Most college placement exams are multiple answers. This means that students are given a multiple choice question to answer in order to reach a conclusion. They are usually graded on a positive or negative scale, with students scoring the highest being awarded a passing grade. Grades are based on the student’s performance in each section of the test. An example of such a test might be “Use the dictionary to find the definition of the word is”. The student would be asked to read the definition of the word, and then indicate whether the answer was a “yes” or a “no”.
Many college placement exams have been controversial since they have been administered. In recent years, there has been increasing legislation and concerns about college placement exams. Most concern revolves around questions that ask students to apply a standard method of logic, without ever considering different forms of logic or different ways of arriving at a conclusion. For instance, one essay question may ask: “If you were able to boil water, why wouldn’t you cook it?” Students are then expected to apply the same logic they used when they first learned how to boil water, i.e., by asserting that they can boil water in one minute or less. Such reasoning is problematic because while it is easy for a student to conclude that they can boil water in a minute, what is not clear is whether they truly can do so in real time, given the state of their water pump, etc.
Another example of placement exam controversy is caused by questions that ask a student to compare two examples. One example is a simple comparison between a car and a boat. The student is expected to correctly infer that the car has more horsepower than the boat. However, many college placement exams are constructed in such a way as to allow for multiple comparisons. For example, many placement exams will ask a student to compare the features of a car and a bus, as well as two buses.
A third example of placement exam controversy is caused by a practice exam known as “guessing” or “matching.” This practice exam compares the content of two worksheets with the same number of columns. If these two worksheets contain identical answers, the student earns a passing score. If the answers differ, the student is scored a failing score. While it would be easy to criticize the practice exam in terms of cheating, it is worth noting that many colleges and universities require students to take such placement exams in order to earn a diploma.
Many current and recent college placement exams involve multiple choice format. As mentioned above, many placement exams use multiple-choice format, but some college placement tests combine open-ended placement exams with partial essay questions. In this case, the student must first answer all of the multiple-choice questions in the essay section, then have the opportunity to answer the essay section using essay answers that were provided previously.
When a student takes a placement exam and does not earn a passing score, there may be a valid reason. If a student takes a placement test and does not pass on it within three years, for instance, the college placement center has the authority to re-ject the student. Re-jection is not always automatic, but it can occur if a student is unsuccessful in at least one placement examination. It is also possible for a student to be “rejected” on a placement exam after the first try.
Placement exams are often administered by the same schools that offer the courses being taken. This makes finding placement exams much easier than searching for a new school. Most colleges offer placement services, and it is relatively easy to find one that offers placement exams. The first step in finding a placement test is to contact the placement center that is offering the course being taken. If the center cannot offer a placement test, the student should inquire about one being offered by another school. In many cases, the school that initially offered the class will be able to offer a placement exam.