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Academic Readiness

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board Policy 3.3 and system procedure 3.3.1 require our institutions to assess new incoming students academic readiness for credit bearing college curriculum to assure students have the academic content knowledge to have a high likelihood of success in our courses. Since 2006, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have used the College Board Accuplacer exam as the system endorsed instrument and have established system wide cut scores to place students into college level English, college algebra and college reading curriculum. These guidelines were established based on a thorough review of the national research on cut scores and alignment of the strands and subdomains assessed via Accuplacer to our curriculum standards. Attainment of these cut scores indicated students had a high probability of success in the college course without additional support or interventions needed.

Students are provided these assessments at no cost. The individual student scores are valid on Accuplacer for those taken at any system college or university within three calendar years, inclusive of the current calendar year, with the provision that mathematics scores are valid for only two calendar years, inclusive of the current calendar year. Check local campuses for their policies regarding the availability and number of allowable reassessments in Accuplacer.

Individual campuses determine additional individual course prerequisites for their curriculum through their institutions Academic Standards Council. These prerequisites could include additional placement testing cut scores via Accuplacer that could be above or below system guidelines established for college English, college algebra or college reading or could be coursework that is needed to be successfully completed to prepare students with the requisite knowledge in the content area to prepare the student to be successful in the course or academic program.

In addition to the Accuplacer, students are able to use their scores from a nationally normed exam, such as an ACT or SAT to demonstrate academic readiness and waive Accuplacer testing. Both ACT and SAT can be used for college entrance and admissions. Check with your local MnSCU campus on their guidelines on the use of ACT or SAT to waive the Accuplacer test.

The Accuplacer test is a multiple choice, untimed exam. Accuplacer is a criterion referenced test. This means the exam is assessing academic content knowledge specifically in reading, English and math. There is also a placement test designed for English Language Learners called the Accuplacer ESL exam. This exam assesses the students content knowledge in Reading, Sentence Skills and Listening. Both exams are given online and are internet based. The test is adaptive, which means it adjusts to how the student answers each question. Thus, if a student answers the question correctly, the exam will adjust and give a more difficult question; likewise if the student answers the question incorrectly it will adjust the next question to be an easier question.

If a student, does not meet the guideline scores as referenced above, they may require additional coursework in foundational academic skills to improve their likelihood of success prior to enrolling in a credit bearing college level class. In these instances, a student may be recommended or required to enroll in a developmental course and successfully complete the course prior to enrolling in the college level course. Developmental courses are designed to build academic readiness in reading, English and math. Developmental courses are also available at many institutions specifically designed to meet the needs of English Language Learners. These courses are eligible for financial aid, are credit bearing, but cannot be used to count towards a college degree. Thus, although many of our two year campuses via their missions are open access, placement scores via the Accuplacer test potentially does have impact on the number of courses a student may be required to take to complete their identified degree pathway. Thus, familiarizing oneself with the types of questions asked prior to taking the Accuplacer is suggested. This type of refreshing oneself might reduce test anxiety and assure that the student has an accurate reflection on their academic content knowledge and are accurately placed into appropriate courses. The following links can be used as a resource to prepare for the Accuplacer exam.

Pakou Yang
System Director of P-20 and College Readiness