What is the ACCUPLACER test? A Guide for 2023

April 16, 2023

accuplacer test

SAT. ACT. PSAT. AP Exams. Whether you are applying to college for the first time or are in the midst of transferring, you are probably familiar with the alphabet soup that is standardized testing. However, there is one exam that may be new to you: the ACCUPLACER test. If you are just learning about the ACCUPLACER test, fear not! In this post, you’ll find answers to all of your questions from, “What is the ACCUPLACER test?” to “What is a good score on the ACCUPLACER?” Let’s dive in!

What is the ACCUPLACER test?

The ACCUPLACER is a series of placement tests administered by the College Board that colleges may require of admitted students. By evaluating students’ skills in reading, writing, and math, ACCUPLACER helps administrators determine students’ readiness for college-level work and place them in appropriate courses.

Unlike other standardized tests, the ACCUPLACER does not typically have any bearing on a student’s admission to a college. Rather, the ACCUPLACER gauges students’ knowledge in various subjects so that they can be placed in courses that will best support their learning. However, colleges may require that students earn a minimum score on ACCUPLACER tests to gain placement in certain courses. Those minimums are determined by colleges on an individual basis.

If you are planning to enroll in a public college or university in Texas, please note that a different placement test, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment 2.0 (TSIA2), may be required.

Who should take the ACCUPLACER test?

Now that we have our answer to “What is the ACCUPLACER test?” you’re probably wondering whether you should take it. Because the ACCUPLACER gauges students’ college readiness, it may be required of students in a variety of circumstances including:

  • First-year college students who are newly enrolled at a two-year or four-year college
  • College students who are transferring to a new university
  • High school students who are interested in taking dual enrollment courses
  • EFL (English as a foreign language) students

Required is the keyword in that sentence. Students cannot voluntarily sign up for the exam if their university does not require it. For that reason, the question isn’t “Who should take the ACCUPLACER test?” but rather “Who must take the ACCUPLACER test?”

Why is the ACCUPLACER important?

As a student, the ACCUPLACER may feel like yet another hurdle to jump during the college enrollment process. However, the ACCUPLACER is a tool intended to help, rather than deter, you. By measuring your knowledge and skills, the ACCUPLACER facilitates effective course placement for you. Essentially, the ACCUPLACER will ensure that you aren’t placed in courses that are too difficult or easy for your current skill level, which can waste time and money.

What content does the ACCUPLACER cover?

This post hinges on a central question: “What is the ACCUPLACER test?” However, the answer to that question is actually a bit of a moving target. Since colleges can decide which subjects students will be tested on, the ACCUPLACER may consist of different materials depending on where you are enrolled. Outlined below is a list of topics that may be covered in each ACCUPLACER test.

Multiple Choice Tests

The Reading test will evaluate students’ ability to glean meaning from various texts through four categories of multiple-choice questions:

  • Information and ideas
  • Rhetoric
  • Synthesis
  • Vocabulary

The Writing test gauges students’ proficiency in revising texts. Students will be evaluated in two categories:

  • Expression of ideas, which includes development of texts, organization, and use of effective language.
  • Standard English conventions, which encompasses local elements of writing, including sentence structure and punctuation.

There are also a range of Math tests that students may complete. They include:

  • An Arithmetic test, which evaluates knowledge of computation, order of operations, and the comparison of values in differing formats. Topics include whole number, fraction, and decimal operations, as well as number comparisons and equivalents.
  • The Quantitative Reasoning, Algebra, and Statistics (QAS) test, which assesses knowledge of topics such as rational numbers, exponents, algebraic expressions, descriptive statistics, and geometry concepts.
  • The Advanced Algebra and Functions (AAF) test, which measures skills in linear equations, quadratics, functions, and trigonometry.

Some schools may require English language learners to take ACCUPLACER’s ESL tests to evaluate their proficiency in sentence meaning, English language use, and listening.

In addition to these multiple-choice tests, some students may be required to complete the WritePlacer Essay, in which students draft an essay in response to a prompt of their choice. There is also a version of the WritePlacer Essay designed for non-native speakers.

Is the ACCUPLACER test hard?

