Testing to Get into Community College
Once you're admitted to the college, you might be surprised by the next step: You'll need to take some tests to assess your language, writing, reading, and mathematics abilities. So sharpen your pencils and your computer skills. Almost everyone has to take these tests, unless you have an exemption (see below).
Don't worry. These tests are meant to help you succeed in your college-level courses. If you've been out of school for a while, think about them as "refresher" courses that will help you sharpen your skills in areas where you could be a bit rusty. The tests assess if you need additional preparation in basic skills and can help place you in the appropriate level of coursework in a particular subject area.
Depending on your test results, you may need to take one or more basic skills courses (also called developmental courses) in math, writing, reading, or English language skills before enrolling in credit-bearing courses.
If you've tested well in one area, such as mathematics, but need assistance in another area such as writing, you could enroll in a college-level math course while taking a basic skills course to strengthen your writing skills. Or you may test well in all areas and be able to proceed directly to college-level courses.
It could take several semesters to complete all your basic skills coursework. This coursework does count toward your status as a part-time or full-time student, that is, the number of hours in which you are enrolled each term. It does not, however, carry any academic credit that will count toward your certificate or degree requirements. Basic skills courses will, however, help you get a good foundation for your future success.
Keith Armstrong, a detective in Jersey City (New Jersey) and a returning adult student at Hudson County Community College (New Jersey), said, "I took the placement tests and did well on the math tests, but found out my writing skills weren't up to par. I had
to take some basic-level English classes first, which worked out well. They gave me a very good foundation for the writing I needed to do in my other classes. In fact, one of my English professors liked my essays so much (to my surprise) that he invited me to attend an honors-level writing course. Learning the basics also helped me at work, where I have to write reports nearly every day."
Depending on your college's policy, you may be exempt from taking assessment or placement tests if
- You have earned a degree from an accredited U.S. college or university.
- You have completed a college-level English or mathematics course at an accredited U.S. college or university.
- You have earned certain scores, as specified by the college, on standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or Advanced Placement tests. See "Get Credit for What You Already Know" later in this chapter.
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