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A placement test determines the level of your first classes in English and math. Some programs have cut scores which must be met for entry (for example, Running Start, prof-tech programs), while other programs do not require college level English and math completion. You will meet with an Advisor after placement testing and Orientation to decide the right classes for your program and your skill level. You can then enroll in and pass classes to advance toward completion/graduation.

Once you start classes, no further placement testing is needed or advisable. Placement testing is NOT a replacement for passing a class.

You may NOT need to take an English placement test if any of the following apply:

  • You have taken and passed (with at least a 2.0) the equivalent of ENGL&101 (Composition) at another college; follow directions at Steps to Enroll #3 Prior College Experience.
  • You have taken the ACT test within the last five years and your Reading and Writing scores meet the college level minimums.
  • You have taken the SAT test within the last five years and your Reading and Writing (or Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) scores meet the college level minimums.
  • Within the last year, you have taken the SBAC in high school and received Verbal scores of 3 or 4.
  • You have COMPASS scores less than two years old; you may use those scores or test in the current instrument.
  • If you are a student with the Center for International Education, you may be able to use your TOEFL or IELTS test scores for English placement. Check for minimum scores.
  • To be recorded, any test scores must be received at Student Assessment Services officially (directly from the testing agency or educational institution).

You may NOT need to take the Math placement test if any of the following apply:

  • You have taken and passed (with at least a 2.0) the equivalent of MATH102 (College Algebra) at another college; follow directions at .
  • You have a Seattle Public Schools high school transcript. Check this MATRIX to see if you can qualify for college level math (MATH 102) or higher.
  • You have taken the ACT test within the last five years and your math score meets the college level minimum.
  • You have taken the SAT test within the last five years and your math score meets the college level minimums.
  • You have SBAC Math scores of 3 or 4 within the last year.
  • You have official COMPASS scores less than two years old; you may use those scores or test in the current instrument.
  • To be recorded, any test scores must be received at Student Assessment Services officially (directly from the testing agency or educational institution).

YES! You should PREPARE thoroughly to place as high as your skills will allow.

  • Review grammar, reading, and math skills which you once learned and have since forgotten.
  • At the very least, practice tests will familiarize you with the style of test you will be taking; this may reduce test anxiety.
  • Remember that your “everyday, conversational English” may not be the same as Standard American English, which will be expected in college work (and on the placement test).
  • Know that math skills are lost quickly if not used; definitely review what you learned when last taking math in school.
  • Use the prep resources on this webpage or use textbooks, tutors, any of the other thousands of web sites available, call on friends who are talented in math or English…whatever works best for YOU.
Keep in mind that if you do not prepare and score low on the test:

  • You may be placed into remedial courses for English and/or math. This may be what you need, but you don’t want to place there because you did not prepare for the test.
  • Remedial classes consume your financial aid, may not “count” toward your program of study, and may not transfer to other institutions.
  • Taking remedial classes will increase the number of quarters attended and tuition dollars spent to reach your goal.
  • Testing when unprepared will use one of your two opportunities to take the test. If you need to retest, you will need to then prepare/review, pay another $25 fee, and your advising and registration may be delayed.

You may enroll in a college placement prep class at Basic and Transitional Studies, Room RS 2, 206-934-5363

To prepare on your own:

Native English speakers should prepare for the Wonderlic English test:

  • Wonderlic Basic Skills English practice tests:
  • Wonderlic Basic Skills Math practice tests:

  • If English is NOT your first language, you should start in the College Success Reading-Grammar-Listening test. Prepare with general websites for ESL English review:

    The College Success test will ask questions about:

  • Reading: Vocabulary
    • Word choice skills in the context of a sentence
    • Word choice skills in the context of a paragraph
  • Reading: Comprehension:
    • Understanding of the main idea of a passage
    • Understanding of essential ideas and important details of a passage
    • Using content clues to determine word meaning
    • Identifying the sequence of events
    • Making inferences or predictions from a passage
  • Grammar: Sentence Completion
    • Using word choice to complete simple sentences
    • Using word choice to complete complex sentences
  • Grammar: Error Recognition
    • Identifying mechanical errors
    • Identifying errors in word choice
    • Identifying errors in verb forms
    • Identifying prepositional errors
  • Grammar: Sentence Construction
    • Combining sentences
    • Changing the verb tense of a sentence
  • Listening
    • Understanding directions and information
    • Identifying literal meaning in casual conversation
    • Identifying literal meaning in workplace communication
    • Understanding inferential meaning in casual conversation

    Native English speakers will take the Wonderlic Basic Skills Tests for English and math.

    The Wonderlic Basic Skills tests are timed.

    • Your score is based on the number of questions answered correctly.
    • You are not expected to complete every question. Answer those you know for sure. If you have time remaining after the last question, you will have the opportunity to answer those you skipped.

