ALEKS for Assessment and Learning

First of all, RELAX.  ALEKS is an online assessment and learning tool, NOT A TEST. The difference is that ALEKS is designed to first determine what you know and don't know, and then provide explanations and practice problems for concepts you don't know. At the end of the ALEKS Placement Assessment, you will have a much better sense of your strengths and weaknesses in math. You will then have a chance to work on those weaknesses using the ALEKS "Preparation and Learning Modules." There is really no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the assessment.  The most important thing is that you take the assessment seriously and give it an honest effort so that the assessment truly reflects your level of knowledge and math preparedness.

Is ALEKS Required?

Hampden-Sydney College requires an ALEKS mathematics placement assessment for all students for Math 141 (Calculus I) or Math 140 (Calculus for Economics).  If you are in one of these classes, you must take the ALEKS Placement Assessment. (It is free of charge.) The ALEKS Placement Assessment covers material from Basic Math through Precalculus and will take approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete. After the assessment, a targeted Prep and Learning Module is available for you to review and learn material, and to improve placement and eventual course outcomes.  You are strongly encouraged to spend several hours using the ALEKS Prep and Learning Module. Time spent in ALEKS will better prepare you for your upcoming course and ultimately lead to better grades.

Interpreting Your ALEKS Score.

To be successful in Calculus there are certain basic mathematical concepts and skills that you need.  Your ALEKS score is a rough measure of the percentage of these concepts and skills that you have mastered.  You don't have to make 100% in order to be ready for Calculus - far from it.  Most students will naturally need some review and brush-up on certain concepts - and the ALEKS Preparation and Learning Modules provide for that.  But a low score on the ALEKS assessment - 60% or below - indicates that you need to do a significant amount of review and brush-up work in order to be ready for calculus.

Here are some guidelines for interpreting your ALEKS scores, along with recommendations for what to do next.

80% and above: You've mastered most of the prerequisite material for calculus, with a few exceptions.  Recommendation: go to your ALEKS "learning pie", and brush-up on the concepts where you are weakest.  Then retake the assessment, and see how your score improves.

Between 60% and 80%:  This is a gray area.  You've mastered many of the concepts you need, but there are some important exceptions. Recommendation: spend at least 10 hours working in the ALEKS Preparation and Learning Module to build your skills.  Start by going to the ALEKS learning pie, and working on the concepts you're weakest in.  After at least 3 hours of work, retake the assessment.  Review your results, and then go to work on the learning pie again.  Continue repeating this process until your score is as high as possible.  When classes start, make an appointment with your professor, and discuss your results with him or her.

Below 60%:  This indicates that there are serious gaps in your background knowledge for calculus.  Recommendation: spend at least 20 hours working in the ALEKS Preparation and Learning Module.  Begin with your weakest area, and spend at least an hour per day reviewing concepts and working practice problems in ALEKS.  When classes begin (or before), you are required to make an appointment with your professor, and discuss your results with him or her.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the ALEKS Placement Assessment?  The ALEKS placement assessment is a set of approximately 30 questions that measures your strengths and weaknesses in the mathematical concepts and skills that are necessary for calculus.  The ALEKS system continually monitors your performance, and presents you with new questions and review materials based on how you've done on prior questions.

What are the ALEKS Prep and Learning Modules?  ALEKS Prep and Learning Modules consist of review materials and practice problems on the mathematical concepts and skills that are necessary for calculus.  Once you take the ALEKS Placement Assessment, the ALEKS system will recommend that you work in certain Prep and Learning Modules to increase your skills in certain areas.  It is very important that you do this work - not only will it improve your score on the ALEKS Placement Assessment, it will also increase your chances of being successful in calculus at the college level!

Is my work on ALEKS pledged? Yes, your work on the placement must be pledged under the Hampden-Sydney Honor Code.  There is no benefit to cheating on the placement assessment - your only reward will be that you are forced to take a class that is too difficult for your current level of mathematical knowledge. Therefore, while you are taking the assessment, do not consult any other source for help (friends, family, internet searches, etc.). The purpose of the placement assessment is to give an accurate measure of your current mathematical skills so that you will be successful in your mathematics courses.  

Why is it called ALEKS?  ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces.  This refers to the artificial intelligence algorithm that allows ALEKS to discover which concepts a student is having trouble with, and then assign practice problems and review accordingly.

Who has to take the ALEKS Placement Assessment? All students who wish to take Calculus I (Math 141) or Calculus for Economics (Math 140).

Is there a fee for using ALEKS? No, the use of ALEKS is included in your student fees.

How long will a placement assessment take to complete? Placement assessments require approximately 90 minutes to complete, but the amount of time will vary by student. There will be a maximum of 30 questions. 

Is the placement assessment hard? The ALEKS system will try to zero in on the concepts that you are having trouble with.  That means that many of the questions you'll get will be right on the "boundary" of what you know.  Once ALEKS knows which concepts you're having trouble with, the system will give you practice problems and review to work on. Remember, the ultimate purpose of the placement assessment and learning modules is to increase your chances of doing well in calculus!    

Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment? Yes, you may take up to 5 placement assessments. However, to make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS Prep and Learning Module in between placement assessments so that you can improve your skills.

Are ALEKS Placement Assessments proctored? No, you take the placement assessment online.  You also do the review and practice work online in the ALEKS Prep and Learning Modules.

Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment immediately? You must wait 48 hours between placement assessments. This is to give you time to do the review and practice work in the ALEKS Prep and Learning Modules.  Unlike the SAT or ACT, you cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the assessment without spending time in the Prep and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten or to learn new material.

Must I work in my ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between placement assessments? Yes, for 3 hours between the 1st and 2nd placement assessments, and 3 additional hours between the 2nd and 3rd assessments.  

May I use a calculator while using ALEKS? ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem. Otherwise, you may not use a calculator. 

What happens if I do not complete a placement assessment in the allotted time? You will have to restart the assessment.

May I use any other resources during a placement assessment? You may only use a pen or pencil, paper, and the resources provided by ALEKS. You may not receive assistance from friends, family, other websites, textbooks, or any other resource not provided by ALEKS. Using outside resources may lead to improper placement and ultimately course failure.

What is my placement result? Your placement result is a rough estimate of the percentage of prerequisite material for calculus that you know.

Can I practice using ALEKS before I begin placement? ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial before your placement begins. 

How long do I have access to my Prep and Learning Module? You will have six weeks of access from the time that you start using your Prep and Learning module.

Is there an additional fee for my Prep and Learning Module? No. Access to a Prep and Learning Module is included along with up to 5 placement assessments.

What are ALEKS Progress Assessments? While working in a Prep and Learning Module, you will periodically complete progress assessments to solidify your gains in knowledge. 

Does progress in an ALEKS Prep and Learning Module count toward placement? No, you must complete a new placement assessment to change your placement result. Click on the placement tab on the upper right of the page from within ALEKS. Only your placement assessment results will be used for course placement.

Where can I get help with ALEKS? http://www.aleks.com/faqs/technical http://support.aleks.com/assess_placement

How do I begin using ALEKS? Please click on the following link.  You will need to have the Course Code provided to you by email.