What is ALEKS?

ALEKS stands for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, and ALEKS Placement, Preparation, and Learning (ALEKS PPL) is a web-based program that uses artificial intelligence to map a student’s mathematical strengths and weaknesses.

ALEKS PPL consists of three parts:               

  • An initial Placement Assessment, consisting of up to 30 questions, that takes approximately 1-2 hours to finish
  • The Prep and Learning Module, an individualized, self-paced, online review available upon completion of the first Placement Assessment for students to refresh their knowledge on forgotten topics and learn new concepts
  • Access to four additional Placement Assessments, granting students the opportunity to reassess and improve their score

Lawrence University requires a proctored ALEKS PPL Placement Assessment score of at least 75 to demonstrate readiness for the following mathematics courses:

  • MATH 140:  Calculus I
  • MATH 155:  Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 200:  Complex Sequences and Series

Students who do not attain the minimum score in a proctored setting prior to the start of classes will not be permitted to remain enrolled in the calculus sequence.  However, they should consider registering for MATH 103:  Preparation for Calculus, which requires an ALEKS score of at least 45 for enrollment, instead.

Continue reading for answers to frequently asked questions, or click the button below to login with your Lawrence University username and password.


Preparing for the Placement Assessment

Who must take the Placement Assessment?

Only students who seek to enroll in the following courses have to take the Placement Assessment:

  • MATH 140:  Calculus I
  • MATH 155:  Multivariable Calculus
  • MATH 200:  Complex Sequences and Series

Below are some majors that require portions of the calculus sequence:

For more information regarding requirements for your intended area of study, please contact your academic advisor.

What is the purpose of the Placement Assessment?

The Department of Mathematics will use your Placement Assessment result to ensure that you are adequately prepared for the calculus sequence and assist you in selecting courses that are appropriate for your current level of mathematical knowledge. 

Why must I take the Placement Assessment?

ALEKS PPL will help you identify and fill in any gaps in your mathematical background.  Solidifying your understanding of high school mathematics will ultimately lead to increased confidence in future coursework, allowing you to focus on the course content rather than the prerequisite material.  Furthermore, any targeted practice to bolster your mathematical skills will contribute to an increased likelihood of success in not only the calculus sequence but also other quantitative courses.

Where do I take the Placement Assessment?

Since ALEKS PPL is an online system, feel free to take Placement Assessments 1 and 2 anywhere that you have access to a reliable internet connection.  Subsequent Placement Assessments must be completed in proctored setting on campus.

When do I take the Placement Assessment?

You are encouraged to take the initial Placement Assessment as soon as possible.  By starting early, you will guarantee that you have ample time available for working in your Prep and Learning Module before arriving on campus.  You will have the opportunity to take a proctored Placement Assessment either during Welcome Week or the first week of the term.  Remember that you will not be permitted to remain enrolled in the calculus sequence unless you attain the minimum score of 75 in a proctored setting prior to the start of classes.

Is there a fee for taking the Placement Assessment?

No, your use of ALEKS PPL is covered if you are a Lawrence University student.

Can I practice using the ALEKS tools before I take the Placement Assessment?

Before you begin the Placement Assessment, you will complete a brief Tools Tutorial to make sure you are comfortable with entering different types of answers, using the on-screen calculator, and graphing electronically.  If you aren’t certain how to input your response or need assistance during the Placement Assessment, then you may click "?" for help without impacting your result. 

What else should I know before I take the Placement Assessment?
  • Relax.  The Placement Assessment is not a test and will not affect your grades at Lawrence University.  It is designed to give you an accurate measure of your current mathematical abilities and determine whether you’re sufficiently prepared for the calculus sequence.  At the end of the Placement Assessment, you will have a much better sense of your mathematical strengths and weaknesses.  You will also have the chance to brush up on topics that you may have forgotten and learn new concepts before reassessing. 
  • Be honest.  It is imperative that you take the Placement Assessment seriously and give it your best effort, so that it is a true reflection of your current mathematical proficiency.  Refrain from consulting friends or family members, internet searches, textbooks, notes, or any other outside resources.  There is no benefit to cheating, but it could cause you to enroll in a class that is either too difficult or not challenging enough, potentially costing you time and money and delaying your graduation.  Finally, as a Lawrence University student, you are expected to uphold the Lawrence University Honor Code.

Taking the Placement Assessment

What topics are covered on the Placement Assessment?

ALEKS PPL is an adaptive system that covers a broad spectrum of mathematics topics, and you will see some, but not all, of the mathematics you learned in high school.  Below is an overview of the topics you may encounter on the Placement Assessment:

  • Real numbers (including fractions, decimals, percentages, and proportions)
  • Equations and inequalities (including solving and graphing both linear and quadratic equations and inequalities)
  • Exponents and polynomials (including properties of exponents, polynomial arithmetic, factoring polynomials, and graphing polynomial functions)
  • Lines and systems (including the slopes and equations of lines and solving systems of linear equations)
  • Functions and graphs (including domain and range, graphs of functions and their transformations, composition of functions, and inverse functions)
  • Rational expressions (including solving rational equations and graphing rational functions)
  • Radical expressions (including solving radical equations, higher roots, and rational exponents)
  • Exponentials and logarithms (including properties of logarithms, solving exponential and logarithmic equations, and graphing exponential and logarithmic functions)
  • Geometry (including perimeter and area, surface area and volume, and coordinate geometry)
  • Trigonometry (including right triangle trigonometry, the unit circle, graphing trigonometric functions, trigonometric identities, and solving trigonometric equations)
What if I see questions I do not know how to answer on the Placement Assessment? 

