How is the Accuplacer Arithmetic Test Scored?

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

The Accuplacer Arithmetic Test is used by many colleges to determine where to place students in math courses that are at an appropriate level of challenge for the student. The resulting score is different than traditional school scoring scales. In this lesson, learn more about how the test is scored.

The Accuplacer Next-Generation Arithmetic Test

Many colleges use the Accuplacer Next-Generation Arithmetic Test to determine where to place students in math to appropriately balance level of challenge with skills and knowledge. Scores are available to test takers immediately at the end of the testing session. Imagine you took this test and ended up with a score of 280. Pretty good, right? Or not?

Although the assessments are based on a 100 point scale, the Next-Generation Arithmetic test gives a score between 200 and 300 points.

Test Specificity

If I called someone up on the phone and said, 'Tell me about your math skills and knowledge,' I might get a huge variety of different answers, even from people with similar levels of math skills and knowledge. One person might say, 'Pretty good. But I hate it.' Another might say,'I love it. I'm great at fractions, decimals, and all that math stuff!' My phone call assessment would not be very helpful.

The best tests are diagnostic in nature and specific, meaning they are targeted to measure very specific skills. Each item (question) is designed with the intent of measuring a very specific skill or knowledge. Each Accuplacer item is specifically designed to assess student knowledge of arithmetic skills and knowledge from one of the five skills categories measured by the test:

  • Whole number operations
  • Fraction operations
  • Decimal operations
  • Percent
  • Number comparisons and equivalents

Computer-Adaptive

The test is computer-adaptive, meaning test questions selected for each test taker depend on how they answered previous questions. Correctly answered questions will be followed by a slightly more difficult item. Incorrectly answered questions will be followed by a slightly less difficult item. There is a large bank of questions, each aligned with a particular skill or knowledge, from which the computer algorithm chooses the next question for each test taker. Using this bank, the computer makes sure it has assessed each skill or knowledge of interest. A mere 20 questions later, the test taker receives their score, which can help colleges make informed math placement recommendations.

Score Range

Scores range between 200 and 300, and provides a guideline for colleges to determine the right math classroom placement of incoming students. Additionally, the College Board (who publishes the Accuplacer test) has published what they call 'Skills Insight for Next-Generation Arithmetic,' which are general statements of what types of Arithmetic skills and knowledge test takers within given ranges can be expected to have. While these Proficiency Statements can be informative to colleges, it is important to remember that each institution is free to use the scores as they please. A quick review of the placement guidelines used by different schools reveals that the use of these scores vary widely among the institutions, though many clearly use the Proficiency Statements as a starting point.

Skills Insight

Below are the five ranges within the Skills Insight.

Score ranges and skills insight:

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