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Department of

Mathematics and Computer Science

Math Placement

Current students are required to take the math placement exam in the computer lab in Serra 205. When you arrive, ask the lab assistant for a password. Lab Hours.

Before you take your first mathematics course at USD, you will be given a Mathematics Placement Exam to place you in the correct course. Below is an explanation of our mathematics requirement and placement exams.

Contents

USD Math Requirements

USD requires all students to demonstrate basic mathematical competence in order to graduate. This requirement may be fulfilled by passing Investigations in Modern Mathematics (Math 112), College Algebra (Math 115), or a more advanced course such as Calculus (Math 130 or 150). A student may also fulfill the requirement by passing a competency exam (not to be confused with the placement exams). The vast majority of our students satisfy the requirement by taking one of the above courses.

We use placement exams, in conjunction with the previous academic record, to place students in the appropriate course. You will need to choose whether to take the Level 1 or Level 2 placement exam. This choice will be based on the level of mathematics course which seems appropriate for your start. (If you guess wrong don’t worry—we’ll just retest you).

How to Decide Which Placement Exam to Take

Level 1 exam

If you would like to start with Investigations in Modern Mathematics (Math 112) or College Algebra (Math 115), you will need to pass the Level 1 Placement Exam. The Level 1 exam covers the material in an intermediate algebra course (usually the second year of high school algebra). The exam takes approximately 45 minutes.

If you do not do well enough on the exam to place into Math 112 or Math 115, we offer Intermediate Algebra (Math 90) as a review course, or you could take a similar course at a community college and then re-take the placement exam. To take Math 112 or Math 115 at USD you must either pass the Level 1 Placement Exam or pass Math 90 at USD with a C- or better. We do not accept any kind of transfer credit at the Math 90 Level.

Level 2 exam

If you feel that you are ready to start with Survey of Calculus (Math130) or Calculus I (Math 150), take the Level 2 exam. This exam covers the material normally found in a precalculus course. The Level 2 exam takes approximately 60 minutes.

Students taking this exam will be given two different results: preparation for Math 150 based on the entire exam, and preparation for Math 130 for which the trigonometry questions are not counted. If you do not do well enough on the exam to place into Math 130 or Math 150, you should take the Level 1 Placement Exam to see if you are prepared to take College Algebra (Math 115) as a review course before you take Calculus.

Exam Preparation

You do not have to do well on all topics to pass the exams, but of course you will want the exams to show what you do know, and being a little rusty may cause you to miss questions you might have had correct. Further, since the exams test your readiness to take a particular course, you will want to be sure you are comfortable with all the topics on the placement exam before you begin the corresponding mathematics course. If you have not just finished a mathematics course, we expect you to review for the exams so that what you do know is fresh in your mind.

Level 1 Exam Preparation

We have Sample Level 1 exam questions on-line so that you can know what types of questions to expect for this exam. In addition, useful online mathematics review materials can be found at:

Level 2 Exam Preparation

We have Sample Level 2 exam questions on-line so that you can know what types of questions to expect for this exam. In addition, useful online mathematics review materials can be found at:

Frequently Asked Questions

Where, when, and how can I take the Math Placement Exam?
A student may take the exam in Serra 205 any time the lab is open to take the placement exam, except between 12 p.m.-2 p.m. and 7 p.m.-9 p.m. To allow time for the student to complete the exam before the lab closes, a student may begin an exam no later than 1.5 hours before the lab closes for the evening. You do not need a reservation to do this; just tell a Lab Assistant at the front desk that you want to take a Math Placement Exam. Computing Lab Hours of Operation.

What should I bring to the placement exam?
You should bring your USD student ID and a pencil or pen with you to the exam. You will be given scratch paper at the exam if you like. You may not use your own scratch paper and you may not use a calculator.

How can I get a password to take the placement exam?
You will be given your password when you arrive to our computer lab to take the exam. If you have taken this exam before, you will be given the same password that you used earlier, but you will still be forbidden to access the exam until you have checked in with a Lab Assistant at the front desk of our computer lab.

