ALEKS Assessment for First Semester Calculus (MTH 121, 131, 141)

Math Readiness — Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces

Beginning in the Fall semester of 2017, the University at Buffalo requires an ALEKS PPL Assessment to determine readiness of any student wishing to enroll in our first semester calculus courses, including MTH 121, 131, 141.

At the end of the ALEKS PPL Assessment, you will have a much better sense of your strengths and weaknesses in math, and you will have an opportunity to brush up on topics you may have forgotten or not practiced for some time, but that you must know in order to be ready for calculus. The minimum score required is 61 for MTH 121 and 131, or 76 for MTH 141.

Use of ALEKS is paid for by your mathematics placement fee. ALEKS Is not required for Winter or Summer sessions.

On this page:

What is ALEKS?

The ALEKS PPL Assessment is web based – you complete it on your own computer, and at a time convenient for you. The assessment consists of about 30 questions. The average completion time is 90-minutes, but you can take more time if you need to.

You must achieve a score of 76 (out of 100) or better to demonstrate your readiness for MTH 141, or 61/100 for MTH 121 and 131. If you don’t reach this score when you take the assessment for the first time you will be have two more attempts at the Assessment to allow you to improve your score.

Prep and Learning Modules

Beside the assessment, ALEKS has built-in Prep and Learning Modules that you can use to refresh your knowledge on forgotten topics. After you take the assessment for the first time, ALEKS will suggest which modules you should work on to improve your score. We encourage you to spend time in the Prep and Learning Modules, even if you achieve the desired assessment score, because time spent in ALEKS will ultimately lead to better preparation and improved grades.

It is important  that you take the Placement Assessment seriously and give it an honest effort so that it truly reflects your current level of knowledge and math preparedness. There is no benefit to cheating on the Placement Assessment – the only result will be that you enroll in a class that you are not prepared for and set yourself up for a likely failure. Therefore, while taking the Placement Assessment, you should work on your own, without consulting any outside sources for help (friends/family, internet searches, textbooks, notes, etc.).  UB's academic integrity policy applies to the ALEKS Assessment.

When to take the ALEKS PPL Assessment

AVAILABLE SOON: We hope ALEKS PPL Assessment will be available around the middle of June, 2017, and you should take the first assessment as soon as possible so that you have plenty of time left to review material and improve your score if you need it.

DEADLINE: On Monday July 31, 2017, students registered for MTH 121, 131 or 141 who have not obtained the required score or better will be removed from their calculus class. From this point forward, only students meeting the prerequisite ALEKS score will be able to register.

Click HERE to access the ALEKS PPL Assessment (UBIT name and password required).


During the asssessment: If your web browser gets stuck, or your computer crashes, while taking the Placement Assessment, simply close the browser, or log out and log back in. ALEKS will resume the Placement Assessment exactly where you left off, with no loss of your previous answers.

For ALEKS technical support see:

ALEKS PPL Technical support and system requirements

For UB Math Advising Support contact Prof. John Ringland, ALEKS PPL Coordinator,

FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions about ALEKS

Who has to take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
All students who wish to take MTH 121, 131,or 141, including students who have already taken it previously and including students who have just passed a precalculus course.


Why must I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
The assessment is used to assess your readiness for college level calculus.


Is there a fee for using ALEKS PPL?
Your mathematics placement fee pays for a single account on ALEKS. This account provides you 3 tries at the assessment and six months use of the learning module. There are also two additional assessments that can be unlocked by contacting the ALEKS coordinator. Students who need exhaust the free options will be required to pay out of pocket for any future ALEKS tests.


Do I need to install any software or plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment?
No. There are no required plug-ins or applets required with your use of ALEKS PPL. As long as you have access to the internet and are using an up-to-date browser, you should not experience any difficulties in taking your Placement Assessment. For a list of preferred browsers, please review the ALEKS system requirements on their support site.


What topics are covered during the ALEKS PPL Assessment?

  • Real numbers (including fractions, integers, and percentages).
  • Equations and inequalities (including linear equations, linear inequalities, systems of linear equations, and quadratic equations).
  • Linear and quadratic functions (including graphs and functions, linear functions, and parabolas), exponents and polynomials (including integer exponents, polynomial arithmetic, factoring, and polynomial equations), rational expressions (including rational equations and rational functions.
  • Radical expressions (including higher roots and rational exponents).
  • Exponentials and logarithms (including function compositions and inverse functions, properties of logarithms, and logarithmic equations).
  • Geometry and trigonometry (including perimeter, area, and volume, coordinate geometry, trigonometric functions, and identities and equations).


Can I practice using the ALEKS input tools before I begin the Placement Assessment?
ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial to make sure you are comfortable with the math palette tools before your Placement Assessment begins. The tutorial shows you how to enter different types of answers, how to use the ALEKS calculator, and how to graph.

