ALEKS Frequently Asked Questions

Preparation

Why must I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?

The Placement Assessment is used to determine the mathematics course in which you will have the greatest success. Upon completion of the Placement Assessments, your scores are sent to your MyNIU account. Your advisor will review your scores and help make appropriate recommendations for course registration.

Who is required to take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?

You should view the list of majors that require the ALEKS PPL Assessment for math. 

You will need an ALEKS math placement exam to enroll in any of the following MATH courses: MATH 108, MATH 104, MATH 105, MATH 110, MATH 155, MATH 206, MATH 210, MATH 211, and MATH 229

You are not required to take the ALEKS PPL Assessment if,

  1. you are earning a Bachelor of Arts degree.
  2. you are entering Northern Illinois University with AP Calculus.
  3. you have earned college level Math that transferred in (Math 110 or higher).  Transfer students please consult with your academic advisor to see if your Math is sufficient and has transferred in.
  4. you are student with a major in the College of Visual and Performing Art.
  5. you have High School Transitional Math 4 (TM001) – Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pathway is for students with career goals involving occupations that require the application of calculus or advanced algebraic skills. In accordance with and subject to the PWR Act, successful completion of High School Transitional Math 4 (TM001) with a final grade equivalent to "C" or better guarantees student placement into College Algebra (MATH 110) at NIU.
When do I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?

New incoming freshman and transfers should take their ALEKS math placement assessment prior to their orientation date. The score you receive will determine the appropriate Math class that you will register for during orientation.  Taking the assessment early will allow you to complete the Prep and Learning Modules and take another assessment if you do not perform as well as you think you should.

Semester Attending Dates

Fall 2021

March 1, 2021—August 13, 2021 (August 1 preferred last day)

Spring 2022

September 1, 2021—January 1, 2022​

Summer 2022

February 1, 2022—June 1, 2022

Where do I take the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment?

You may take this exam in the comfort of your home. If you do not have the necessary technology, please consider borrowing a computer from a close family member or friend to take the assessment at home. Otherwise, please contact our Testing Services office at testing@niu.edu for other options.

What do I need to take the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment?

If you do not have the necessary technology, please consider borrowing a computer from a close family member or friend to take the assessment at home. Otherwise, please contact our Testing Services office at testing@niu.edu for other options.

You will need the following:
Photo ID (state issued or NIU student photo ID)
PC/Mac (Chromebooks are not allowed)
Webcam
Mic
Reliable Internet connection
Blank scratch paper and pencil
Z-ID student login (Z#@students.niu.edu) and your Password (same password for your MyNIU account)

Is there a fee for using ALEKS PPL?

No, the first time you use ALEKS it is free (including up to five assessments and 12 months access to Prep and Learning Modules).  Northern Illinois University students should complete their ALEKS assessment and enroll in the math course corresponding to their placement in their first semester if possible, and certainly within their first year.  Students who complete the ALEKS assessment and do not enroll in Math their first year, may need to retest.  Should this occur, the student would be responsible for the ALEKS fee.

Do I need to install any software or plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment?

If you do not have the necessary technology, please consider borrowing a computer from a close family member or friend to take the assessment at home. Otherwise, please contact our Testing Services office at testing@niu.edu for other options.

No. There are no required plug-ins or applets required with your use of ALEKS PPL. Chromebooks are not compatible while taking the proctored assessment.  As long as you have access to the internet and are using an updated browser, you should not experience difficulties in taking your Placement Assessment.  For a list of preferred browsers, please review the ALEKS system requirements on their support site.

Respondus student video  

  • You will need a Windows or Mac computer (Chromebooks are not supported) that enables you to install software. The computer will also need a functioning webcam and microphone, since you will be recorded during the assessment.
  • Even if you have previously downloaded LockDown Browser for another course or assignment, you will still need to download this version, as it is unique to ALEKS. Download links. Run the installation program after the download is complete.
  • Once LockDown Browser is installed, go to the following link with a regular browser to test if LockDown Browser will launch properly from your computer. Perform the webcam check.
  • If you have any problems with LockDown Browser or the webcam setup, contact ALEKS Tech Support at 1-800-258-2374 or ALEKS Tech Support site.

System requirements

  • Please note the Lockdown browser is not required during the Prep and Learning Modules.
  • LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor will work on PC’s, MAC’s, and iPads (with the Respondus LockDown Browser App installed). Find your specific system requirements.
  • Note that LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor do not work on Chromebooks or smartphones.

ALEKS Student Support:

What topics are covered during the ALEKS PPL Assessment?

