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 Section 4: Placement into Mathematics Courses at MSU

All entering freshmen and some transfer students (depending on the math credit they are transferring to MSU) are required to take the Mathematics Placement Service Exam (MPS Exam) before attending their Academic Orientation Program (AOP) with the following exceptions:

  1. Students with credit in at least one of the following: MTH 103, MTH 110, MTH 116, MTH 124, MTH 132, MTH 133, MTH 234 or any math course above MTH 234 need not take the MPS exam.
    NOTE: However, students who transfer one of the following: MTH 112, MTH 114, MTH 201, STT 200 or STT 201 alone, with no other math course above the level of MTH 1825, must take the MPS exam (on-line prior to AOP or at AOP). or...
  2. Students who have received Advanced Placement credit for calculus prior to the AOP, or
  3. Students who have either an ACT Math score of at least 28 or an SAT math score of at least 640 and who will also be taking math courses at MSU.

Students who have statistics course credit, but do not fit into any of these three categories should take the Math Placement Exam.

The actual MPS Exam together with a great deal of additional detailed documentation, an FAQ, and other services (including a sample exam and a diagnostic exam) related to the exam are available from the Math Placement Service web site. That site is your primary resource for information about the exam!

Students who have been admitted to Michigan State University may take the exam from this web site, and the result will be recognized for all purposes EXCEPT to satisfy the University mathematics graduation requirement. To satisfy this requirement by a high score on the placement exam, a student must take the test in a proctored setting, available for example during Academic Orientation.

Students who are required to take the Math Placement Exam but do not take it prior to AOP are required to take the placement exam at their AOP. It should be noted that this often occurs in mid to late summer, when students have been away from mathematics for a while.

There are two obvious advantages to taking the placement exam prior to the orientation session. One is that a student who is not satisfied with his/her placement has time to do something about improving the score on the exam, either by extra study or by taking an additional mathematics course either during the school year or the summer. A second advantage is that the time at orientation normally allotted to testing can be used for other purposes.

Here is how placement exam scores are interpreted:

Score Recommended placement
0-9 MTH 1825
10 or higher MTH 103 or MTH 110
12 or higher MTH 116
15 or higher MTH 112, MTH 124, MTH 201, STT 200, or STT 201
19 or higher MTH 132

Of course, a student may enroll in a course which requires a lower placement score than the score actually achieved. In general, students at the low end of the range for a particular course may be well advised to consider registering for a course which requires a lesser score.

A student's score on the mathematics placement exam is intended to warn a student away from a course that is well beyond his/her present capabilities. Experience over a long period of time has shown that if a student attempts a course higher than the placement score indicates is appropriate, then a low grade and quite possibly a failing grade is a VERY LIKELY OUTCOME. This experience has caused the department to require that students register only for the courses recommended for their placement score, regardless of a student's high school record.

Further details about the placement exam may be obtained directly from the Math Placement Service web site.

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