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Math Placement Exam (MPE)

The Math Placement Exam is an ALEKS PPL Placement Assessment, which is a computer-based test that analyzes your understanding of topics from elementary math through precalculus and uses artificial intelligence to adjust the questions according to your answers.

When you first create your ALEKS PPL account, you will be asked to fill out a brief survey, and you will be given a Tools Tutorial on using the ALEKS system. When this is complete, you will be able to begin the first ALEKS PPL Placement Assessment. The unproctored Assessments 1 and 2 each have a 24-hour time limit, but please be aware that the proctored Assessment 3 will have a 2-hour time limit.

After you complete the Tools Tutorial, it’s recommended that you begin the first Placement Assessment on your own as soon as you are able. Keep in mind that the proctored exam will last at most 2 hours, and that you may use paper and pen or pencil, but you will need to use the built-in ALEKS calculator.

Once you complete the first Placement Assessment you will immediately see your score and a recommended course. Math 160 requires a score of 70 or higher on a proctored Assessment. If you score below 70 you will be given recommendations for alternate courses. You will also be given access to an ALEKS learning module, "Prep for Calculus." This is similar to an online tutoring system, and it focuses on reviewing topics that can help improve your score. (It identifies those topics based on your score on the first Placement Assessment.) The goal is that using this learning module will help you perform better on the next assessment.

After you take the second Placement Assessment, you are required to spend at least 3 hours in the Prep for Calculus learning module before you will be able to take Placement Assessment 3 proctored. The Prep for Calculus module is designed to help you improve your score, and many students have underestimated the difficulty of this test. We want you to have the best chance of placing into Math 160!

For more information, please consult the FAQ: ALEKS PPL FAQs

Registering with ALEKS PPL:

The cost of an ALEKS license is $20. Instructions to create an account for ALEKS PPL:

If you are experiencing financial hardship, or require testing accommodations please do not register for ALEKS and contact us immediately at 

You must use your CSUSM Student ID when you register or your placement results will not count.

Once you’ve created your account, take the following steps:

  1.  Fill out the survey and take the Tools Tutorial.
  2. Take the first Placement Assessment – you have 24 hours to complete this, but keep in mind the timed exam will have a 2-hour time limit, and the only outside resources you will be able to use is paper and pencil/pen for scratch work.
  3. Once you complete the first Placement Assessment, you will have access to the Prep for Calculus learning module. It’s recommended that you spend 3-5 hours in the module before moving to the second Placement Assessment. Additionally, we require a 24 hour minimum time between Placement Assessments, so don’t try to take them all on the same day!
  4. Take Placement Assessment 2 on your own.
  5. Spend at least 3 additional hours in the Prep for Calculus module (5 hours would be better!); once you have reached 3 hours, Placement Assessment 3 will be unlocked (but password protected). At this point you are ready to take Placement Assessment 3 proctored, either online or on campus.


Due to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the MATH 160 placement exam will be proctored online.


Online Proctoring:

Online proctoring of the exam is provided by ProctorU, for $10 per testing session payable when you schedule your test. In order to take the test, you will need access to a computer with a webcam capable of running their software. ProctorU monitors your exam by both watching your screen (with a remote desktop connection) and watching you through your webcam, to ensure the same restrictions are enforced as would be during an in-person exam. 

ProctorU offers considerable flexibility in scheduling, with exam times starting every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. Exams can be scheduled through ProctorU from October 5 through the second week of the spring 2021 semester.

 The linked PDF (ProctorU) gives an overview of the scheduling process, and you can also find this information on ProctorU’s website.

Important: do not schedule your proctoring session with ProctorU until after you have registered for ALEKS PPL and completed Steps 1-5 above!

Register for the Math Placement Exam

Fill out my online form.

 Information for students requiring special accommodations to take the MPE due to a disability is available: MPE DSS