    • Basic English: 20 minutes, 50 questions
      TopicNumber of Questions
      Sentence Construction9
      Information Retrieval8
      Reading Comprehension7
    • Basic Math: 20 minutes, 45 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied
      TopicNumber of Questions
      Numbers & Operations9
      Geometry & Measurement4
      Data Interpretation3
      Applied Word Problems9
      Applied Business Problems8
    Depending on your scores in the Basic tests, you may also take an Advanced test (or tests).

    • Advanced English: 30 minutes, 55 questions
    • Advanced Math: 30 minutes, 55 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied
    • Or
    • Pre-Calculus Math: Untimed, 22 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied

    You will also complete a student profile (demographic questions) and a survey.

    If English is not your first language, you should start in the College Success test for English.

    The College Success Test is untimed.
    Reading: 20 questions
    Grammar: 20 questions
    Listening: 20 questions (You may listen 2 times to a conversation; you may also listen to the questions 2 times before answering them.)

    • If all your scores (Reading, Grammar, Listening) are very high, we will advise you to practice and return for the Wonderlic English test (see above).
    • Depending on your Reading score, you may also take the Basic math test:
      Basic Math: 20 minutes, 45 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied
    • Depending on your scores in the Basic math test, you may also take an Advanced math test.
      Advanced Math: 30 minutes, 55 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied
      Pre-Calculus Math: Untimed, 22 questions, TI-30XIIS calculator supplied

    • Make application to South online and obtain a Student Identification Number through your email. Allow a few days for this process. Or, you may also apply on campus at the Registration counter; you will immediately be assigned a Student Identification Number. If you have attended South (or North Seattle, or Seattle Central) you have a Student ID Number. You may also use a student number from another Washington college which you attended.
    • Prepare by reviewing the sample questions and refreshing math or English skills you once learned but may have forgotten. See "How should I Prepare?" above.
    • Select a test session from the Testing Calendar; plan to arrive at the START time.
    • See “When can I test? above for details on scheduling your placement test.
    • Have your current, government-issued photo ID (driver's license, state ID, passport, military ID, high school photo ID for Running Start examinees only).
    • Pay the testing fee ($25.00) at the South Cashier. Bring your receipt on test day.
    • Come to Robert Smith Building, Room 76. Please see "Getting to Campus" for directions, bus, and parking information.
    • Parking is free on 16th Ave SW. However, depending on time of day, you may have blocks to walk (and an uphill climb). If parking on campus, the closest lot is the South, general (not staff) parking lot. There are kiosks for paying the $3 daily fee. Do not park in Visitor Parking; it is limited to 45 minutes and tickets will be issued.
    • At check-in, you will fill a form asking these yes/no questions:
      • Have you taken this test before?
      • Have you received a high school diploma or GED®?
      • Are you applying for Financial Aid?
      • Is English your first language?
      • Are you still in high school (a Running Start candidate)?
      • What math class do you need for your program?

      • Your answers will tell us which tests you need.

    • You will store all CELL PHONES, other electronics, paperwork, bags, backpacks, purses, and food in our hallway lockers. Lockers are 12" x 13" x 18"; leave anything larger at home or in your car.
    • No food or drink is allowed in the test lab.
    • Children may not accompany you and unsupervised children younger than 12 are not allowed on campus.
    • A hand-held calculator, TI-30XIIS, is supplied during the math tests; NO personal calculators are allowed.
    • Scratch paper and pencils are provided. Scratch paper will be collected.
    • No books, notes, dictionaries, or translators of any kind are allowed.
    • You may take restroom or other breaks during the test session, but ONLY between test sections. (The Wonderlic basic and Advanced tests are timed, so you would be losing precious test time if you left during those test sections.)
    • When it appears that you are finished, verify with your proctor that you have completed ALL necessary parts of the placement testing.
    • Staff will print your scores when you have finished the test.
    • You should arrange for a New Student Orientation (or other orientation, depending on your program).
    • KEEP YOUR SCORE REPORT. There is a $3 fee for later reprints.

    • The fee for placement testing is $25, payable at the South Cashier. Bring your receipt when checking in for your test.
    • The fee is the same for a retest.
    • The fee is the same for any part of the test when taken separately.
    • If you later need a copy of your test, the fee is $3.00.

    • Look at our Testing Schedule for the current quarter. Choose from any “Placement” session.
    • Note that sessions have a “start” and a “stop” time.
    • For initial testing, plan on 1 to 2 1/2 hours for all parts. (You may advance into higher levels in both English and math so your testing could last the longer time).
    • This means that you should arrive 2-3 hours before the “stop” time. If you arrive without enough time to complete your test, you will have to return at an earlier time on another day.
    • There are no appointments for placement testing. Seating is first-come, first-served in our 35-workstation testing lab.
    • The busiest times for placement testing are the 2-3 weeks before a quarter begins.
    • Testing early has its advantages. Testing at least a month before classes begin will allow easier access to the testing lab, the best choice of classes, and time to meet with an advisor and register for classes before they fill or cancel.

