Placement Exams

Placement testing information has been recently updated for Fall 2021, click on each exam for details. Please continue to monitor your NIU email account for updated information.

Placement exams are required of select new students and must be taken prior to registration for first semester courses. These exams provide information to help students select courses that correspond to their levels of achievement. Normally, a placement exam may be taken only once.

Please review each placement exam offered. Once you have determine what you need to take, you may register online to test.

Testing Accommodations

If you have a documented disability and need testing accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 815-753-1303 or by email at drc@niu.edu to make an appointment several weeks before your test date to determine your eligibility for services.

If testing accommodations are appropriate, you may take your test at the Disability Resource Center. You must be registered with the DRC before your test date. Make an appointment with the DRC several weeks before you plan to take your placement exams.

The ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning Assessment (ALEKS PPL) determines readiness for math courses. Results show your strengths and weaknesses in math.

Who needs the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment?
You should view the list of majors that require the ALEKS PPL Assessment for math.

List of Majors That Require the ALEKS PPL

List of Majors That Require the ALEKS PPL

The following areas of study have programs that require at least one of these courses. This exam is also required for students in any program in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, any program leading to a B.S. degree in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and for any students who are undecided majors.

  • Accountancy
  • Actuarial Science
  • Anthropology (B.S. majors only)
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry
  • Child Development
  • Communication (B.S. majors only)
  • Communicative Disorders
  • Computer Science
  • Early Childhood Studies
  • Economics (B.S. majors only)
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Elementary Education
  • Engineering Technology
  • English (B.S. majors only)
  • Environmental Studies
  • Family and Individual Development
  • Family Social Services
  • Fashion Merchandising
  • Finance
  • Geography
  • Geology and Environmental Geosciences
  • Health Sciences
  • History (B.S. majors only)
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Journalism (B.S. majors only)
  • Kinesiology
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechatronics Engineering
  • Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • Meteorology
  • Middle Level Teaching and Learning
  • Nonprofit and NGO Studies (B.S. majors only)
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition, Dietetics and Wellness
  • Operations and Information Management
  • Philosophy (B.S. majors only)
  • Physical Education
  • Physics
  • Political Science (B.S. majors only)
  • Pre-Dentistry
  • Pre-Medicine
  • Pre-Optometry
  • Pre-Pharmacy
  • Pre-Physical Therapy
  • Pre-Veterinary Medicine
  • Psychology (B.S. majors only)
  • Public Health
  • Rehabilitation and Disability Services
  • Sociology (B.S. majors only)
  • Special Education
  • Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology
  • Sport Management
  • Statistics
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (B.S. major only)

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 credit.
  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 a 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. (If you’ve met this transitional math requirement, we still encourage you to take the ALEKS Math placement exam because your major may require a higher math course than MATH 110. The ALEKS Math placement exam gives you the opportunity to potentially place into higher math courses.)

ALEKS Technology Requirements and Placement Instructions

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)

Topics Covered

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 level.

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)
Technology Requirements

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.

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

  • Please note the Lockdown browser is not required during the Prep and Learning Modules.
  • 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 for instalation.
    Run the installation program after the download is complete.
  • Once Lock DownBrowser is installed, go to the following link with a regular browser to test if LockDown Browser will launch properly from your computer. Also perform the webcam check here.

System requirements

  • LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor will work on PC’s, MAC’s, and iPads (with the Respondus LockDown Browser App installed). You can find specific system requirements posted here.
  • Note that LockDown Browser and Monitor do not work on Chromebooks or smartphones.

ALEKS Student Support

Step One: 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”.   
Step Two: 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.
Review possible placement levels
  1. After your initial assessment, check the Math Placement Score table below to see the course(s) in which you are eligible to enroll.
  2. If you did not earn the score you think you should, you can utilize the prep and learning modules to review and retake the assessment up to four additional times.
  3. If you earned the placement result needed to enroll in a particular course, you are still eligible and encouraged to utilize the ALEKS learning modules for 12 months to review and prepare for your math course.
  4. 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 will 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.

Information on additional ALEKS Placement attempts (Test 2 through 5)
  1. You must wait 24 hours between each assessment.
  2. You may take up to five 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.  ALEKS Prep and Learning Module creates an individualized study plan for each student based on strengths and weaknesses determined by the initial 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 tests 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.
What is next?
  1. If you have not signed up for First-year Orientation, please do so now.
  2. During orientation, you will meet with your academic advisor and you should consult with your academic advisor before enrolling in a Math course.

