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Topic: On-line placement exams
Replies: 14   Last Post: Aug 1, 2012 12:26 PM

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Fred Siegeltuch

Posts: 19
Registered: 10/7/05
Re: On-line placement exams
Posted: Jul 31, 2012 3:44 PM
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Wayne and Alain,

In a different, better world I would agree with you. However even if placement isn't mandatory many students are either clueless or looking for guidance concerning which course is best for them. While it might be ideal to have an intelligent math literate individual discuss the issue with the student there often is neither the time or the money for such a solution. A placement test can assist in that process. It can also be motivational. It can show students that with a little hard work and self study that they may be able to succeed in a credit course rather than spend money on a developmental one. Secondarily, in a cash strapped, very large community college system there is often a shortage of seats for popular courses. Given that these courses are tax payer supported, don't we owe it to the taxpayers if not the students themselves to at least give priority to the better prepared students?

The bottom line is that a placement test is a tool and it is how you use it that counts the most.


From: Wayne Ford Mackey <>
To: Alain Schremmer <>; Fred Siegeltuch <>
Cc: "" <>
Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:03 PM
Subject: RE: On-line placement exams

I agree with Alain.  Treisman called placement tests a scam.  Let the student take whatever course they choose.  They'll be fine.

From: Alain Schremmer []
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2012 7:35 PM
To: Fred Siegeltuch
Subject: Re: On-line placement exams

On Jul 30, 2012, at 1:13 PM, Fred Siegeltuch wrote:

> I'd like to learn about pitfalls and benefits of building and/or
> using a home grown on-line placement test rather than one of the
> corporate solutions. I'm thinking that the placement center could
> offer a separate small tests for placement into algebra,
> intermediate algebra, college algebra, and possibly an even smaller
> survey test to assist those students who are unsure which test they
> should take. The material covered by each of these test might be a
> condensed version of the final exam of the prerequisite course.
> Ideally, the test questions would be generated dynamically by
> computer and there would be at least some randomization.
> If anyone has built such a system or is contemplating doing so, or
> if you know of any free on-line placement facility, please let me
> know.

I am none of the above. But, based on a very long experience, here are
my conjectures on the issue:

--      Most students taking a placement test respond with a variable
number of random answers, the less they "know", the higher the number
of random answers.

--      Given a properly set up course, i.e. a course that does not deal in
"topics" but in real mathematics, what the student "knows" is not that

--      The most important factor is that the student be able to devote a
certain amount of time to the course.

--      The next most important factor is that the student be able to get
information from a printed text.

--      The next most important factor is that the student know that asking
questions is usually helpful to them.

Thus, rather than a placement test, I would advocate some sort of


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