    Test anxiety is not uncommon and can be debilitating. It is defined as an excessive concern over your ability to perform well in a test. Now, you need the good news. You CAN change your behavior. Below are a few tips I pass along to my students long before they sit for their first quiz. I hope this information will be of help to you.

    1. To increase your confidence you must experience success.
    2. To experience success, get tips on how to study and find out what concepts will be tested.

      Your goal is to know what concepts will be on the test and over-learn the material. That is, know it so well that you “over-ride” your anxiety and perform well. Think of the Olympic diver who daily practices the high dive. When the time comes to perform a dive, her muscles have “memory”. She may be a little anxious but she remembers many consistently beautiful dives. She visualizes the details of a great dive. She walks out on the board; she performs well. Begin two weeks before the test, daily practice your material. You will be building your long-term memory. It is the memory “muscle” you need for the test.
    3. Do not wait until the night before the test to study. Your short-term memory is often not strong enough to carry you through the test. Your goal is to respond in the test with the same memory strength you experience when you tie your shoes.
    4. Support your brain! When you experience a negative thought, don’t let it have the last word! Immediately respond with, “I know what to study; I study with focus each night.” Does that sound too easy? Does it sound as though you are lying to yourself? Not at all. You are telling your brain what to think. You did the same thing when you embedded all your negative thoughts. This time you are replacing what is not working.
    5. Support your body. Even light exercise reduces stress, increases the oxygen, and changes the body chemistry to allow you to relax and think. Check with your doctor on what exercise is appropriate.
    6. Not all tests have the same instructions. Read the instructions carefully.
    7. Breathe when you begin to get anxious. Take a slow, deep breath. Start at the bottom of your lungs and slowly fill your lungs. Hold for a count of four. Slowly release all the air through your mouth. Rest. Breathe normally for a few breaths then repeat deep breathing for three or four times. By slowing your breath, you have told your body to relax. You give your body the chance to think again.
    8. It is a myth that the best students always finish quickly. Stay laser focused on your goal.
    9. If you’re not certain of an answer, make an intelligent guess. Don’t change your first answers unless you are positive you have made an error.
    10. Changing a habit takes practice. Remember, it took daily practice to learn the habits that are not working for you. Your school counselor can give you extra support.

    1. Goleman, Daniel. (1997) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam Books
    2. The Inner Game of Tennis. W. Timothy Gallwey. Random House, New York, NY

    About the Author: Sandra Bolt is the Director of Student Assessment Services and a faculty member at South Seattle College where she teaches courses in understanding and predicting human behavior in organizations.

    South Seattle College/Student Assessment Services, Sandra Bolt - December 2010

    • Visit South’s Disability Support Services with documentation of your special needs.
    • If you are approved, the Director of DSS will contact Student Assessment Services with your recommended accommodation.
    • A private room always requires an appointment, usually on a Friday; book at least 3 weeks in advance.
    • These accommodations are available for Wonderlic English and Math Tests without an appointment:
      • Double time may be added.
      • Paper tests may be administered.
    • Accommodations available for College Success:
      • The tests are untimed as administered.
      • “Access Wizard” on each test screen allows the examinee to adjust the font, size, and colors.

    • If you have already met with an academic or professional/technical advisor, return to that person with your placement results.
    • Your advisor or counselor will be guided in your course placement by the scores you receive.
    • If you are in Running Start, Workforce (Start Next Quarter), Nursing, Career Link, GED® Prep, or an International student, attend one of those specialized Orientations.
    • If not, sign up for the New Student Orientation. Have your placement score reports with you when you attend.

    • For placement at South, placement test score results are valid for two years from the test date.

    • You may take your placement test (or any part of your placement test) a second time.
    • There is no wait period before retesting; it would be wise to review and prepare thoroughly before retesting.
    • There is one test and one retest allowed. You may not take a third test (or any same part of the test) at any Seattle College District school, nor will Wonderlic or College Success scores be accepted if taken at another institution, within two years.

    Wonderlic, College Success, or COMPASS tests taken at another college may be used for placement at South if:

    • You have applied to South and have a Student ID Number (attach your SID to all correspondence).
    • Your test is less than 2 years old.
    • You request (from the testing institution) that THEY send the report to SAS:

    • If you received course placement within the previous year from another Washington State college, you may use that institution’s placement for a comparable class at South.
    • Follow the conditions and procedure on this form.
    • Complete the form and submit to Arne Reed, Credentials Evaluator (in Registration), 206-934-5829,