Placement and Developmental Courses FAQ

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Q: Can I improve my math placement status using ALEKS only at my home?

No. To change your math placement status with the assistance of ALEKS, you must (1) take an initial assessment after signing up at www.aleks.com/sonoma, (2) purchase the appropriate ALEKS course module and spend a minimum of 25 hours of time practicing your skills and (3) pass the ELM at SSU on August 22, 2009 (or at an earlier administration).

Q: What kind of material is covered on the initial assessment?

The assessment covers a broad spectrum of beginning and intermediate algebra and pre calculus material. The ALEKS system is fully automated and the ALEKS assessment is adaptive.

The first questions asked will be drawn from across the curriculum, and may be too easy or too hard. As the assessment proceeds, your answers will be used to give the system an idea of your knowledge, and it will gradually focus the questioning in an individually appropriate way. By the end of the assessment you should find the questions generally challenging but reasonable for your individual level of knowledge. The length of the assessment runs from 20-35 questions. The exact number of questions will vary due to the adaptive mechanism just described.

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." On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. "I don't know" is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results. If you do not do your best on the assessment, ALEKS will underestimate your knowledge.

Q: What ALEKS module should I select?

If you have not already qualified for GE Math, you should choose either the "Prep for Int. Algebra" or "Prep for PreCalculus" module. If you have already qualified for GE Math (via an ELM score of 50 or higher, or a qualifying score on other exams; see this list of qualifying scores), then you may choose the module to prepare you for the course you wish to take in the Fall.

Q: What if ALEKS asks me questions about material I have never seen?

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." On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. "I don't know" is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know the topic, and this will be reflected in the assessment results. If you do not do your best on the assessment, ALEKS will underestimate your knowledge.

Q: Is ALEKS only for developmental math students?

No. If you have placed into GE-level Math by scoring 50 or above on the ELM or by an appropriate score on the SAT, ACT, AP, or EAP exam, then you can use the ALEKS assessment to help you decide whether you are ready to take Calculus. Take the initial assessment, and the results will give you advisory information about the wisdom of enrolling directly in Calculus I. If you feel or the assessment results indicate that you are almost but not quite ready for Calculus, you will have the option to purchase the ALEKS precalculus module for $35 to get ready for Calculus I in the Fall.

Q: I have already taken Calculus in high school. Can I use ALEKS to place in to Calculus II?

No. At this time, ALEKS assessments are available to assist students with placement into courses up to and including Calculus I. You must pass an AP Calculus Exam with a score of 3 or higher to move directly into Calculus II at SSU.

Q: How many times may I take an ALEKS assessment?

You may only take the free initial assessment once. If you then choose to purchase an ALEKS course module to work on your skills, you will be periodically prompted by ALEKS to take progress assessments while you are working in your ALEKS course module, preparing for the re-administration of the ELM in August.

Q: Are ALEKS assessments and Course Modules free?

No. ALEKS is commercial software that is available to the public for a charge. SSU will cover the cost of your initial ALEKS assessments. You are responsible to purchase access to the recommended ALEKS course module. (Fee waivers are available - see the Fee Waiver application form.) The ELM in August will cost $18.

Q: Why would I want to spend money to use ALEKS?

Developmental math courses (also called remedial math courses) do not count toward degree progress, but they do require text books and count toward university and financial aid unit caps. You can save a substantial amount of time and money by reducing the number of, or eliminating the need to take developmental math courses. The cost of an ALEKS course module is nominal when compared to the cost of taking developmental math courses once you are at SSU.

Q: What score is required to "pass" the ELM?

An ELM score of 50 or higher means you are ready for GE-level Math classes; a score of 38-48 means you need to take Math 45 (Intermediate Algebra); a score of 36 or below means you need to take Math 35 (Elementary Algebra) and then Math 45 (Intermediate Algebra).

Q: Why do I need to take a tutorial to use ALEKS?

The ALEKS tutorial is a brief, interactive training program that teaches you to use some of the basic ALEKS answer input tools, known collectively as the "Answer Editor." Although the Answer Editor is easy to use, the Tutorial will make sure you are proficient with it before using ALEKS.

Q: What is "My Pie", and how do I add topics to it?

Your pie illustrates your current level of knowledge in a subject. If you roll your mouse over a "slice" of your pie, you can choose from a list of topics shown in a pop-up window that appears next to the pie slice. Not every slice is available at a given time. As you progress through the material, you will be able to access new topics until you have mastered all of them.

You fill in your pie and achieve mastery in the subject matter by working in the Learning Mode on concepts and skills that the assessment has determined you are most "ready to learn." The goal is to fill in the pie completely.

Q: Why doesn't ALEKS allow me to study any topic I want to in the learning modules?

ALEKS guides you through the specific curriculum your instructor has chosen. After ALEKS assesses your current Knowledge State and your goal, it will determine which topics you are ready to learn next. Other topics may not be available to you yet because ALEKS has determined that you're not yet ready to learn them. ALEKS tries to ensure that you are only learning the topics for which you have demonstrated readiness.

Q: How can I get help if I am having trouble using ALEKS?

Information on how to contact ALEKS customer support is available at http://www.aleks.com/support