In a previous post I made in regards to Algebra, someone in the comments section asked what my thoughts on studying for the placement exam was. Instead of answering in the comment, I thought I would just make a post about my opinion of it.
I vividly remember taking my placement exam, and the to-do list my parents made leading up to actually taking the test (keep in mind, I was 14 at the time). I had taken the practice tests available online at home (available here) so that I could identify my deficiencies, I also tried to re-learn some of the information which I had forgotten. Although my reading/writing skills were great; it had been a year since I had even looked at Algebra, and it wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed.
As I said in a previous post, I am not a genius. On the Compass test offered at the college, my scores were 99% in Composition, 94% in Reading, and I can’t remember what I got in Math, but I was placed in Math 030. I knew that math, more specifically, Algebra, was one of my weaker points. Some people have a knack for it, others don’t, and it just wasn’t something that was of interest to me… I want to be a writer, not a mathematician!
I studied a little before taking the placement exam, and I definitely recommend that everyone study before taking the test. My main reasoning for this statement is that I knew how to do math, but sometimes if we don’t use the information for a period of time (particularly for adult students), our brains aren’t quite as quick to recall the information. If someone does not study, even just to refresh, they may find themselves in a lower-level course in which they already know the information, and may find themselves bored with the material.
With that being said, I would not recommend holding off on enrolling with the thought of teaching yourself how to do complex equations. Self-learning takes a lot of discipline! I could see how it would be easy for someone to tell themselves that they will sign up for college after they learn how to do XYZ, and then they never get around to it… Carpe Diem! Brush up on the subject(s) you feel as though you are lacking, go take that test, and get enrolled! If you find yourself having troubles with the materials after classes start, ask the teacher for assistance (or use the tutors). St. Louis Community College has given each student every opportunity to succeed in their educational endeavors, it is just up to us (the students) to ask for help when it is needed.
One bit of advice I would give for taking the placement tests, take your time. This advice was given to me before I went in, and you will do better if you take it to heart. It was explained to me that in a traditional school setting, kids are typically “rewarded” for finishing their tests early; perhaps they get to go out to recess or work on other homework if they get done early. As in many schools, there are several teachers at STLCC who will allow you leave class upon finishing an exam. If we can get ourselves out of this “I get to leave as soon as I finish” mentality, we do better on tests. Put simply, take the test at your own pace. I take every moment available to take tests. I suggest you read and re-read questions to ensure you understand what is being asked. Also, double-check your answers before handing the test in!
The Compass placement test did not have a time limit, and I definitely worked things out at my own pace. Now, actually taking classes, instead of rushing to get through the tests so that I can get out early (as I know many students do), I stay for whatever length of time I need, sometimes the entire class period. There have been many times I catch errors just by reviewing my original answers.