ALEKS PPL is an online, adaptive system that covers a broad spectrum of mathematics topics. The length of the Placement Assessment will vary, but can be up to 30 questions. You will see some, but not all, of the math you have learned in high school. It is a Placement Assessment, not a preview of math courses at Northern Illinois University. It is designed to identify if you are prepared for a particular course. After you take your first Placement Assessment, you will have the opportunity to review and master additional topics to reassess and improve your placement.
Topics covered:

  • 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 if I am a person with a disability and need an accommodation for the ALEKS assessment?

If you are a student who has a documented disability, please contact the Disability Resource Center at 815-753-1303 or e-mail to make an appointment to determine your eligibility for services. If testing accommodations are appropriate, you will work with the Disability Resource Center and Testing Services to take your ALEKS assessment.

Taking the Placement Assessment

How to create an ALEKS Account?
  1. Make sure you have the technology requirements for ALEKS.
  2. Access ALEKS
  3. To use ALEKS you must enter your student e-mail address (z1234567@students.niu.edu).  If you do not know your NIU e-mail address or password, please visit the NIU AccountIDs and Passwords website
  4. Enter your password (same password for e-mail, MyNIU, and Blackboard).
  5. Please have your photo ID (license, state ID, or student ID-high school or college ID is acceptable) with you.
  6. Enter your class “Incoming Student Cohort…”
  7. Click on “Get Started” to take the survey.
  8. Take the Tools Tutorial.
  9. Next, go to “Take the ALEKS Math placement”.
How to take the ALEKS Math Placement? (Includes Password information)

If you are ready to take the assessment and you have the required technology, please follow the steps below.  If you do not have the required technology to test at home, please contact Testing Services at testing@niu.edu.

  1. Access ALEKS (If you are already in ALEKS start with number 2.)
  2. Click “Get Started” to begin your Placement Assessment.
  3. On the screen titled Proctor Password Required, enter TESTING1
  4. Download and install the LockDown Browser.
  5. While testing at home the LockDown Browser screen comes up.  Make sure you select “I want to use a webcam (Respondus Monitor)” so you are able to test at home.
  6. Please have your photo ID (license, state ID, or student ID) with you.
  7. In ALEKS go through Steps 1-9 that are outlined on the screen.
  8. You will have up to three hours to complete your assessment (most students complete it in 60-90 minutes).  There are up to 30 questions on the assessment.
  9. At the end of your assessment, you can go back to your home screen to retrieve your score.
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 the answers on paper and then enter them into ALEKS. Be sure to have scratch paper and pencil with you. Before the Assessment begins, complete the tutorial, which shows you how to enter different types of answers, how to use the ALEKS calculator, and how to graph. If you need help while you are taking ALEKS, click on the "help" button at the top of the screen.

May I use a calculator while using ALEKS?

ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem. You may not use a personal 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 Northern Illinois University’s Student Code of Conduct policy. 

Can I review a question after I have answered it?

No, ALEKS is an adaptive assessment. Once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Be sure to carefully check your answer before submitting your response.

How many questions are on ALEKS?

There will be a maximum of 30 questions. The exact number of questions will vary due to the adaptive format.

What if I see questions I do not 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. However, on any question that you have familiarity with, 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. 

How long will an ALEKS placement assessment take to complete?

Placement assessments require approximately 60-90 minutes to complete, but the amount of time will vary by student.  The maximum amount of time for the test is three hours.

Are Placement Assessments timed?

Yes, you have three hours to complete a Placement Assessment once it has begun.

What happens if I do not complete a Placement Assessment in the allotted time?

Upon three hours of testing time for your proctored assessment(s), your exam will auto submit and will be scored on what questions were completed.

I am ready to start my ALEKS PPL Assessment. How do I begin?
  1. Make sure you have the technology requirements for ALEKS.
  2. Access ALEKS
  3. To use ALEKS you must enter your student e-mail address (z1234567@students.niu.edu).  If you do not know your NIU e-mail address or password, please visit this website:  https://doit.niu.edu/doit/services/identity/AccountID-Password-Help.shtml.
  4. Enter your password (same password for e-mail, MyNIU, and Blackboard).
  5. Please have your photo ID (license, state ID, or student ID with you).
  6. You will complete a tutorial to learn how to use ALEKS prior to beginning your assessment. We highly encourage you to take time to complete the entire tutorial so you will be comfortable navigating all the problem/answer types.
  7. You will have up to three hours to complete your assessment (most students complete it in 60-90 minutes).
  8. There are up to 30 questions on the assessment.

Placement Result

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 that you have mastered.

Please enroll in the math course corresponding to your placement in the first semester if possible and certainly within the first year. Students will have 12 months of access to ALEKS.  Students who complete the ALEKS assessment and do not enroll in Math their first year, may need to retest.  Should this occur, the student would be responsible for the ALEKS fee.

