College Math Placement Test

How to Prepare for the College Math Placement Test?

Last Updated on November 8, 2022

Starting college is scary. Especially when you are faced with exams straight away.

But the college placement tests don’t need to cause you extra stress. All colleges and universities want their students to excel. The success of each of their students is what they are in business for, after all!

Your college just wants to understand your academic level upon entry so they can make sure that all new entrants adjust well to higher education. Especially in that first crucial and unfamiliar first semester.

College placement tests will assess basic skills in Math, Reading, and Writing for all new students. Results achieved in these initial placement tests will determine the types of courses or extra support you may need upon enrollment.

The time it takes you to achieve your degree will be directly impacted by your college placement test results, which will, in turn, affect the overall cost of your college education.

The math test is one of the core placement tests. And one many students find most tricky. Learn everything you need to know about the college math placement test and how to pass.

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What Is a College Math Placement Test?

One of the key elements of college placement tests is the Math component. Your success in the College Math Placement Test will depend largely on your achievements in any high school math courses that you have taken as well as how thoroughly you have prepared for your Math Placement Test.

Test-Prep Online can provide you with an affordable way to fully prepare for your CPT Math Test through practice tests and study guides that provide you with the opportunity to review mathematical functions and concepts and testing strategies that will ensure that you are fully prepared and completely familiar with testing formats.

Understanding the types of questions that will be presented to you in your CPT Math Test and the format in which they will be delivered will provide a real benefit to you that will increase your chance of success.

Practice tests will allow you to be familiar with not only the content of your upcoming test, but also the difficulty level of the questions. This will also enable you to identify and analyze any areas of weakness you may have and undertake additional appropriate study.

Similarly, understanding your areas of strength will also give you improved confidence on the day. Taking the practice tests also means that you will be able to review the arithmetic and algebraic functions that you will need to know fully before the real test.

Whether or not you are expected to sit a college placement math test will also be determined by your chosen field of higher education. Certain professions or study topics will require certain proficiency in Math and will deem it of higher relevance than other unrelated fields.

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Are All College Placement Math Tests the Same?

Collage students

Each individual college will develop and administer its own unique test. However, whilst the exact content and number of questions will vary from college to college, there will be significant similarities between providers.

What Is on the College Math Placement Test?

You should expect to see questions covering a wide range of math topics covering the basics of arithmetic, namely addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, and fractions.

Other questions will cover more advanced math topics such as pre-algebra, algebra, graphing, and trigonometry. Questions will typically cover:

  • Algebraic fractions
  • Roots and exponents
  • Expanding polynomials
  • Equations and inequalities
  • Complex numbers
  • Factorials
  • Determinants
  • Lines
  • Parabolas
  • Logarithms

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Sample Questions

To give you an idea of the type of questions you might expect on your CPT math test, here are a few examples:


If Jodie is able to type a page of writing in y minutes, then how much of the page can she write in 10 minutes?

  1. 10/y
  2. y – 10
  3. y + 10
  4. p/10
  5. 1 – y + 10

If Sam can paint a house in 4 hours and Joe can paint the same house in 6 hours, how will it take for the two of them to paint the house together?

  1. 2 hours, 24 minutes
  2. 3 hours, 12 minutes
  3. 3 hours, 44 minutes
  4. 4 hours, 33 minutes

Basic Math

If a cycle shop gives 10% discount to all buyers and then a further 15% off during the summer holiday period, what is the original cost of a cycle bought for $306?

  1. $325
  2. $375
  3. $400
  4. $408
  5. $425

Which of the following answers is not equal to 34(58+9)?

  1. 34 x 67
  2. 58(34+9)
  3. 34 x 58 + 34 x 9
  4. 1,972 + 306
  5. (9 + 58) 34

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Intermediate Math

If two angles of a triangle measure 70 degrees, what is the measure of the third angle in degrees?

  1. 40
  2. 80
  3. 100
  4. 120
  5. 140

If Sophie needs 3.5 pints of cream to make some ice cream, how much will she need for three times the amount of ice cream?

  1. 9
  2. 10.5
  3. 7
  4. 10
  5. 9.5

Advanced Math

What is the next highest prime number after 67?

  1. 68
  2. 69
  3. 76
  4. 73
  5. 71

If there are three people working together at the same rate and they can complete a job in 3 ⅓ days, how much could two people complete of the same job in one day?

  1. 1/5
  2. 1/4
  3. 1/9
  4. 1/3
  5. 1/8

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Ratios and Percentages

A college nursing program offers three options. One is to work with children and infants, one to work with the elderly, and one is to help general practitioners in their private practices. Within the class group, there were 25% wanting to work with the infants, 60% with the elderly, and 10% wanting to assist general practitioners.

The remainder of the class was undecided. As a fraction, what proportion of the class wanted to work with the elderly?

  1. 1/4
  2. 1/10
  3. 3/5
  4. 1/20

Vince is in charge of the annual leave schedule for his construction workers on site. 35% of his workforce are already taking annual leave during the holiday season, and of the remaining workers, only 20% are qualified to work on the current project. What percentage of the total workforce is available to work during the holiday season?

  1. 13%
  2. 65%
  3. 7%
  4. 80%


You are looking to buy a new aquarium for your tropical fish, and you know that you need one which is exactly 1680 cubic feet in size. Unfortunately, when you go to the store to purchase your new tank, the volume sizes are not listed, simply the dimensions. Which of the following sized aquariums would be suitable for your requirements?

