Seattle University Math Placement Exam: Frequently Asked Questions


What is on the placement exam? Which part should I take?

There are essentially two different parts to the placement exam, and you may take one or both parts, depending upon your situation.  These two different parts are described below. 

  Algebra Placement Test Trigonometry Placement Test


This test is used to determine which Math class you "place into" or should be initially taking (up to MATH 134).  Your SAT/ACT/AP scores are first used to determine your placement into a Math class.  However, if you think this placement is inaccurate and your scores do not reflect your ability, you can take this test to attempt to place into a higher level Math class.  You might also take this test if you do not have SAT/ACT/AP scores to be used in determining your placement, nor do you have any transfer courses.  This test does not earn you any credits toward your degree.

This test is used to "place out of" or waive the trigonometry class (MATH 121), which is a co-requisite for MATH 134 (Calculus I) and MATH 131 (Calculus for Life Sciences).  If you pass the test, you do not need to take the class.  However, passing the test does not earn you any credits.

Students might also take this test to fulfill the MATH 121 prerequisite for classes outside the Math department (for example, Physics).  In this case, you must contact that department to determine the requirements and gain permission in advance. 


30 multiple choice questions

NO calculator

Can be taken only once

9 multiple choice questions

NO calculator

Can be taken twice


  • Algebraic manipulation/simplification
  • Fractions
  • Powers
  • Roots
  • Factoring
  • Expansion
  • Solving equations and inequalities
  • Linear, quadratic, polynomial, and rational equations and inequalities
  • Equations and inequalities with absolute values
  • Geometry
  • Area, perimeter/circumference, volume, surface area
  • Functions, concept of a function
  • Domain and range
  • Graphs of functions
  • Transformations of functions
  • Compositions of functions
  • Families of Functions
  • Linear, quadratic, polynomial, rational, exponential, and log functions
  • Functions with absolute value
  • Angles
  • Trigonometric functions
  • Inverse trigonometric functions
  • Trigonometric identities
  • Solving trig equations
  • Law of sines and law of cosines
  • Solving triangles

When can I take the placement test?

New freshman students generally have an opportunity to take the test during orientation in the summer.  Generally, there are also scheduled testing sessions during the first week of classes in the fall quarter.  You can contact the Math department administrative assistant, Margaret Trenary (206-296-5930,, BANN 412), to find out when these sessions will be held.  You can also take the exam any time by appointment in the Math department office (BANN 412).  Please contact Lisa Berman if you wish to set up an appointment.

If you are taking the algebra portion of the placement exam, you will probably want to do so as soon as possible so you can determine which course you qualify for, and can therefore plan your schedule and register.  However, this will depend on your individual situation and how much time you have before needing to register for a math class.

Most students who plan on taking the trigonometry placement test in order to waive MATH 121 register for this trigonometry class (with their calculus class – either 131 or 134) and then later drop the trig class (MATH 121) if they pass the test.  If you are doing this, you should take the placement test no later than the add/drop period for the quarter.  Otherwise, you will not be able to drop the class.  If you must take the test after the add/drop period, you should definitely do so no later than the withdrawal deadline for the quarter.  Otherwise, you will no longer be able to withdraw from the class either, and will have to remain enrolled (and receive a grade).  Some students choose to take the placement test prior to registering for a calculus class.  This way, they know whether or not they need to register for MATH 121.  Additionally, some of these students decide to take MATH 121 in one quarter and their calculus class in the following quarter (particularly if they can't fit both into one quarter).

When do I get my results?

The test will be scored immediately after you finish, so you will know your results when you leave the testing session.  The administrative assistant can also assist you in interpreting your score.

Do I have to take the math class that I place into, or can I take a lower level class if I feel more comfortable with that?

Yes, you can take a math class below the class that you place into.  For example, your score might place you into MATH 134 (Calculus I), but you would feel more comfortable starting out with MATH 120 (Precalculus), which is the class below it.  This is perfectly fine.  You cannot, however, take a class above the one you place into (i.e., you can't take MATH 134 if you place into 120).  It should be noted that once you receive credit for a course (with a grade of 2.00/C or better), you cannot subsequently receive credit for a course below it.  For example, if you take MATH 120 and receive a grade of C or better, you cannot later take MATH 110 and receive credit for it.

Additional Questions?

Contact Lisa Berman, Administrative Assistant (206-296-5930,, BANN 412) or Jeff Boersema, Math Department Chair (206-296-5929,