Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Mathematics Preparation

Welcome to WSU, future Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Cougs!

We are glad you are considering a degree in engineering, computer science, architecture or construction management. These fields are full of important problems, including sustainable design and renewable energy, which require solutions from talented and dedicated workers. We will prepare you to go out and help find solutions to these problems, but first you will need a solid foundation in mathematics.

Mathematics Placement is a very important issue that you should be thinking about as you prepare to attend Summer Alive! Orientation at WSU. On this page, we are going to give you some tips that can save you both time and money.

How Math Placement is Done

Recent studies have shown that the best early predictor of success in an engineering program is success in a student’s first undergraduate math class [1]. We want you to be successful in your first math class at WSU, and that means ensuring you are enrolled in a math class for which you are well prepared. We have several means of placing you in an appropriate class, including:

  • Preparedness for Calculus Assessment- an on-line assessment through ALEKS given during Summer Alive. You will need pencil and paper to use while you take this exam. This exam is individualized and uses an adaptive questioning technique to identify your current knowledge state in pre-calculus. You work out the problems given on paper, then enter your answers on-line.
  • The Advanced WA Math Placement Exam offered at numerous testing sites in the state. See more information on test dates and locations.
  • The quantitative portion of the SAT.
  • Either the AB or BC version of the College Board Advanced Placement exam for calculus.
  • The mathematics portion of the ACT.

Scores used for placement purposes must be no more than a year old in order to accurately represent your current mathematical knowledge. Learn more about eligibility.

Many students who take the “Preparedness for Calculus Assessment” (ALEKS) are surprised that the concepts covered are not calculus concepts, but are advanced algebra and trigonometry. To be sure you’re properly prepared to take your math placement exam at WSU, it’s a good idea to review the set of practice problems. Select the advanced practice problems link to get an idea of the topics covered on the ALEKS test.

How to Improve Your Math Placement

Recent experience has shown that more than half of incoming engineering and computer science freshmen will be placed into Math 107 (Pre-Calculus) or Math 099 (College Algebra) as their first math course at WSU. While this placement offers students the best chance to be successful in their chosen engineering degree program, it also results in additional coursework and a longer time to graduation.

Students wishing to improve their math placement at WSU, and increase their chances of successfully starting in Math 171 (Calculus I) have several options.

  • Go to the website and follow the directions to purchase a course that can help you review or learn the material you need to score higher on the Mathematics Placement Test. If you are attempting to place into Math 107, you could purchase the Prep for PreCalculus learning module. If you are attempting to place into Math 171, you can purchase the Prep for Calculus module. The subscription price for ALEKS is $19.95 per month.
  • Consider enrolling in Engineering 107, a laboratory-based pre-calculus course taught by engineering faculty for three weeks prior to the start of fall semester. 70% of students who took this course last summer were able to improve their math placement enough to begin in Math 171. See Summer Math for Incoming Students for more details.
  • Consider taking a pre-calculus class at your local community college this summer. Make sure the class will transfer to WSU as Math 107. The WSU transfer student advising website can help you determine if your credit will transfer. If in doubt, consult an academic advisor from the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.
  • Consider taking a refresher pre-calculus class at your local high school over the summer.

Students may retake the ALEKS placement test prior to the start of the semester in order to attempt to improve their math placement. For a schedule of test dates, please contact the Math Department at 509-335-3926. Note that test schedules are made available about a month prior to the test date.

Feel free to contact Kasey Schertenleib at 509-335-6613 or for advice on choosing the appropriate summer math preparation option.

Assistance in Math Once You Arrive at WSU

A note from the Associate Dean:

We are committed to helping you succeed in your math courses. You will need to be a diligent student, attend every class, keep up with your work, and seek help when needed. We are here to work with you and help you. Your instructor will set regular office hours and you are encouraged to use them to get questions answered and to get further explanations if you are having trouble understanding a concept. We also staff several tutor-assisted study halls, including evening hours at the Stephenson Towers residence hall. On-line tutoring is free and available 24 hours a day. Watch for announcements with details about each of these resources at the beginning of the semester. Work hard and we will support your efforts to learn!

Welcome to WSU, and we look forward to helping you achieve your academic goals.


Robert G. Olsen
Associate Dean

1. Gardner, J., Pyke, P., Belcheir, M., Schrader, C. (2007). Testing Our Assumptions: Mathematics Preparation and its Role in Engineering Student Success. American Society for Engineering Education.


  • Explore mathematics and engineering together in a small class and gain confidence
  • Improve your mathematics course placement
  • Refresh math concepts
  • Get on campus early and grow accustomed to the college experience


  • June 27-July 29; 8 AM – 1 PM Monday – Friday
  • Syllabus
  • The book: “Selected Material from PreCalculus -Washington StateUniversity” by Coburn, published by McGraw Hill, ISBN-13: 978-0-07-735106-9
  • Register at Alive! with your advisor
  • For more information contact Kasey Schertenleib,Shane Brown, or Robert Olsen

More Math Preparation for future Voiland College students.

More Student Supportfrom the College ofEngineering and Architecture