Incoming University of Nevada, Reno students are initially placed into math courses primarily according to their ACT or SAT scores. Students wishing to place into a higher math course can take a placement assessment as a secondary placement measure. Effective April 1, 2021, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics uses ALEKS PPL for its placement assessment, and the University Testing Center administers the assessment on the department’s behalf. Please read the information on this page carefully, as the process has changed from previous years.
The University uses ALEKS PPL for math placement only. Contact the Department of English for information about alternative placement options for first-year writing courses.
About ALEKS PPL
What is ALEKS PPL?
ALEKS PPL (Placement, Preparation, and Learning) is a web-based program that uses artificial intelligence to map a student’s strengths and weaknesses in mathematics. The placement assessment consists of up to 30 questions, and generally takes 60-90 minutes to complete. After completing the initial placement assessment, students have access to an individualized prep and learning module to refresh their knowledge. Students then have the opportunity to reassess and improve their placement.
ALEKS consists of three parts:
- The initial placement assessment
- The prep and learning module, an individualized, self-paced online review
- Access to 2 additional placement assessments (for a total of 3)
The University encourages students to spend time in the prep and learning module, even if the desired score is achieved, because time spent in ALEKS will ultimately lead to better preparation and improved grades to place into a higher course.
What is the purpose of the placement assessment?
All degree-seeking students must complete the University’s core math requirement prior to graduating. The placement assessment results will be used to determine the most appropriate course for each student to enter the core math sequence. After taking a placement assessment, students should meet with their advisor to review their results and enroll in the best classes based on their scores.
ALEKS is a placement assessment, not a test. The difference is that a placement assessment is designed to determine what a student knows, and what a student needs to work on. At the end of the ALEKS PPL assessment, a student will have a much better sense of their strengths and weaknesses in math. Students then have a chance to brush up on topics they may have forgotten or haven’t practiced for some time.
Be honest when taking the placement assessment. It is important that the placement assessment is taken seriously and each student gives their honest effort, so their score truly reflects their current level of knowledge and math preparedness. There is no benefit to cheating on the placement assessment; the only result will be that a student enrolls in a class that is too difficult, or not challenging enough, potentially delaying graduation and costing money. Therefore, while taking the placement assessments, students cannot consult any outside sources for help (friends/family, internet, textbooks, notes, etc.). The purpose of the placement assessment is to give an accurate measure of students’ knowledge and skills in math, so they will be successful in university-level mathematics courses.
Preparing for ALEKS
Why must I take the ALEKS PPL assessment?
The placement assessment is used to determine the initial course in the core math sequence where you will have the greatest success. Upon completing a placement assessment, your scores are sent to your academic advisor. Your advisor will review your scores and help make appropriate recommendations for course enrollment.
Who is (and is not) allowed to take the ALEKS PPL assessment?
Students who wish to place into a higher math course than the one indicated by their ACT or SAT scores are encouraged to take the placement assessment. Students who do not have ACT or SAT scores, or who are entering the University as first-year students several years after completing high school, should take the placement assessment. Transfer students should take the placement assessment only if they are not transferring in any college-level math credits.
The placement assessment is for initial placement only, to determine where students should enter the math sequence. Students cannot take the placement test once they have begun a course in the math sequence. The placement assessment is not a credit-by-exam option, and cannot be used to replace courses in the math sequence.
When and where do I take the ALEKS PPL assessment?
The first step is to enroll in the ALEKS PPL orientation mini-course in Canvas, the University’s learning management system (LMS). This mini-course will provide you with additional information about the placement process.
Once you have completed the orientation mini-course and your ALEKS PPL account is set up, you have three options for taking the placement assessment:
- In Reno, proctored in person at the University Testing Center on the main campus.
- In Las Vegas, proctored in person at the Southern Nevada Office for Prospective Students.
- At home, proctored remotely with a lockdown browser and webcam monitoring.
You may take the placement assessment a total of 3 times. After each attempt, engage in your customized prep and learning module for at least 5 hours over a 48-hour period before you can take the placement assessment again.
Is there a fee for using ALEKS PPL?
Your ALEKS PPL account and the customized prep and learning modules are included in your student fees.
There is no charge to take the placement assessment in person in Reno and Las Vegas. For remote proctoring, there is a one-time $5 fee, paid just before your placement assessment begins.
Do I need to install any software or plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS placement assessment?
As long as you have an internet connection and are using an updated web browser, you should not experience difficulties in using the customized prep and learning module.
If you are taking the placement assessment at home with a lockdown browser and webcam monitoring, you will also need to use a desktop or laptop computer (mobile devices are not compatible) with a webcam and a microphone. If you are taking the placement assessment in Reno or Las Vegas, a computer will be provided for you.
Please review ALEKS PPL’s system requirements for more information.
What topics are covered during the ALEKS PPL assessment?
ALEKS PPL is an online, adaptive system that covers a broad spectrum of mathematics topics. The length of the placement assessment will vary, but can be up to 30 questions. You will see some, but not all, of the math you learned in high school. It is a placement assessment, not a preview of math courses at the University. It is designed to identify if you are prepared for a particular course. After you take your first placement assessment, you will have the opportunity to review and master additional topics to reassess and improve your placement.
Topics on the ALEKS PPL assessment Topic covered Including 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, 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.
Can I practice the ALEKS input tools before I begin the placement assessment?
ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial to make sure you are comfortable with the math palette tools before your placement assessment begins. The tutorial shows you how to enter different types of answers, how to use the ALEKS calculator, and how to graph. If you aren’t sure how to input an answer, or need help while you are taking the ALEKS placement assessment, select the Help button below the answer palette tools. Going to the tutorial during your placement assessment will not impact your placement assessment results.
