How Are Accuplacer Tests Scored?

by Kristie Sweet

More than 2,000 educational institutions use the College Board's Accuplacer exam to determine student placement regarding reading, math and composition ability. Schools may require students with lower scores to take developmental classes to increase their readiness for college-level coursework or to enter a specific program. Part of the appeal of the Accuplacer is its fast and easy scoring.


Accuplacer scores are based on the total correct answers as well as the complexity of the questions. More difficult questions are worth more points toward the total score. If a student answers a question correctly, the program asks a higher-level question. If a student answers a question incorrectly, the next question will be a lower-difficulty one. The lowest possible score is 20, and the highest is 120. The final score includes a percentile ranking, which indicates the proportion of testers who scored lower. For example, ranking at 75 percent indicates 75 percent of testers received lower scores.


The reading portion contains 20 questions in multiple-choice form. A score above 50 but below approximately 77 illustrates the tester's ability to understand basic ideas from short reading passages. Scorers between about 78 and just below 100 can also understand the general organization of reading material, summarize and grasp conflicting relationships from reading material. Testers achieving scores from 99 to the maximum 120 can probably follow inferences, determine a writer's attitude and evaluate the soundness of the writer's judgment.


Students may take an arithmetic portion, with 17 questions, on the Accuplacer, and scores below 65 but higher than about 38 indicate the ability to add, subtract, divide and multiply using regular numbers. Scores between 66 and about 92 demonstrate the ability to similarly manipulate fractions and convert fractions, decimals and percentages. Those obtaining a score of approximately 109 can apply these concepts to word problems and perform more complex functions. Higher than 110 indicates an understanding of concepts like square root, estimations and variables. The elementary algebra portion uses only 12 questions. Low scorers may understand signed number concepts. Scores between approximately 44 and 81 indicate an ability to combine terms and use basic operations with signed numbers. Testers scoring between 82 and about 108 can factor, manipulate radicals and solve algebraic equations. Higher scores indicate an understanding of quadratic equations, simplification of equations and graphing.


The sentence skills portion of the Accuplacer contains 20 multiple-choice questions covering concepts like punctuation, grammar and language choice. Testers scoring between about 54 and 86 can create complete sentences and combine ideas logically. Scores up to about 108 indicate an ability to apply critical thinking to revise sentences and use more complex verbs. Higher scores show students can understand increasingly complex structures, such as sentences with multiple subordinate clauses. These high scorers can also use semicolons properly and manipulate sentence structure for the proper expression of ideas.

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