Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to common questions about the ALEKS mathematics proficiency test here. If we didn’t answer your burning question, click here to let us know.

Note: If you are an incoming student, you may find this list of FAQ more relevant.

What is ALEKS?

ALEKS stands for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces. It is an adaptive, online, assessment and learning program that Lewis & Clark College uses to accurately place students in classes they are ready for. ALEKS’ Learning Modules help student improve their readiness for their courses. 

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Do I need to take the placement test?

All Category B Science & Quantitative Reasoning general education courses (2019 and before) and many Natural Sciences courses (2020 and later) have a prerequisite of “QR 101 or equivalent” or a higher level math course. To satisfy this prerequisite students must either take the ALEKS placement exam, OR meet one of the conditions below:

  • Successful completion of QR 101 
  • A score of 4 or 5 on an AP exam in Calculus AB or BC
  • A score of 5, 6, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate higher level mathematics exam (IB Math Studies students must still take the assessment)

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What if I don’t do well on the test?

After reviewing the appropriate learning module, you can retake it. Entering students can retake it during the summer and continuing students can retake it on request by emailing   

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What is a “learning module”?

After you take your initial assessment you will be able to access an ALEKS Prep and Learning Module. The modules are adaptive comprehensive tutorials, individually tailored to each student based on assessment results. From the time that you activate your module you will have 12 months of access.

The module provides practice problems and offers explanations of concepts and procedures. You will receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes. As you demonstrate mastery of certain topics, new topics become available. You are able to review topics you have previously or recently mastered at any time. You can also view a detailed progress report for yourself to determine what topics you know, what topics you do not know, and the topics you are ready to learn next. ALEKS will also show you your learning progress history; you can track time spent in ALEKS by day, the topics attempted during that time, and the number of topics mastered.

There are three learning modules available:

  1. Prep for College Algebra
  2. Prep for PreCalculus
  3. Prep for Calculus

ALEKS will suggest a module based on your assessment; however, we suggest that you select Prep for Calculus in order to have the most options for increasing your score. 

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Do I need to use a learning module?

You will be more successful in your math and quantitative courses if your ALEKS score is better than the minimum required. So even if you have placed into the class you want to take, we encourage you to continue to use the appropriate learning module to review and deepen your preparation for your classes! It is recommended that you spend at least 10 - 12 hours in a learning module in order to see significant improvement in your placement score. Try to find 30 - 45 minutes every day to spend in the module, rather than several hours at a time.

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Can I just take QR 101 instead of taking the test?

No.  Even QR 101 requires students to score at least a 30 on the ALEKS placement exam.  If you score under a 30 then you absolutely need to use a learning module and retest.  We do not offer any remedial math courses at Lewis & Clark; if you are unable to achieve a score of 30 then please contact your advisor to discuss your best course of action.

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What is on the test?

ALEKS assesses mastery of a comprehensive set of skills ranging from basic arithmetic up to precalculus, including trigonometry. It places students in classes up to Calculus. The first questions asked will be drawn from across the curriculum, and may be too easy or too hard. As the assessment proceeds, your answers will be used to give the system an idea of your knowledge, and it will gradually focus the questioning in an individually appropriate way. By the end of the assessment you should find the questions generally challenging but reasonable for your individual level of knowledge.

Click here for a list of all the topics on the ALEKS placement exam.

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What if I’ve never learned some of the math on the test?

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 do your best to answer the question, even if you’re not confident in your answer. “I don’t know” is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results.

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Should I review before taking the placement test?

If you would like to refresh your math skills before taking your first assessment you could look over the test topic list to find skills to review. Do not feel that you need to learn all of the skills on the topic list, especially those from courses you’ve never taken; your time is much better spent reviewing familiar material. There are many great online resources for reviewing your math skills, here is a short list of resources we have found useful.

The best strategy is to just take your first assessment in ALEKS. If you don’t achieve the score that you want, you can always review ALEKS’ learning modules and retake the test. 

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How long is the test?

The assessment length varies from student to student. It is usually 30 questions, and should take about 90 minutes to complete in one sitting.

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Can I use a calculator?

Some questions require a calculator; ALEKS provides a calculator when it is needed. You should only use ALEKS’s calculator.

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