Taking the placement assessment
What is the format of the questions on ALEKS?
ALEKS is not a multiple-choice placement assessment. It is open-response and requires you to work out solutions with a paper and pencil, then enter them into ALEKS. Be sure to have scratch paper with you.
May I use a calculator while using ALEKS?
ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular question. 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 within ALEKS. You should 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 potentially course failure. It is also a violation of the University’s academic standards policy.
Can I review a question after I have answered it?
Because ALEKS is adaptive, once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Be sure to carefully check your answer before submitting your response.
What if I see questions I don’t know?
It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions, it is appropriate to answer I don’t know. On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to try your best to answer it. I don’t know is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know how to solve the topic, and this will be reflected in the placement assessment results. There is no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the placement assessment, it only helps ALEKS understand what you know and don’t know.
Are placement assessments timed?
You have 3 hours to complete each placement assessment, though it typically takes 60-90 minutes and is never longer than 30 questions.
What happens if I do not complete a placement assessment in the allotted time?
If your time expires, you will still be given a placement result, but it will not be a true reflection of your abilities.
I am ready to start the placement process. How do I begin?
To begin, email the University Testing Center at email@example.com. Please include the word “ALEKS” in the subject line. In the body of the email, please include your full name, date of birth, and NSHE ID number (this is your university ID number and consists of ten numerical digits).
Once we receive your email, we will enroll you in the ALEKS PPL orientation mini-course in Canvas. This mini-course will provide instructions for setting up your ALEKS PPL account, scheduling an appointment to take the placement assessment in person, and how to set up remote proctoring.
Please allow 1 business day for us to enroll you in the mini-course. For example, if you email us on Friday, we will enroll you in the mini-course by the end of the day on Monday.
Scores and placement
What does my score mean?
Your placement result (overall score) is a number between 0 and 100. It represents the percentage of topics ALEKS has identified you have mastered. It does not represent the number of questions you answered correctly or incorrectly.
Where can I find my score?
You will receive your score immediately upon completion of your placement assessment. Your ALEKS score can be viewed by logging into your ALEKS account. Your scores will also be added to your student records, which are accessible by your academic advisor.
How long is my placement result valid?
Your placement result is valid for 2 years.
What if I don’t place into the course I wanted?
This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the prep and learning module offered within ALEKS PPL. An individualized study plan will be created based on your placement result. ALEKS will identify what you know and what you are ready to learn so you can brush up and attempt the placement assessment again.
What if I placed into the course I wanted?
Congratulations! Your ALEKS account gives you 6 months of access, and we recommend continuing to use your prep and learning module to improve your chances for success in your course. The placement result is the minimum preparation for the course. Take advantage of the individualized review and learning features in ALEKS to get a better grade in your class.
Can I retake the ALEKS PPL placement assessment?
Yes, you may take the placement assessment up to 3 times (the initial assessment and up to 2 retakes). However, to make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS prep and learning module between placement assessments so that you can improve your skills.
Can I retake the placement assessment immediately?
There is generally no benefit to retaking the placement assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. You cannot improve your results by simply retaking the placement assessment without spending time in the prep and learning module to refresh material that you may have forgotten.
You must wait 48 hours between placement assessments, and during that 48-hour period, you must engage in your customized prep and learning module for a minimum of 5 hours.
Prep and learning module
How long do I have access to my customized prep and learning module?
You will have 6 months of access to your prep and learning module. Access to the prep course will not begin until you select Start on the top of your screen. Only enter the prep and learning module when you are ready to start working.
Is there an additional fee for my prep and learning module?
No, there is no additional fee for the prep and learning module.
Must I work in my prep and learning module between placement assessments?
Yes, you can retake the placement assessment up to 2 additional times to improve your score. The highest score will be used for math placement.
Students are required to work in the prep and learning module for 5 hours prior to each placement assessment to increase success.
What are ALEKS knowledge checks?
While working in a prep and learning module, you will periodically complete a knowledge check to make sure you have mastered the topics you gained in the module. If you do not show mastery during the knowledge check, the topics will be added back into your learning pie so you can review them again.
Does progress in the prep and learning module count toward placement?
No, you must complete a new placement assessment to change your placement result. Select the placement tab in the upper right corner of the ALEKS page to start a new remotely-proctored placement assessment, or make an appointment to take it in person in Reno or Las Vegas.
Can I change to a different prep and learning module later?
No, you may only use one prep and learning module. If you unsure which module to select, use the module recommended by ALEKS or consult with your proctor.
What do I do if my web browser gets stuck or my computer crashes while I’m taking the placement assessment?
If you are taking the placement assessment at home, simply close the browser, or log out and log back in. If you are taking the placement assessment in person, raise your hand and the testing center staff will assist you. In both cases, ALEKS will resume the placement assessment where you left off, with no loss of your previous answers.
You can also contact ALEKS directly with technical questions.
What happened to ACCUPLACER?
Effective April 1, 2021, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics discontinued using ACCUPLACER as a placement assessment. Students who have existing appointments to take ACCUPLACER in person in Reno or have been issued vouchers to take ACCUPLACER remotely will still be able to take ACCUPLACER. ACCUPLACER vouchers are valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
After March 31, 2021, the University Testing Center will no longer schedule appointments or issue remote vouchers for ACCUPLACER, and the University will not accept ACCUPLACER scores transferred from other institutions.
Existing ACCUPLACER scores remain valid for two years from the date the score was obtained.
I took the ALEKS placement assessment at another institution. Can I transfer my scores in?
Yes, as long as the score is less than two years old. ALEKS scores from other institutions will be evaluated according to the University’s cut scores, which may differ from the cut scores of the original institution. Please contact the University Testing Center for more information about transferring in ALEKS scores from other institutions.