Course placement is determined as follows:

Math Placement Level - ALEKS score

Recommended
Course Placement

Student's Registration Action

A (score 76-100)

MATH 206, 210, 211, 229

Register for MATH 206, 210, 211, or 229 depending upon which course is required or recommended by your major.

B (score 61-75)

MATH 155, 206, 210, 211

Register for MATH 155 if 155 or 229 is required or recommended by your major.
Register for Math 206, 210, or 211 if required or recommended by your major.

C (score 46-60)

MATH 110

Register for MATH 110 if it or 155, 206, 210, 211, or 229 is required.

D (score 30-45)

MATH 104 & 105 corequisite courses

Register for both MATH 104 & 105 corequisite courses, if MATH 110 is required by your major.

E (score 0-29) 

MATH 108

Register for MATH 108, available fall 2021 term only, if MATH 110 is required by your major.

Consult with your academic advisor before enrolling in a Math course.

Where can I see my score?

Upon completion of your assessment, you will immediately be able to see your score.  Your score(s) may be viewed in your ALEKS account.  In your ALEKS account, go to the top left side of the screen, click on the three lines, and select Reports.  Your scores will also be added into your MyNIU account and are accessible by your academic advisor.

How long is my placement result valid?

Students should complete their ALEKS assessment and enroll in the math course corresponding to their placement in their first semester if possible, and certainly within their first year.  Students will have 12 months of access to ALEKS.  Students who complete the ALEKS assessment and do not enroll in Math their first year, may need to retest.  Should this occur, the student would be responsible for the ALEKS fee.

What if I do not place into the course I wanted?

This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Prep and Learning Modules offered within ALEKS PPL. An individualized study plan will be created based on your performance on the Initial Placement Assessment. ALEKS will identify what you know and what you are ready to learn next so you can brush up on lost knowledge.  The Prep and Learning module is available for twelve months from the date you begin.

Students can retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment up to four additional times to improve score and/or review for math classes.  The highest score will be used for your math placement.  Students are required to complete a specific amount of time on the Prep and Learning Modules prior to each assessment to increase success.  There is a 24 hour cool off period in between each assessment. 

I did not place into the class I wanted. Can I take it anyway?

No, you must achieve the minimum placement result to take each corresponding class.

Which math course is required for my program?

Please review the Undergraduate Catalog and consult with your academic advisor.

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 four additional Placement Assessments. To make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments so you can improve your skills.  There is a 24 hour cool off period between each assessment.

Students are also required to complete a specific amount of time on the Prep and Learning Modules prior to each assessment to increase success.

Please note that additional placement assessments/attempts are locked until you complete the required time in your Prep and Learning module.

  • 2nd attempt—required to complete 3 hours of Prep and Learning Modules before attempting assessment.  (Please note statistics show if you spend 6 hours in the Prep and Learning Module 50% of students will place one level higher than their initial assessment.)
  • 3rd attempt—required to complete 5 additional hours of Prep and Learning Module before attempting assessment.
  • 4th attempt—required to complete 5 additional hours of Prep and Learning module before attempting assessment.
  • 5th attempt—required to complete 8 additional hours of Prep and Learning Module before attempting assessment.
Can I retake the ALEKS Placement Assessment immediately?

You must wait 24 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.

Prep and Learning Modules

Do I need a webcam/mic for my Prep and Learning Modules?

You may use any form of technology, including Chromebooks, when completing the required amount of time on the individualized study plan prior to your next assessment attempt.

Note that Lockdown browser and webcam/mic are not required during the Prep and Learning Modules

How long do I have access to my Prep and Learning Module?

You will have 12 months of access to your Prep and Learning module. Access to the prep course will not begin until you select start on the top of your screen. DO NOT go into the Prep and Learning Module until you are ready to start working.

Is there an additional fee for my Prep and Learning Module?

No, access to a Prep and Learning Modules are included along with the initial five Placement Assessments.

Must I work in my ALEKS Prep and Learning Module between Placement Assessments?

You can retake the Placement Assessment up to four additional times to improve your score. (The highest score will be used for math placement). Students are required to work in the Prep and Learning Modules for a specific amount of time prior to each Placement Assessment to increase success.

  • 2nd attempt—required to complete 3 hours of Prep and Learning Modules before attempting assessment.  (Please note statistics show if you spend 6 hours in the Prep and Learning Module 50% of students will place one level higher than their initial assessment.)
  • 3rd attempt—required to complete 5 additional hours of Prep and Learning Module before attempting assessment.
  • 4th attempt—required to complete 5 additional hours of Prep and Learning module before attempting assessment.
  • 5th attempt—required to complete 8 additional hours of Prep and Learning Module before attempting assessment.
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.

What do I do if my web browser is stuck or my computer crashes while I am 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.