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Placement Test Dilemma

It’s a stressful time of year for high school seniors: prom dates, graduation ceremonies, college orientations, and the dreaded college placement tests.  Most colleges require them, and some schools allow students to take them online.  My advice to high school seniors in this position is to resist the urge to have your tutor sit with you while you take the placement test or worse yet, have someone else take your placement test for you.  Yes, you may run the risk of prolonging registration for the required courses for your major.  But you also run the risk of struggling through your freshman year courses.

Imagine this.  You barely make it through math class your entire high school career, but you are accepted into the college of your choice.  You receive a letter in the mail with dates and instructions for taking your math placement test.  You are nervous, but excited that you can take the test online.  You decide to hire a tutor to help you through your test, or you ask your cousin, friend, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle to take the test for you.  You beg them!!!  They agree and you place into Calculus 1. 

 You get to class on the first day and can’t begin to decipher what the professor just said or what he or she just wrote on the board.  Your heart races and you begin to panic!  You can’t go to the department head and admit that you didn’t actually take the placement test or that someone helped you through the entire test, so you suck it up and see it through.  You get a D in the course, but you have to take it over because you can’t move on until you get a C or better.  You’re right back where you were before the first day of class.

 Many people come to me and request my help for the placement test and I refuse.  Students need to be placed where they belong, even if it prolongs their plans of pursuing a degree in their desired major.  Oftentimes, my college students have placed into precalculus and can’t even solve a basic algebraic equation, let alone understand the concepts of functions.  But they press through, get a D, and beg for a C so they can move on.  Unfortunately, my hands are tied (I have guidelines I must follow).  Although they never admit that someone else took their placement test or helped them through it, I know there is no way they were placed into precalculus based upon their skill level.

The best advice is to review and practice material you already learned and do your best on the placement test!