Be honest.  There is no benefit to inflating or deflating your abilities on the ALEKS math assessment.

ALEKS scores will not change your acceptance to Northern Illinois University. The ONLY way your ALEKS score is used is to help choose courses that match your incoming knowledge level.

Incorrect placement can negatively affect your GPA. Dishonest work on this assessment causes many problems, including placement into a course that is not appropriate for your current level of knowledge.

Cheating is a violation of NIU’s academic policies and principles.  Please review Northern Illinois University’s Student Code of Conduct policy.  Do your honest best.

ALEKS Frequently Asked Questions

Work Record

Update for Fall 2021: If your major requires the Chemistry Placement Exam, you may now register to take this exam in the comfort of your home. Please use the registration button below to request a link to the test.

You are required to take the Chemistry Placement Exam if you plan to enroll in CHEM 210, General Chemistry I, and CHEM 212, General Chemistry Laboratory I. (If you are planning to enroll in CHEM 110, Chemistry, need not take this exam.)

This exam may be taken only once.

Areas of study requiring CHEM 210 and CHEM 212 include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Studies (B.S. major only)
  • Geology and Environmental Geosciences
  • Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • Physics
  • Pre Dentistry
  • Pre-Medicine
  • Pre-Optometry
  • Pre-Pharmacy
  • Pre-Physical Therapy
  • Pre-Veterinary Medicine

The Chemistry Placement Exam is divided into three equal parts: general mathematics, general chemical knowledge and specific chemical knowledge. Nonprogrammable calculators may be used for this exam.

If you need help interpreting your score, view the Chemistry Score Interpretation Sheet (PDF).

Students are required to take a placement exam in Spanish if they have had previous experience with the language and plan to continue their study of this language at the college level.

Please note: You must register for the online “Spanish Placement Test” (use red Register button below). The exam is completed online at a student's convenience, but it will take some time (up to ten days) to receive your unique testing link in your NIU student email account. Timely completion of the exam is in your best interest. Note that you must use your official NIU email address to register for this exam. Please note that students interested in placement for languages other than Spanish must contact the department at 815-753-1501 or askfl@niu.edu for assistance.

Students who anticipate receiving transfer credit for college-level study of a language need not take a placement exam and are to register for the course that follows the highest level course for which transfer credit has been granted.

Freshmen who plan to study a foreign language other than Spanish should contact the appropriate coordinator in the Department of World Languages and Cultures.

If you need help interpreting your score, view the Foreign Language Score Interpretation Sheet (PDF).

Update for fall 2021: This exam is optional, not required. This exam is typically offered during the spring semester and throughout the summer testing months (March through August). Online registration for this exam will be available during the testing months. Once registered, you may take this exam in the comfort of your home.

Transfers: Transfer students who have not had any first-year composition will be placed into ENGL 103.

Freshmen: The high school GPA reported at the time of your admission will be used to determine your initial English placement.

The high school GPA reported at the time of your admission will be used to determine your initial English placement.

  • CHANCE participants will be placed into ENGL 103P
  • High school GPA of 2.00 to 2.99 will be placed into ENGL 103P
  • High school GPA of 3.0 and higher will be placed into ENGL 103

Both ENGL 103P and ENGL 103 are college-level English courses, and both fulfill the first half of the foundational writing requirement. Regardless of your initial placement, all students are eligible to take this writing composition exam. If you excelled in writing in high school, we encourage you to test. However, taking the test means agreeing to be placed in the class deemed appropriate by a team of English faculty readers, which may mean that your initial placement will not change.

Part one consists of a one-hour writing exercise resulting in one of the following four options:

Eligibility: Any NIU admitted undergraduate student is welcome to register for a “Learning to Learn” course, as it serves as a general education course. However, all CHANCE participants, as well as all students admitted to NIU with less than a 3.0 High School GPA are highly recommended to enroll in one of the “Learning to Learn” courses within their first academic year.

The four general education course options for “Learning to Learn” are:

  • LTRE 191 - Developing contextualized college reading and study strategies for the humanities
  • LTRE 192 - Developing contextualized college reading and study strategies for the natural sciences
  • LTRE 193 - Developing contextualized college reading and study strategies for the social sciences
  • LTRE 194 - Developing contextualized college reading and study strategies for the general studies

These courses are an introduction to college-level reading, learning, and study strategies, including notetaking, reflection, rehearsal, review, and vocabulary development. Emphasis on learning theories to contextualize and guide active reading, self-regulation, and learning on a variety of academic texts. For more information on literacy courses and NIU's Academic Literacy and Learning Program, please visit their website.