Is the TAP Test Hard?

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Test of Academic Proficiency features a wide range of topics and includes plenty of challenging material. Keep reading for more information on the difficulty of this assessment and how you can best prepare yourself.

TAP Difficulty

The Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency is a challenging assessment that includes 170 multiple-choice questions and a constructed-response prompt covering a wide range of academic areas.

Despite the test's length and breadth of content, it is far from impossible. Students who adequately prepare and study diligently for this exam can expect to perform well. Outlined below are some of the potential difficulties posed by the test followed by some suggestions for heading them off.


The TAP test consists of four subtests: Reading Comprehension, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Writing. These are designed to measure your critical reading skills, knowledge of English language conventions, and ability to develop a well-supported written argument, not to mention solve a variety of algebra, geometry, and statistics problems.

Moreover, you'll need to earn a scaled score of at least 240 on each of these subtests. These strict passing standards mean that you'll need a solid grasp of each subject in order to pass the exam. If you are an excellent writer but struggle with math, your strong scores on the Writing subarea will not offset a poor score on the Mathematics section.


In addition to the challenging content found on the TAP, you'll also face a test of endurance in your efforts to complete this exam. The Reading Comprehension and Language Arts sections each include 60 multiple-choice questions, and the Mathematics portion consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. You must also compose a multi-paragraph response to the prompt found in the Writing subtest.

You'll need to spend five hours completing all four parts of the test if you elect to take the whole thing at once. Adding to this length is a 15-minute tutorial on how to use the computer-based testing interface. Not only will you need to be familiar with the content of the questions, but you'll also need to stay focused and alert for the entirety of the testing period.

TAP Strategies for Success

The overall difficulty of this assessment is ultimately determined by your own level of preparation. If you study extensively, you should find your testing experience to be relatively smooth and comfortable. By the same token, a failure to prepare will almost certainly guarantee a challenging test day. Here are some tips to help ensure you have a successful testing experience instead of a stressful one.

  • Familiarize yourself with the test's reference materials. During the Mathematics section, you'll be allowed access to a reference sheet. This can serve as an extremely helpful reminder of important formulas, mathematical definitions, and conversion factors. You might want to take a look at it before your exam, or even consider using it to complete practice problems during your test prep, so you know exactly when and where this resource could come in handy.
  • Consider splitting up your test sessions. You can take one or more subtests separately if you think this will improve your chances of passing the parts of the exam you expect to be especially challenging. However, this option could turn out to be more expensive. The fee to sit for all four subtests at once is $113, while a $68 test fee is charged for individual subtests.
  • Take advantage of available study resources. has a number of online courses to help you get ready for this assessment. This Illinois TAP - Test of Academic Proficiency: Practice & Study Guide provides a comprehensive review of each section of the test and includes engaging video lessons and interactive quizzes to keep you focused and help you learn. also has a few other resources that can help you review test content. For example, these Math and Reading & Understanding Essays flashcards can provide you with a quick review of concepts that appear on the TAP.
  • Be aware of retake policies. It might provide you with a little reassurance to know that if you do not pass the TAP on your first try, your scores are banked and you will only need to retake the sections you did not pass on your first attempt. If, for example, you pass the Mathematics, Writing, and Language Arts sections, you will only need to retake the Reading Comprehension portion of the exam.

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