?

Yes, you have 24 hours to complete a placement assessment once it has begun.

How long will a placement assessment take to complete?

Placement assessments require approximately 90 minutes to complete, but the amount of time will vary by student. There will be a maximum of 30 questions.

What happens if I do not complete the placement assessment in the allotted 24 hours?

You will have to restart the assessment.

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 by ALEKS. You may not receive assistance from friends, family, other websites, textbooks, or any other resource not provided by ALEKS. Using outside resources may lead to improper placement and ultimately course failure.

What is my placement result?

Your placement result is a score based on the number of correct problems. A minimum placement score is required to enroll in any entry-level Mathematics course above Algebra 1 (MATH 0001), as shown below.


Minimum Placement Score

MATH 0002 - College Algebra


MATH 0401 - Discrete Math


MATH 0004 - Precalculus


MATH 0121 - Business Calculus


MATH 0221 - Calculus 1


CHEM 0105 – Prep for Chem


CHEM 0111 – Chemistry 1


How long do I have access to my Prep and Learning Module and the placement assessment?

You will have six months of access from the time of your initial assessment.

What are ALEKS Progress Assessments?

While working in a Prep and Learning Module, you will periodically complete progress assessments to solidify your gains in knowledge.

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. Click on the placement tab on the upper right of the page from within ALEKS. Only your placement assessment results will be used for course placement.

What if I do not place into the course I wanted?

You can use a Prep and Learning Module to review and learn, and you may take another placement assessment to improve your placement result. You may take the placement assessment up to three times. If you still do not achieve the required placement score for the course you want, you will have to take the prerequisite class. Prerequisites are as follows.



MATH 0002 – College Algebra

MATH 0001

MATH 0004 - Precalculus

MATH 0002

MATH 0121 - Business Calculus     

MATH 0002

MATH 0221 - Calculus I

MATH 0004

MATH 0401 - Discrete Math

MATH 0001

I did not place into the class I wanted. Can I take it anyway?

No. To take any of the entry-level courses listed above, you must either achieve the required minimum placement score, or take the prerequisite course.

Can I satisfy a prerequisite for an entry-level mathematics course with transfer credit?

Yes, if the transfer credit for a prerequisite course is approved. See the transfer credit guidelines for Pitt-Johnstown.

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 above is the minimum preparation required for your course! Take advantage of the targeted review and learning features in ALEKS to get a better grade in your class.

Where can I get help with ALEKS?

How do I begin using ALEKS?

1)      Log on the portal .

2)      Search for "ALEKS"

3)      Choose the Johnstown Campus option

4)      Register and pay the $25 testing fee

How do I get my ALEKS placement score?

After you complete the assessment, you will be presented with a pie chart showing your areas of strength and weakness. Your overall assessment score appears at the top of the page. If you have taken the assessment more than once, scores on previous assessments are shown below the pie chart. In this case, your highest assessment score is used for placement purposes.

If you forget your assessment score, you can log in ALEKS again to review your scores.