It is likely that you will be asked questions on material that you have not learned yet.  For questions on which you have absolutely no idea how to proceed, it is appropriate to click "I Don't Know."  However, it is important to do your best on any questions asking about content with which you are familiar, as there is no penalty for answering a question incorrectly on the Placement Assessment. 

How many questions will I be asked on the Placement Assessment?

While the exact number of questions varies, each Placement Assessment will consist of no more than 30 questions. 

What is the format of the questions on the Placement Assessment?

The questions will be open-response rather than multiple-choice, and you will need to work out solutions with a pencil or pen and paper before entering your answers into ALEKS.

Can I review a question on the Placement Assessment after I've answered it?

Because ALEKS is adaptive, once you submit an answer, you cannot change it.  Be sure to read carefully and check your answer before confirming your response.

Can I use a calculator during the Placement Assessment?

ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem.  Otherwise, you may not use a calculator.  Be aware that Lawrence University does not typically allow the use of calculators in the calculus sequence.

Can I use any other resources during the Placement Assessment?

You may only use a pencil or pen, paper, and the resources provided within ALEKS.  In particular, you may not receive assistance friends or family members, internet searches, textbooks, notes, or any other outside resources.  Seeking unauthorized help could qualify you to enroll in the calculus sequence before you’re ready, and it is a violation of the Lawrence University Honor Code.

Is the Placement Assessment timed?

Yes, you will have 2.5 hours to complete each Placement Assessment.  Although students typically spend 1-2 hours on the Placement Assessment, we recommend setting aside 2.5 hours to avoid feeling rushed.  

What if I am unable to complete the Placement Assessment?

If you need to exit the Placement Assessment for any reason, including technical difficulties, then do not worry.  ALEKS will resume the Placement Assessment exactly where you left off, with no loss of your previous answers, provided that you return to it within the allotted time frame.  However, in the event that unforeseen circumstances prevent you from finishing the Placement Assessment before your time expires, you will be forced to restart the Placement Assessment.

What if I require accommodations for taking the Placement Assessment?

Lawrence University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.  Please contact Accessibility Services for more information about establishing eligibility and requesting accommodations.

Understanding the Placement Assessment Result

What does my Placement Assessment result mean?

Your Placement Assessment result, or overall score, is a number between 0 and 100.  It represents the percentage of topics ALEKS has identified you have mastered rather than the percentage of questions you answered correctly.  Recall that a score of at least 75 is necessary to indicate preparedness for the calculus sequence.

Where can I find my Placement Assessment result?

You will receive your score immediately upon completion of your Placement Assessment, and it will remain available to you on your ALEKS dashboard.

How long is my Placement Assessment valid?

Your Placement Assessment is valid for up to 12 months.     

What if I placed into the calculus sequence?

Congratulations!  Nevertheless, we encourage you to take advantage of your personalized Prep and Learning Module and set a goal to fill in your Learning Pie. 

What if I did not place into the calculus sequence?

Do not fret.  The Department of Mathematics is committed to your success in mathematics.  If you are simply a bit rusty from stepping away from mathematics for a while, then your personalized Prep and Learning Module can help you brush up on material you have seen before as well as introduce you to new concepts you are capable of learning.  Expand your mathematical skill set by following your study plan, and then reassess, aiming to obtain a higher score.  However, if you never studied trigonometry or precalculus or just want to build a more solid foundation on which to continue your mathematics education, then you might elect to enroll in MATH 103: Preparation for Calculus before tackling the calculus sequence (enrollment in MATH 103 requires an ALEKS score of 45).                                                                                                                      

Can I retake the Placement Assessment?

Yes, you may attempt up to 5 Placement Assessments, and your highest proctored score will be used to determine your eligibility to enroll in the calculus sequence.  However, in order to make each attempt worthwhile, you must wait 48 hours and spend 5 hours in your Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments.  There is no advantage to simply retaking the Placement Assessment as soon as you conclude a prior attempt, as understanding mathematics requires sustained effort.

Using the Prep and Learning Modules

How long will I have access to my Prep and Learning Module?

You will have 12 months of access to your Prep and Learning Module.

Is there an additional fee for using my Prep and Learning Module?

No, your use of ALEKS PPL is covered if you are a Lawrence University student.

What are Knowledge Checks?

While you are working in your Prep and Learning Module, ALEKS will periodically give you a Knowledge Check to verify you have mastered the topics and retained the knowledge you gained in Learning Mode.  

Does progress in my Prep and Learning Module count toward my score?

No, you must complete another Placement Assessment to change your score, but expanding your Learning Pie will lead to a greater probability of boosting your score.

Receiving Technical Support

Where can I get help from Lawrence University?

Contact the Lawrence University Helpdesk by emailing helpdesk@lawrence.edu or calling 920-832-6570.

Where can I get help from ALEKS?

Contact ALEKS Support via email, phone, fax, or live chat.