Students pursuing a college education will need to take a placement test before enrolling in courses. The test covers mathematics, reading and writing. Students will not receive grades, but, instead, the test gives the school academic adviser an idea regarding a student’s skill level in these subjects. Prior to taking the test, prospective students should know the value of the test and how it can help them in their academic career.

Skill Level

College placement tests determine a student's skill level in math, reading and writing. With the test results in hand, the adviser and student can sit down and discuss a course that would best suit the student. A class below the student's ability would not benefit her education, and a class far above her ability could prove frustrating. The test scores help find a course that will challenge the student without seeming impossible to understand.

Follow Through

Students who take classes that provide challenges without being overwhelming may feel more comfortable staying in the class. The placement test may help properly direct advisors to the best course. A class far above the students’ abilities may result in the need to withdraw from the course, and, if not done within the college’s specified time period, this could impact the student’s financial aid and full-time or part-time student status. Successfully completing the course work and following through to the end of the class will help students feel confident and prepared to advance to the next course level.


There is some controversy, however, surrounding these tests. A study conducted by Clive R. Belfield of Queens College, The City University of New York, and Peter M. Crosta of the Community College Research Center, found that “placement tests do not yield strong predictions of how students will perform in college.” The researchers discovered that the placement tests do not always provide accurate results, and, based on inaccurate scores, schools improperly assign classes to three out of 10 students. The study concludes that using high school GPA scores provides better accuracy.


Despite conflicting opinions about placement testing, schools place weight on the results. This may cause some students to feel concerned about the outcome of their scores, but a student who prepares ahead of time for the placement test may not feel as anxious. Some colleges provide online practice quizzes to help prepare test takers. However, if a student does not have much time to prepare, a quick refresher on math skills, grammar and sentence structure may help her feel more comfortable with the test.

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