While your first question was probably, “What is the ACCUPLACER test?” your next likely concern is how difficult it is. Whether students find the ACCUPLACER test difficult will depend on their comfort with the required subjects and multiple-choice tests. The test is also taken on a computer, which may be to a student’s advantage or disadvantage depending on their level of technological proficiency. However, when considering the difficulty of the ACCUPLACER test, its content is perhaps less important than its format. The ACCUPLACER is adaptive, meaning your answers will determine the difficulty of subsequent questions. For example, if you answer multiple questions correctly, then you will receive more challenging questions. Conversely, entering incorrect answers will result in less difficult questions.

So, is the ACCUPLACER test hard? Yes, in the sense that the test will adapt to your responses to evaluate your skills.

How long is the ACCUPLACER test?

The ACCUPLACER test, with the exception of the WritePlacer Essay, does not have a time limit. As a result, students can take their time and answer questions to the best of their ability. However, because of its adaptive nature, the ACCUPLACER does not allow students to return to previous questions and change answers. Therefore, students should take advantage of their unlimited time to avoid careless errors.

What is a good score on the ACCUPLACER?

We can’t fully answer, “What is the ACCUPLACER test?” without explaining its scoring. Students who take the ACCUPLACER will receive individual scores for each test they complete. For example, if a student completed the Reading test, QAS test, and the WritePlacer Essay, they would receive three scores. ACCUPLACER tests are also scored instantaneously, so students will not have to wait for their results.

Reading, Writing, and Math tests are all scored on a range of 200-300. Within that range, there are five score bands, which reflect varying levels of proficiency within a given subject:

  • 200-236
  • 237-249
  • 250-262
  • 263-275
  • 276-300

For a thorough discussion of these score ranges and their meaning, students can consult the ACCUPLACER Skills Insight™ document.

In contrast, the WritePlacer Essay is scored on a scale of 1-8 based on five components of writing:

  • Purpose and focus
  • Organization and structure
  • Development and support
  • Mechanical Conventions
  • Critical thinking

Similarly, the WritePlacer ESL Essay is evaluated on a scale of 1-6. Finally, the multichoice ESL tests have a potential score range from 20-120.

Now that we’ve covered the scoring system, we can return to that idea of a “good” score. Believe it or not, you cannot pass or fail the ACCUPLACER! Colleges may assign a minimum score for placement in courses, but there is no definitive threshold for a passing score. Generally, ACCUPLACER scores are more descriptive than evaluative. By this, we mean that scores describe what skills or knowledge a student already has to aid course placement.

With that idea in mind, let’s circle back to our original question: “What is a good score on the ACCUPLACER?” We would argue that a “good” score on the ACCUPLACER is one that accurately reflects a student’s current knowledge, regardless of what score range it falls in.

Where do I sign up?

As noted previously, not all colleges use ACCUPLACER, and those that do may only utilize some of its testing materials. For this reason, students will need to sign up for the exam through their college. Students will usually take the test in person at their university, though they may also be able to complete their exam at an approved testing center. Information on placement test requirements, including the ACCUPLACER, can typically be found through a college’s advising department or testing center.

How can I prepare?

The College Board provides several materials that can help students prepare for the ACCUPLACER. First, determine the minimum scores needed for introductory classes at your college. Next, read the Skills Insight™ document to identify what skills you’ll need to be proficient in to earn that score. Knowing which skills to prioritize can help you conduct more targeted preparation.

With that information in hand, you can then make your way through the study materials College Board provides. These materials include practice tests, as well as subject-specific guides and sample questions.

Final Thoughts – What is the ACCUPLACER test?

What is the ACCUPLACER test? The ACCUPLACER is an adaptable placement test that measures students’ proficiency in reading, math, and writing. Colleges that use ACCUPLACER do so to ensure students enroll in courses that are appropriate for their current skill level.

Again, not all colleges use the ACCUPLACER. Therefore, it’s important that students verify what placement tests they will need to complete upon enrollment. This is especially important for transfer students, since entry requirements can vary widely from school to school. If you are a current or prospective transfer student, the following Dataverse resources may be helpful in gathering this information: