Basic information

The Mathematics Placement Test is not a pass-fail test!

The placement test gives a measure of a student's mathematical skills at the time, and the results are used to advise students on the appropriate mathematics course in which to enroll in order to complete the mathematics requirement for a particular program of study.

The entry-level mathematics courses at UMCP require the permission of the department before students may register. Statistics indicate that the majority of students who enroll in a math course beyond that indicated by the placement test either withdraw from the course or earn D's or F's.

The entry-level mathematics courses: Math 003, 010, 011, 013, 015, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 130, 140, 220 and Stat 100 are placed on a horizontal scale as shown below. Students may register for the course that they place into or any course that is to the left of their placement

Except for Math 003, 010, 011, 013, 015,  any of the courses on the list will serve to satisfy the University's Fundamental Studies Mathematics requirement. Math 003 is a non-credit course which serves as preparation for credit courses, and has a special fee.  Math 010 prepares you for Math 110 and becomes Math 110 after 5 weeks.  The same is true for Math 013 becoming Math 113, Math 011 becoming Math 111, and Math 015 becoming Math 115.  These too have a special fee.  Math 110 is an applications course requiring a strong Algebra I background. Math 113 requires a strong Algebra II background and is a preparation for Math 220. Math 111 is a noncalculus introduction to probablity, required for statistics courses in some other departments. Stat 100 is a noncalculus introduction to probability and statistics. Math 115 is a precalculus course which requires a very strong Algebra II background and is a preparation for Math 140. Math 220 is a calculus course for non-science majors. Math 140 is a first course in calculus for science and engineering students. Math 130 is a calculus course for life science majors.  It too requires a very strong precalculus background like Math 140 obtained by completing Math 115.  Math 113 students planning to enroll in Math 130 Spring 2016 will need to extend and further develop the following topics to be more fully prepared:  simplifying complex rational expressions, the families of logarithmic and exponential functions, and graphing rational functions.

What happens if a student doesn't place into the course that they need for their course of study? A student may retake the placement test to improve a placement. However, a student may take the placement test only once during an academic year semester and is allowed to retake it only once during the summer. Any retake should be preceded by careful review and preparation (see below).

There are also course sequences which will take a student from his/her current mathematical level to the target program of study. There are advisors at orientation to help students plan an appropriate sequence of courses once the placement test results are available. For instance, suppose a student needs Math 140 for a major but places into Math 110. Since Math 110 is not a preparation for Math 140, the student has several options, including the following: study independently over the summer and retake the placement test; take Math 003, followed by Math 115 and then Math 140; or take Math 015 and then Math 140. The last type of option, involving the courses Math 010, 011, 013 and 015, is discussed on the Developmental Math Program web page.

How To Prepare For The Test

The Mathematics Placement Test consist of 67 questions covering four main areas: arithmetic, algebra I, algebra II, and trigonometry. Topics include: simplification of expressions, exponents, linear equations in one and two variables, slope, systems of equations, inequalities, absolute value, quadratic, cubic, exponential, and logarithmic functions, roots of polynomials, composition of functions, and trigonometric functions.

To prepare for the placement test, you can go to the on-line course syllabi of the mathematics department, and use the syllabus of the course you wish to place out of as a study guide. Other resources are described in the section below on retaking the placement test.

It is recommended that students take a sample placement exam and review topics when necessary. Only students planning to take Math 140 need to demonstrate knowledge of trigonometry.

Go on to the sample placement exam.

Preparing to retake the Math Placement Test

FACT: You will save at least one semester of taking math by taking the time to do a careful review and placing in a course required for your major.

FACT: Just retaking the Placement Test is VERY unlikely to place you in your desired math course. Experience has shown that students who do not have a substantial review before retaking the test seldom change their original placement. A word to the wise ...

REVIEW!         REVIEW!         REVIEW!         REVIEW!

You received four scores from your Placement Test.

The topics associated with PART I - Arithmetic - are the following:

  • Basic artithmetic oeprations including order of operations
  • Fractions, decimals, percents and ratios
  • Exponents

The topics associated with PART II - Elementary Algebra - are the following:

  • Operations on polynomials, including factoring
  • Linear and quadratic equations in one variable
  • Linear inequalities
  • Systems of first degree equations
  • Functions
  • Graphing of first degree euations, inequalities and functions

Topics associated with PART III - Intermediate Algebra - are all topics in Elementary Algebra plus the following:

  • Absolute value
  • Rational equations
  • Laws of exponents/fractional exponents
  • Formulas - solving for one variable in terms of other variables
  • Composition and inverses of functions
  • Radical expressions/equations
  • Exponential Functions
  • Logarithmic Functions
  • Conic sections

(Mastery of all of the above topics would likely place you into a credited math course.)

Topics from PART IV include the following:

  • Basic Trigonometry
  • Trigonometric Equations
  • Periodic Functions

(Knowledge of these topics is needed for placement in a calculus sequence.)


You have a sense of the topics that you know and the ones that you have forgetten. As you use the following resources, pick the topics you need to review. For example, if you obtain an Elementary or Intermediate Algebra text, go directly to the chapters with the topics you need to review. Similarly, if you use software, videos and web pages you may want to go directly to the portion covering topics you need to review.

You don't need to (and should not try to) use all the resources below. They provide different presentations of the same mathematics, and no matter how many resources you assemble, in the end there is no escaping the work of studying the mathematics. Use what works best for you.


    • For Elementary Algebra: Schaums Outline Series, College Algebra, Murray, Spiegel and Wagner.
    • For Intermediate Algebra: Schaums Outline Series, College Mathematics, second edition, Ayres and Schmidt.
  • Check your local library for other elementary and intermediate algebra resources.

Review Courses:

  • Algebra Brush-up courses may be available at your local high school or community college.

Tutorial web pages:

Search the WEB for Intermediate Algebra Review Material.  Much is free and self-help.  Below are listed a few.


  • Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra and Pre-Calculus are located in LAS-2201 Shoemaker Building and Hornbake Library, Nonprint Media Room.

The references above are suggestions. A change in your placement will depend primarily on the amount and quality of the review you do.

You may also want to take the sample placement exam.

Taking the placement exam.

Students needing a retake: email name and UID to  to be set up.) Please click here to take the Mathematics Placement Test (for incoming students and retakers who have emailed a request).