Who has taken a math placement test? I need help!

Here’s the deal, I’m going back to school this fall to take pre-reqs. for a radiation therapy program. Everything is all lined up so that I can apply to the program on Dec. 1 (they count spring classes), but I have one problem…algebra.

The math class I need is called Math 153 and it’s an intermediate algebra class. The pre-req. for it is Math 111, which is an intro to algebra class. As of right now I can’t even sign up for 111 because I have no math on my transcript. They told me I have to take a placement test to see where my skills are and what class is appropriate for me.

If I have to take 111, that means I’ll take 153 in the spring, which leaves out the trigonometry class that I need as a pre-req. This one class could put me back a whole year in applying to this program.

The problem is that I never took much math in high school and in college I took the one required course three times and finally passed with a D. Yeah, pretty bad, I know. But I want so badly to test into this 153 class that I have bought an intro to algebra book and an intermediate algebra book and have been doing nothing but studying for the past four days or so. I want to take the test next Wed. I know it’s a long shot, but I am going to study like hell to get into that 153 class.

For those who have taken math placement tests, what was it like? I was told they do it on a computer and it uses your answers to give you the next problem and then stops when you are unable to answer any more. I have no idea what exact material will be on it, so I can’t study specifics.

And for any algebra whizzes, what should I concentrate on?

I’d appreciate any help you can give. Thanks in advance.

I’d go for something like an Algebra for Dummies book. It will concentrate on the most central concepts. I have a friend who is an MD, but retired to go into public health. When she applied for the MPH program, she used Calculus for Dummies to help bring her back up to speed.

Consider, while you’re doing this, that you don’t just have to place into a higher math, you have to actually not need the lower course if you don’t want to be SOL in the other one.

You may find these GRE Math review materials helpful, especially the Arithmetic and Algebra sections http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/GRE/pdf/GREmathPractice.pdf

I found it very helpful in preparing for the GRE. Note that this booklet and its exercises are a straightforward review of the math. Actual GRE questions tend to be tricky applications of the math to test reasoning skills. I wouldn’t expect your placement test to be like the GRE in that way, so I wouldn’t recommend wandering around the GRE site for practice tests.

You may be able to get an outline from the testing center of the body of knowledge they are testing on. It can’t hurt to ask.

Also, if your answers to the first questions determine the questions to come, try your darnedest not to miss any of the first 5. With the GRE, this is essential to getting a high score. If you miss early questions, you won’t get enough hard questions to earn a high score. Your test sounds like a similar computerized program.

Good luck!

The tip for studying math that I stress to my students (I’ve been tutoring math for the past five years or so) is that math books are, in fact, actual books. You’re meant to read them! Hopefully, the book that you have has lots of examples worked out for you in it. Read through the examples. Right them out in your own notes, step by step. With each step, ask yourself if you understand how the author gets from Point A to Point B before you move on. It takes a little bit of extra time, but it seems to have helped a lot of other non-mathy people get through learning basic math. Good luck! If you have any specific problems that you’d like help with, feel free to PM me.

This is the right answer. In a lot of other subjects, the exact order you take classes in isn’t incredibly essential, but at this level of math, you can’t pass without knowing the prerequisite material.

But, if you’re willing to put some study time in, you might be better off taking the CLEP test. A lot of colleges will grant you credit for the appropriate classes if you pass them.

I was always mediocre at math until I finallly realized that the problems are there for a reason. If I did all my homework and asked questions, I had no problems making A’s. (and I’m now an engineer and have taken advance calculus classes and diffeq) Work lots and lots of problems, it’ll be much easier.

That said, Zsofia, has a real point. No point in squeaking by on the placement test and then struggling in 153 and having to take it over. If you’re really having trouble with the concepts, you’d be much better off taking the lower level class and really learning the material before advancing, even if it sets you back a little. That was another thing I did in college. When I finally got serious about engineering, I started my math back one class behind what I was slated for and really studied instead of just passing. Made upper level classes waaaaay more understandable.

Out of curiosity, what level math do you teach? I’ve never read a math book in my life, and I’ve taken quite a few advanced math courses (vector analysis, engineering analysis, differential equations…).

I do agree that going through the examples with a different problem is useful, though, which is why I would suggest something similar to the GRE review mentioned earlier. The information will be much more concise, and I doubt the OP is going to read an entire math book before the placement test. Even if they did, it wouldn’t do much good without actually working through some problems.

I took one without once remembering what the hell tangent, sine, or cosine was. :confused: It was the longest two hours I ever spent on a test. I passed. :eek:

You may be taking ACT’s COMPASS placement test, or something like it. Here’s a link to their webpage, with a few sample questions.

