Spotlight on placement exams at UAF

For many students, the transition to college can be a challenge. Whether just out of high school or an adult learner, students face a mountain of new information, new technology, new academic rigors and new university processes. UAF has many initiatives and resources to assist students in their academic success. One of the most important is getting students placed into the correct math and writing courses (Fong & Finkelstein, 2014). Placements measure a student’s current skill level and can help them navigate college courses (Markle & Robbins, 2013). Improving course placement is directly tied to UAF’s long-term goal of improving student success and persistence. There have been some changes to placement requirements that take effect November 8.

Currently, both the Department of English and Department of Mathematics and Statistics (DMS) require students to have 1) AP or test scores, 2) appropriate high school GPA, or 3) meet course prerequisites before enrolling in certain courses. Writing placement takes two forms: a proctored Accuplacer exam or by submitting a UAF Writing Placement Sample at this site: UAF Writing Placement Sample.

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics requires either proof of a passing grade in a prior college math course, a certain score on an AP exam or an ALEKS Math placement exam. Keep in mind that many science courses require some minimum math placement. Beginning in Spring 2022, DMS will require that the ALEKS placement exam be proctored. This change is being instituted after DMS compared student scores from previously unproctored exams to those scores from the same students in a proctored setting. The comparison showed large disparities.

Here are some frequently asked questions that might help faculty and academic advisors:

  • Q: Can students use ALEKS (or Accuplacer) scores from another institution?
  • A. No, placement scores are unique to each institution.
  • Q. What impact will a new proctored ALEKS requirement have on student enrollment?
  • A. This change isn’t expected to change course enrollment, but more accurately place students into appropriate math courses.
  • Q. What courses require placement and what are the required scores to enroll? 
  • A. For math placement, review this webpage. For writing, review this webpage. The course catalog (link: lists any prerequisites by course.

To consolidate information and increase coordination, UAF Admissions and CTL worked together to create a one-stop “placement” shop for students and advisors. It is designed to answer most of the questions that may arise. Please visit UAF’s Placement Testing page.


Fong, A. & Finkelstein, N. (2014, December). Math Placement: The Importance of Getting It Right for All Students. San Francisco: WestEd

Markle, R. & Robbins, S. (2013, March). A Holistic View of Course Placement Decisions. ETS, 2013.

A headshot of Tim Stickel

Tim Stickel

Associate Director of Student Experience

Tim Stickel has been an advocate for students for over 30 years. Whether he’s in the office or in the classroom, he encourages students toward their educational goals. Tim currently manages online student services for UAF CTL and teaches for the School of Management.