Math Placement Assessment Information

To complete an engineering degree in four years, it is highly recommended that you earn a score of 80 or higher on the MPA by August 1*.

* You are exempt from taking the MPA and are automatically eligible to register for Calculus if any of the following apply: (i) earned a score of 2 or higher on the AP Calculus Exam (AB or BC), (ii) earned a C+ or higher in a two-course sequence of college-level precalculus (e.g., through Running Start), or (iii) earned a C- or higher in a college-level calculus course equivalent to MATH 124. For full details on exemptions, see “Exceptions” at

The MPA and Engineering

All incoming Western students are required to take the Western’s online proctored ALEKS Math Placement Assessment (MPA) which determines the math class into which incoming students can enroll.  Because the engineering curricula at Western are designed to start with Calculus in the first quarter followed by calculus-based pre-engineering courses throughout the first year, it is highly recommended that you strive to earn a score of 80 or higher on the MPA before August 1*

Such a score will permit you to enroll in MATH 124 for your first quarter, which is the minimum math required to begin your engineering studies on schedule.  Completing this by August 1 will permit you to enroll in MATH 124 during your Fall Advising & Orientation session; delaying increases the chance of being placed on the waitlist for calculus.

a group of engineering students working on a machine
The MPA Assesses your knowledge of •	Real numbers •	Equations and inequalities •	Linear and quadratic functions •	Radical expressions •	Exponentials and logarithms •	Geometry and trigonometry

Learn all the details about the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment, including frequently asked questions at the Testing Center.

Opportunity Cost of MPA

Students pursuing an engineering degree who do not earn an 80 are not eligible to begin taking calculus and may require five years to graduate from Western’s engineering programs. 

The opportunity cost of a fifth year of school is immense.  Given the current tuition and fees  as well as average engineering starting salaries, the opportunity cost of not earning an 80 on the ALEKS MPA is at least $70,000.  Thus there is significant economic incentive to devoting time over the summer reviewing math and trigonometry in order to earn a score of 80.


The total cost of the required MPA is $50, and the cost includes:

  • One online unproctored practice assessment.
  • An interactive preparation and learning module to review relevant math topics.
  • One online proctored assessment.


If you do not earn a score of 80 or higher on your first proctored assessment, you may retake the proctored assessment two additional times (3 total attempts) for a $10 fee per attempt; alternatively, you may take additional assessments free of charge in person at Western’s Testing Center in Bellingham.

You Are highly Encouraged To:

Find time to take the online practice assessment by the end of June.  When you take the practice assessment, do your best to simulate the proctored environment: allocate several hours so that you can focus undisturbed on the practice assessment and do not use online sources.  The goal of the practice assessment is to let you (and the adaptive learning modules) know what topics you need to review.  Use of outside sources will only distort your practice results and confuse the adaptive learning module that you will use later.

After taking your practice assessment, the ALEKS system will ask you to choose a preparation module. It will suggest a module based on your practice assessment score, but it is highly recommended that you ignore the suggestion and select the “Prep for Calculus” module as it is the only module that contains the more advanced topics that are necessary to review and master in order to earn an 80 on the proctored assessment.  You only get one choice and cannot change prep modules later, so it is important to make the correct selection.

Devote significant time to working through the practice module after you have taken the practice assessment.  You may not have studied trigonometry for a year or more; the lower your practice score, the more review you will need – but with diligent review and practice, you will hopefully be able to review these important precalculus concepts and earn a score of 80 on the assessment.  While this is just a rough guide and will undoubtedly vary from student to student, we have found that you will likely need (at a minimum) to allocate a certain amount of time word studying. See the table to the right for specific amounts. Because you may need to spend a significant amount of time reviewing the prep module, take the proctored assessment as soon as possible and plan ahead so that you can devote the necessary time to reviewing.

Once you are ready to take the proctored exam (e.g., based on your assessment score, or based on the “Knowledge Checks” during your review of the prep module), again set aside several hours when you sit down to take the proctored assessment.

Use your three proctored attempts wisely.  If you do not earn the minimum score of 80 on your first attempt, spend time studying topics which you need to review.

If, after studying and making your third attempt, you are unable to earn the score of 80 necessary to place into calculus, we hope that you will still consider pursuing an engineering degree.  In this case, please speak with a premajor advisor at <> about your options.  With careful planning, it may still be possible to graduate in four years if you earn a score of 70, but you may need to take summer classes.

Hours Needed to Study

If You Scored ______ on the Practice Assessment  Then You Will Need to Study ______ Hours on the Practice Module to get an 80