But I echo what Zsofia, ultrafilter, and tremorviolet said: You really don’t want to take a math class that’s more advanced than what you’re ready for: you’d be lost, and miserable, and probably end up having to take it over. (Imagine taking, say, Chinese II without having had Chinese I.)

An accurate math placement test is your friend. It keeps you from wasting your time in a class that covers what you already know, while keeping you from floundering around feeling stupid in a class that’s way over your head.

If you do want to try learning the material on your own, find out what Math 111 covers. You may be able to find a syllabus or list of topics online, or at least find out what textbook they’re using and what chapters they’ll cover, and then you can look through the book in the bookstore or library find out what you need to know. There are lots of books, software packages, and websites that can help you study algebra, though I don’t have any specific recommendations. The Tutoring Center or Resource Center at your school may have some available.

Your goal here is just to start the program ASAP, yes? I don’t have experience in health-care programs, but I’ve seen people find all sorts of work-arounds for these sorts of things. Consider calling someone in admissions, telling then your situation, and seeing if they have any ideas. Maybe then can postpone a pre-req, recommend a tutor or a class at another school, etc. You never know, if you’re ready to start taking classes and paying tuition I’m sure they want you in the door sooner rather than later.

good luck!

Thanks for the advice. I do have the textbook for an Introductory Algebra class, and I also have the text they used last year in 111. I’m trying to work through the first one and I’m almost through Ch. 2 and have already done some problems in Ch. 3. Their final exam prep list only included Ch. 1-7, so I don’t know. I just got the 111 book today, so it will be interesting to see if any of it is review.

As for the Algebra for Dummies suggestion, I am definitely going to see if I can get a copy of that.

I took one a couple of years ago and this book was invaluable. It’s ugly as hell inside, but it’s very clear for those of us who are, er, somewhat math-challenged.

Me too, I ended up taking algebra AND trig in college, even though I had both of them and more in high school!

Do you still have it? If you want to sell it, PM me and we can figure something out.

I’ve tutored everywhere from third grade math to multi-variable calc, with some slightly more abstract courses such as an intro level proof writing course and number theory thrown in there as well. I’ve also taken courses in vector analysis and diff-eq along with a whole slew of other upper level math courses. (I have an under-grad degree in applied mathematics…I didn’t just take them for shits and giggles.) With the lower level courses (multi-variable calc and below), it seemed to me that most of the books I’ve worked with explained the concept fairly well in words as well as through formulas, graphical representations, and examples. It also seemed that most of the students I worked with viewed their textbook as a list of problems that needed solved. They’d look through the list of problems at the end of a section or chapter and try to work them when they were studying, but they never thought to look at the chapter itself. I think reading through the explanations can help with someone who isn’t math-inclined.

I will admit that my diff-eq book sucked. The written explanations were useless to me. I was, however, able to borrow an alternate textbook from a professor who pitied me. The alternate textbook was quite readable, as math texts go.

I agree with that one. My technique was always to attempt the problems based on the lecture, and if I couldn’t do them, go to the examples. If that failed, I’d go to the explanations. I thought you just meant to simply read right through the book. I’m sure both of us flip back and forth through our books the seams are weakening! :slight_smile:

Back in the day, when I worked at a community college doing various things including transfer credit evaluation, the ACT placement test was used to determine if you could go into 100 level courses (math, reading or writing) or would have to take pre-college level (read=remedial) courses before they would let you in. College placement tests are not to get you out of prereqs, they are to make sure you are capable of 100 level classes.

If Math 111 is a prereq, you’re going to have to take it or have an equivalent on your transcript. You cannot test out of prereqs unless you CLEP as mentioned above, or the instructor allows you to skip the prereq. The registration/admissions does not make the determination if you can skip a prereq, they just decide if you already have an equivalent.

And I’m even later to the thread, as usual. (Pesky work! Interferes with Doping!!)

I’m a big fan of Schaum’s outlines, which I mentioned in this post in [thread=415250]this thread[/thread].

Good luck with your placement. If you find yourself feeling even a little bit confused by the math you encounter, get some outside help. Math can be very subtle, and like most of the sciences the teaching can be abysmal. Sometimes I’ve only discovered how poorly I understood something during the final exam! :eek:

And that’s what it came down to for me. I did terribly in math in school and gave up on it as soon as I filled the math requirement in college. I always thought I had a genetic block against math until a few years ago, when I bought an algebra/trig textbook and started going through it on my own for no reason whatsoever. Instant turnaround. I think I’m ready to teach myself calculus, and I now realize that math isn’t as hard as my teachers made it out to be.

However you decide to handle it, I agree with the posters who are advising you not to just try getting through it without learning the basics. Take your time, make sure you’ve got it right, and have fun with it. Once you understand the basics, math is actually pretty interesting.

Oh, and give these guys a shot if you run into problems. They helped me out quite a bit.

Good luck!