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Math Placement Exam (MPE)

This page contains information on CSUSM’s Math Placement Exam, which is currently for Spring 2022 enrollment in Math 160, Calculus with Applications I.  

Additionally, the Math Placement Exam is not required, and students may take Math 125 (or 126) to meet the prerequisites instead.  But the Math Placement Exam is recommended for you if you believe you are ready to take Math 160: for example, if you successfully completed precalculus or calculus in high school. 

Only proctored results count towards placement, so the MPE consists of two parts: 

  • The placement exam itself, which is an ALEKS PPL Placement Assessment, and 
  • The proctoring: due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on-campus testing sessions are not anticipated in 2021, and all proctoring is being done remotely through ProctorU. 

The remainder of this page aims to give you an overview of ALEKS PPL and information on registering for ALEKS PPL (the test itself) and on registering for proctoring through ProctorU. 


ALEKS PPL Overview: 

The Math Placement Exam is an ALEKS PPL Placement Assessment. This computer-based test analyzes your understanding of elementary math topics through precalculus using sophisticated artificial intelligence to adjust the questions according to your answers.  

Your ALEKS license includes up to five Placement Assessments: Assessments 1, 2, and 4 are intended as practice, and Assessments 3 and 5 are designated as proctored.  That is, you would take Assessments 1 and 2 as practice on your own and then schedule Assessment 3 to be proctored to count for placement.  If you do not pass, you can then work on Assessment 4 as further practice and then take Assessment 5 proctored.  Please be aware that unproctored assessments (1, 2, and 4) each have a 24-hour time limit, but proctored assessments (3 and 5) have a 2-hour time limit.  

When you first create your ALEKS PPL account, you will be asked to fill out a short survey, and you will be given a Tools Tutorial on using the ALEKS system. After you complete the Tools Tutorial, it’s recommended that you begin the first Placement Assessment on your own as soon as possible. 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 

As soon as you complete the first Placement Assessment, you will be given 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 learning module 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 subsequent assessments.  

We have seen strong evidence that working the Prep for Calculus module improves student performances, so we require 3 hours of work in the module before beginning Assessment 2 and 5 hours of work between each subsequent Assessment. The Prep for Calculus module is designed to help you improve your score. Many students have underestimated this test’s difficulty as it will likely ask you about the material you know but have forgotten. We want you to have the best chance of placing into Math 160!  

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

ALEKS PPL Registration and Initial Steps:

The  ALEKS PPL license is FREE: to register, and please follow this link: ALEKS PPL  NOTE: If you are experiencing financial hardship, or if you require testing accommodations, please do not register for ALEKS and instead contact us immediately at   

You must use your CSUSM Student ID Number when you register, or your placement results will not count. 
After you’ve created your account, take the following steps: 

  1. Fill out the Survey and take the Tools Tutorial. 
  2. When you are ready, take the first Placement Assessment – you will have 24 hours to complete it, 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. You will need to spend at least 3 hours in this module before the second Placement Assessment will be unlocked, although we recommend at least 5 hours. There is also 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 five additional hours in the Prep for Calculus module. This prep will unlock Placement Assessment 3, which is password-protected. At this point, you should schedule your proctoring appointment to take this Assessment. 


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the MPE will be proctored online in 2021. 

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

Online proctoring of the exam is being provided by ProctorU for $10 per testing session payable when you schedule your test. 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 November 4 through the second week of the Spring 2022 semester.  

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



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