If you aren’t sure how to input an answer, or need help while you are taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment, select the Help button below the answer pallet tools. Going to the tutorial during your Placement Assessment will NOT impact your Placement Assessment results.


What is the format of the questions on ALEKS?
ALEKS is not a multiple-choice Placement Assessment. It is open-response and requires you to work out solutions with a paper and pencil, then enter them into ALEKS. Be sure to have scratch paper with you.


May I use a calculator while using ALEKS?
ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem. Otherwise, you may not use a calculator.


May I use any other resources during a Placement Assessment?
You may only use a pen or pencil, paper, and the resources provided within ALEKS. You should not receive assistance from friends, family, other websites, textbooks, or any other resource not provided by ALEKS. Using outside resources will lead to improper placement and potentially course failure. It is a violation of the UB’s academic integrity policy.


Can I review a question after I've answered it?
Because ALEKS is adaptive (i.e. each subsequent question is selected based on how you answered the previous ones), once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Be sure to carefully check your answer before submitting your response.


What if I see questions I don’t know? 
It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, 'I don't know.'

On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. 'I don't know' is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know how to solve the topic, and this will be reflected in the Placement Assessment results.

There is no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the Placement Assessment, it only helps ALEKS understand what you know and don’t know.


Are Placement Assessments timed?
No, you are free to complete the Placement Assessment at your own pace. If you need to exit the Placement Assessment for any reason, you will be able to log back in and pick up where you left off.  Once you begin a Placement Assessment, you will have 48 hours to complete it.


What happens if I do not complete a Placement Assessment in the allotted time?
You will have to restart the Placement Assessment.


What is my placement result?
Your placement result (overall score) is a number between 0 and 100. It represents the percentage of topics ALEKS has identified you have mastered. The required score to take MTH 121 or 131  is 61.The required score to take MTH 141 is 76.


Where can I see my score?

  • You will receive your score immediately upon completion of your Placement Assessment.
  • Your ALEKS score can be viewed by re-entering ALEKS using the same access link for which you took the Placement Assessment.
  • Currently ALEKS is not integrated with HUB. Advisors will receive scores regularly from the math department, but your advisor may also ask you what your score is.
  • The minimum required score to take MTH 121 or 131 is 61. For MTH 141 it is s 76.


How long is my placement result valid?
Your placement result is valid for six months. So for example, if you earn a score above 76 on ALEKS in May 2016 but you postpone taking MTH 141 until Spring, 2017 you will need to retake the assessment since Spring courses will start more then six months after your assessment date.


I did not score 76/100 or better. Can I take MTH 141 anyway?
No, you must achieve the minimum placement result to be allowed in MTH 141.


What if I placed into the class I wanted?
Congratulations! Continue to use your Prep and Learning Module to improve your chances for success. The placement result required is the minimum preparation for your course. Take advantage of the individualized review and learning features in ALEKS to get a better grade in your class.


Can I retake the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
Yes, you may take up to three assessments. Access to a fourth and fifth assessment may be provided after you talk with an advisor. However, to make each attempt worthwhile, it is required that you spend time working in your ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments so that you can improve your skills.


What type of circumstance would allow me to retake the ALEKS PPL Assessment a fourth or fifth time?Taking the ALEKS PPL Assessment a fourth or fifth time is very rare. An example of a circumstance that may allow for a fourth or fifth attempt would be:

A student used all 3 attempts of the ALEKS PPL Assessment in the month of June and did not meet the minimum grade of 76 required, but the student completed a precalculus class at a local community college and did well in it.


Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment immediately?
You must wait 48 hours between Placement Assessments. There is generally no benefit to re-taking the Placement Assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. You cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the Placement Assessment without spending time in the Prep and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten.


How long do I have access to my Prep and Learning Module?
You will have six months of access to your Prep and Learning module.


Is there an additional fee for my Prep and Learning Module?
Access to a Prep and Learning Module is included along with the additional Placement Assessments.


Must I work in my ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments?
You can retake the Placement assessment up to three times to improve your score. You will be required to complete 3 hours of work in the Prep and Learning Modules before prior to the second attempt and 5 additional hours prior to the third attempt to increase your chances of success.


What are ALEKS Knowledge Checks?
While working in a Prep and Learning Module, you will periodically complete a Knowledge Check to make sure you have mastered the topics you gained in Learning Mode. If you do not show mastery during the Knowledge Check, the topics will be added back into your Learning Pie so you can review them again.


Does progress in an ALEKS Prep and Learning Module count toward placement?
No. You must complete a new Placement Assessment to change your placement result. Select the placement tab in the upper right corner of the ALEKS page to start a new Placement Assessment.