So You Need to Take a Placement Test.
Many times, students (or soon-to-be students) have asked me what they need to do in order to study for an upcoming placement test, because they want to "pass". But this question misses the point.
The purpose of a placement test is to determine how much you know and how well you know it. There is no "passing" or "failing" on a placement test. A placement test serves only to "place" you in one math class or another. It does not attempt to judge how "smart" or "dumb" you are; it does not attempt to say how much you can accomplish in the future; it only judges, based on the experience of those writing the test, which math class would best serve your educational needs right now.
The placement test does not try to "grade" your knowledge; instead, it tries to determine what your current knowledge is. Maybe it's been twenty years since you graduated high school. Maybe you're fine with fractions and percentages, but have forgotten "that stuff with the variables". Ideally, the placement test will measure your current skill set, determine that you do not need any remedial classes, and will place you in a pre-algebra or beginning algebra class. Or maybe you just graduated high school last fall. Maybe
you aced your AP Calculus course, and still remember all of it. Then the placement test will measure this, determine that you do not need algebra or pre-calculus, and will place you somewhere in the calculus series. Copyright © Elizabeth Stapel 2002-2011 All Rights Reserved
There is no "passing" or "failing" with a placement test; there is only "placing".
By way of illustration, I was wondering some years ago on what level my homeschooled son was reading. I found a web site that had a reading test which was composed of a long list of groups of words. The instructions said that the child being tested was to read through the groups of words until he finally hadn't been able to read a certain number of words. From this stopping point, the current reading level could be determined. The point of that test had not been to "pass" or to "fail" a young reader or to criticise his abilities or potential, but to measure (to "place") his current reading abilities. When my son ground to a halt midway down the table, he had not "failed" the test; quite to the contrary, he had done quite well for his age; but the real point of the test was that I then knew on what level he could read. Some "score" was not the point; the measurement was point.