Placement Exams

Placement testing information has been recently updated for fall 2020, 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 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.

Update for fall 2020: You will be given an initial math placement level based on your SAT math scores and high school GPA. Your placement results will be emailed from to your NIU email address.

  • You should register for the Accuplacer Math Exam ($25 fee) if you:
    • Did not submit a high school GPA.
    • Wish to challenge your math placement result.

Students are required to take this exam if they plan to enroll in any of the following courses:

  • MATH 110 - College Algebra
  • MATH 155 - Trigonometry and Elementary Functions
  • MATH 206 - Introductory Discrete Mathematics
  • MATH 210 - Finite Mathematics
  • MATH 211 - Calculus for Business and Social Science
  • MATH 229 - Calculus I

Transfer students who have completed the mathematics requirement for their NIU program of study need not take this exam.

You have the option of taking a paper/pencil version of the Math Placement Exam on NIU's main campus or taking the computer-based Math Accuplacer at an off-campus location.

The Mathematics Placement Exam deals mainly with the subject matter of high school algebra and trigonometry. The first part contains questions on such topics as solutions to equations and inequalities, functions and graphs in the plane, exponential and logarithmic functions, systems of equations, and polynomials. The second part of the exam has questions on the trigonometric functions and their graphs, solutions of triangles, trigonometric identities, and the addition formulas.

Calculators may not be used for this exam.

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

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 need help interpreting your score, view the Math Score Interpretation Sheet (PDF).

Update for fall 2020: 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.

Students are required to take the Chemistry Placement Exam if they plan to enroll in CHEM 210, General Chemistry I, and CHEM 212, General Chemistry Laboratory I. (Students 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
  • Engineering Technology
  • Environmental Studies (B.S. major only)
  • Geology and Environmental Geosciences
  • Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechatronics 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, or if they anticipate receiving CLEP subject exam credit.

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 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 2020: If you do not receive an English Placement Exam e-mail and you would like to take a competency exam for English, you may consider registering for the optional Writing Composition Exam I. Note: this exam is not required. 

If you have an ACT composite or English score of 22 or above, an SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Exam score of 550 or above or you excelled in writing in high school, we highly recommend you register for the Writing Composition Foundational Studies Competency (WCFSC) Examination.

Completion of part one of this exam will place you into either ENGL 103 (Rhetoric and Composition I) or ENGL 204 (Rhetoric and Composition, Accelerated Researched Writing in the Domains), or you may be invited to take part two of this exam which could satisfy your Writing Composition Foundational Studies Competency requirement if passed.

Register for Placement Testing online.