Is there any way to take my first math class at USD without taking the placement exaam?
There are only 5 ways to do this:

  • If you have taken the AP Calculus AB test and scored a 3, 4, or 5, then you will receive credit for Math 150. In addition you will be placed into Math 151, with no need for a placement exam. Note that you must make sure the registrar has record of this passing score on your transcript.
  • If you have taken the AP Calculus BC test and scored a 3, 4, or 5, then you will receive credit for Math 150 and Math 151. You do not need to take a placement exam to enroll in Math 252. Note that you must make sure the registrar has record of this passing score on your transcript.
  • If you are a transfer student to USD and you have taken a math class at another university that will receive transfer credit at USD, then that transferred math course will fulfill the prerequisites for your first math course at USD.
  • Incoming freshmen will be placed into a math class based on the math score on their SAT / ACT exam (see below for details).
  • Some scores on the IB Mathematics test may be used to place you in your first math course at USD. Please contact the Arts and Sciences Dean's Office to arrange for the appropriate math credit.

I am an incoming freshman at USD. Do I need to take the placement exam?
The summer advisors who enroll you in your classes will choose an appropriate math course for you based on a consideration of your math score on your SAT or ACT exam, your score on an AP Calculus Exam (if any), the math course you've requested on your Freshman Questionnaire, and the requirements of your stated choice(s) of major. The highest level class that your AP Calc / SAT / ACT score will qualify you for is given in the table below.

A score of… …qualifies you for this Math class or lower.
3, 4, or 5 on AP Calculus BC Exam Calculus III (Math 250)
3, 4, or 5 on AP Calculus AB Exam Calculus II (Math 151)
Math SAT ≥ 600 or Math ACT ≥ 26 Calculus I (Math 150)
Math SAT ≥ 570 or Math ACT ≥ 25 Survey of Calculus (Math 130)
Math SAT ≥ 530 or Math ACT ≥ 22 College Algebra (Math 115) or
Investigations in Modern Mathematics (Math 112)
Math SAT < 530 and Math ACT < 22 Intermediate Algebra (Math 90)

Incoming students may be placed in a math course by their SAT / ACT scores before their AP exam score arrives to USD. If your AP exam score indicates you should be in a more advanced math course that you have been enrolled in by our summer advisors based on your SAT score, you should meet with your advisor to change your math course to a more appropriate course.

If you feel you should be placed in a more advanced math course than the one you were assigned, you may take the Math Placement Exam from home or once you arrive to campus to attempt to place into a different class.

I am an incoming freshman. How can I decide which math course I should request on my Freshman Questionnaire?
There is a very useful page on the Math/CS Department website which will help you make this decision.

I am transferring to USD, and I have taken a math class at another university that I would like to try to transfer to USD to satisfy the mathematics requirement. Should I take the exam?
If you have taken a class at another university which satisfies your math requirement, and you don't intend to take a math course at USD, then you do not need to take the placement exam. During the summer, you can check DARS to see if your math course will satisfy the math requirement. Otherwise, you must take the placement exam in order to gain entry into an appropriate math course.

I am an incoming freshman or transfer student to USD. How can I take the placement exam if I'm not on campus yet?
Incoming freshmen and transfer students have one chance to take the exam from their home computers. You will receive your login information and instructions for taking the exam via email. Note that this information will be sent to the email address that you gave the university when you applied for admission, so be sure to look in the correct account for this email.

How long is my placement exam score good for?
Placement exam scores never expire.

Can I take the placement exam more than once?
Each year is divided into two periods, between March 1 and September 30 of the same year (Period 1) and between October 1 of one year and Feb 28/29 of the following year (Period 2). You may take the exam at most two times in any one period of the year. Also, you may take the exam at most one time in any 24 hour period.

Will Trigonometry (Math 118) satisfy USD's mathematics requirement?
No. But any other course with course number 112 and above will satisfy this requirement.

Email mathplacement@sandiego.edu if you have questions.