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Placement Testing at Career Schools

by Lori Garrett-Hatfield, studioD

Many students who enter career or technical schools must take placement tests before they can enroll in classes. Placement tests are used to determine if students are ready to take classes toward a degree or certificate, or if they need to spend some time in remediation. Although all placement tests are used to determine where a student would fit best within a career or technical school, they differ on the skills they are testing for.

Accuplacer Tests

The Accuplacer tests, created by the College Board, consist of up to seven subtests: arithmetic, college-level math, elementary algebra, reading comprehension, sentence skills, written essay and English as a Second Language subtests in language use, listening, reading skills and sentence meaning. Accuplacer subtests -- with the exception of the written essay test -- are taken on a computer. The tests are computer-adaptive: the tests get easier or harder based on an individual's skill level. Many schools, such as the Community College of Rhode Island, offer study packets and online guides for the Accuplacer tests.

The Asset Tests

The American College Testing service also has a placement test for vocational/technical schools and community colleges. Asset tests are taken on paper, rather than computer. Students begin with a basic skills test series: reading, writing and numerical skills. Depending on the student's scores on the basic skills series, he may be asked to take advanced mathematics subtests. Some community colleges and vocational/technical schools use the Asset tests for placement, other schools use Asset tests to determine placement for students who need accommodations.

Compass Placement Tests

The American College Testing Service also developed the Compass tests. Compass tests are computer-adapted, so the questions get easier depending on the ability level of the student. The Compass tests cover the following areas: reading, writing skills, writing essay and mathematics. ESL subtests for the Compass are also available. The American College Testing service offers sample tests and practice questions for the Compass tests on its website. Other Internet resources are available for practice testing. MyCompassTest has two practice tests that can be taken online, along with solutions and some math study guides.

Tests of Adult Basic Education

The TABE tests are sometimes used by vocational/technical schools to measure literacy for their certificate programs. TABE tests cover reading, writing and mathematics skills. The TABE tests are usually paper-and-pencil tests, rather than computer tests, but in some locations, students may take the TABE tests on a computer. It is difficult, but not impossible, to find study resources for the TABE. The Florida Department of Education has a TABE resource booklet available online. The education department also has online resources in each subject, so students can check their progress.

About the Author

Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.

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