  1. 12 x 12 x 12 feet
  2. 13 x 15 x 16 feet
  3. 14 x 20 x 6 feet
  4. 15 x 16 x 12 feet
  5. 15 x 12 x 12 feet

If one slice of bread provides 80 calories, how many calories will 2 and a half slices provide?

  1. 140 calories
  2. 200 calories
  3. 220 calories
  4. 240 calories
  5. 260 calories

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How Can I Prepare for My College Math Placement Test?

calculator and Book

There is little doubt that the chances of achieving a positive test result can be greatly affected by a good study routine, and failure to adequately prepare will likely lead to a grade that is less than satisfactory.

The most effective study routine will be one through which you can practice until you are fully comfortable with question formats and likely content. This will improve your confidence, highlight your areas of strength and allow you to improve your weaker areas.

Using the study guides provided by Test-Prep Online will allow you to pursue an in-depth understanding of the questions that you will encounter and give you opportunities for thorough test practice.

The result of your college placement test will be the determining factor in which college courses you ultimately take during your first semester, and a positive result will mean that you may not have to take some of the introductory courses and therefore putting in the time and effort to test practice will be well worth the commitment.

Take care over the questions as the first few questions will have great importance in determining your future placement.

The test format is multiple choice. Scratch paper for your working out is provided, and its use is encouraged. It is much easier to check your answers and make fewer mistakes if you make a note of your calculations rather than trying to do them solely in your head – you will not receive any bonuses for this and may actually make careless mistakes!

You are not allowed to skip problems or questions and come back to them later in the test. It is important that you answer each individual question as accurately as you can the first time. This is where your preparation will really pay dividends.

You will receive your score report immediately after taking the test. You will be given the opportunity to discuss your result with Testing Services staff. Having taken the time to study and make sure that you are well prepared could well be the difference between a positive or a negative conversation!

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Why Do Colleges Use These Exams?

There are several reasons why colleges place importance on the administration of the CPT tests prior to admission, and these are as follows:

  • There are a great number of high schools up and down the country and each of them is different in its own way. The level at which each high school prepares its students for college-level math can vary greatly, with some students being highly prepared and others ill-prepared. This means that the possession of a high school diploma is not enough of a level benchmark when it comes to matching new students to the right coursework.
  • As in all areas of life, different students will have different capabilities when it comes to math, with some students possessing a real flair for mathematics and others struggling to keep up. Placing a student who is weak in math at the wrong college level can prove disastrous, the best-case scenario meaning that the student may have to repeat their first year in an easier class if they ultimately fail. An even less favorable scenario is that the student becomes so disheartened by their failure that they give up their college education altogether. This sets a really bad image for colleges and can damage their reputation if too many students leave or drop out because they started college in over their heads. Math placement exams can make sure that every individual student starts college at a math level for which they are adequately prepared, taking advanced classes when they feel ready.

How Is the Test Administered?

A man Holding a Book

Unlike many other tests, the CPT Math Test is untimed. It is most usually taken on a computer, with all questions being multiple choice. The Basic Math Placement Test will cover arithmetic and pre-algebra skills, with an algebra test given as a separate part of the basic test.

Some students will also be given an Advanced Math Placement Test, which will include college algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

Although there is no set time limit for the CPT Math test, it will generally take students around 1.5 – 2 hours to complete. Some of the college placement tests may contain flexible sets of questions which means that you will encounter questions that either increase or decrease in difficulty as a direct result of your answers to previous questions.

In some schools, you will not be allowed to use a calculator of any kind, whilst some will allow you to bring your own basic four-function calculator or to use the one provided on the computer.

There are three possible levels of the test, which are:

  • Basic Skills – Sequence of basic math operations
  • Application – Applying the basic functions to varying situations
  • Analysis – Comprehension of ratios and more complex mathematical functions

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Can I Retake My Test if I Don’t Pass?

The retesting policy will differ from school to school, and some colleges may not even allow retesting at all. It is a good idea to check any criteria before you take your test. Some schools will allow you to re-sit the test if you are dissatisfied with your score.

It may be possible for you to retake each test subject twice within a three-year period for schools such as the Portland Community College. But again, this will vary from school to school. In many cases, your Math score will remain valid for three years, whilst your Writing and reading test results are valid indefinitely.

When Might I Be Exempt From the Test?

If you received a high score on your ACt or SAT, then many schools will not require you to take placement exams at all. You may be able to commence advanced math classes immediately after enrolment.

If you have been asked to sit a CPT Math Test, then it is vital that you make adequate preparations as this can mean that you will save time and money in the long run; you will be able to skip dull remedial and basic college math classes, earn your degree faster and likely have a more enjoyable college experience.

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In Summary

Preparation is the key to success, and the more you practice before the test, the more you will reap the rewards. Test-Prep Online can provide you with comprehensive resources to make sure that you have the very best chance on the day of your test.

The College Math Placement Test should not be taken lightly as it can play a vital role in the selection of your initial courses as you start on your college education journey. Thorough preparation is the only way to optimize your test result.

The results from your test will identify your strengths as much as your weaknesses. This will be instrumental in helping you to set a timetable and subject study schedule that best meets your visions and goals.

Test-Prep Online has the study tools and practice tests created specifically to fully prepare you for your College Placement Math Test. It will make sure that you achieve your goals, both through college and ultimately when you graduate and follow your chosen career path.

Written by Karen Stanley

​​Karen is a former teacher of 20 years and ten times published author. She writes content for educational organizations and businesses, nationally and internationally. She coaches new and budding writers through to publication and is passionate about creativity; she runs creative writing workshops in schools and fostering agencies.

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