The college math placement test (CPT Math) is used by colleges and universities to evaluate students' level of math skills. It intends to cover everything that is learned through high school in mathematics. The score you get determines which courses you qualify to take. The purpose of this is to find the most adequate initial placement in the university's mathematics curriculum. There are three main sections in the test: arithmetic, elementary algebra and college-level mathematics. You can get more familiar with the type of questions in each section by taking any of the free online practice tests or using other assessment tools available on the Web. These will help you evaluate your progress and determine the areas you need to work on.
The arithmetic section include basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) with fractions, decimals and whole numbers, ratios and proportions, simplification of fractions, simple geometry and word problems. Examples of questions found in this section include: "The square root of 35 is between which two whole numbers?," "Write the fraction 3/125 as a decimal and a percent," "45 percent of 300 = ?."
Elementary algebra includes operations with rational numbers and integers, evaluation and simplification of algebraic expressions, solving elementary linear expressions, basic operations of monomials and polynomials, positive rational roots and exponents, translating written phrases into algebraic expression and solving word problems geometry reasoning. The following questions are an example of what you might find in the test: " Factor 3y(x-3)-2(x-3)," "Multiply (x - 4)(x + 5)" or "In which quadrant is the point (-3,4)?"
This area of the test will determine in which college level math class you will initially be placed. The questions include simplification of rational algebraic expressions, manipulating roots and exponents, solving linear and quadratic equations, plane geometry, graphic algebraic functions, factorials, complex numbers, series and sequences, permutations and combinations and functions (polynomial, algebraic, exponential and logarithmic). The following question is an example of what you can find in this section: "If the 4th and the 9th of an arithmetic sequence are 36 and 81, what is the difference between consecutive terms?." Another example is: "When the graph of y = 3 cos 2x achieves a minimum, find the value of the y-coordinate."
Community colleges often provide preparation sessions or courses for college placement exams. Contact an adviser for information on this type of resource. Additionally, you may enroll in fee-based courses that allow you to download course materials that cover the entire exam (see Resources). You can also access free study materials and practice exams through the Howard Community College web page and MathPlusFun.com (see Resources).
About the Author
Emilio Alvarez has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from San Diego State University and a minor in music composition from Southwestern College, San Diego. He has been writing since 2002 and has published short stories with Editorial Dunken (Buenos Aires, Argentina), where his work is part of a Spanish anthology: "El libro de talleres."
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