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How can I prepare for the math placement test?

Mathematics at

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Click on the math levels below for review:

Prealgebra  |  Algebra  |  College Algebra  |  Geometry  |  Trigonometry

Sample questions for the Virginia Placement Test: Click here. 
When you open the document, the answers are at the end.

The Virginia Placement Test for Mathematics

You must submit your application for admission before taking the placement test.

You must take a math placement test before enrolling in any math course. Some other courses such as science and computer science courses also require a qualifying score on the math placement test. Some programs such as nursing require a qualifying score on the math placement test.

The Virginia Placement Test for Mathematics is an adaptive, computerized, untimed test.

Personal calculators cannot be used. The test includes a non-graphing calculator for all topics except the test on basic skills with whole numbers.

On parts of the test, when you answer test questions correctly, the questions will continue to get more difficult as you move through the test levels. Incorrect answers will result in less difficult questions. When you can no longer consistently answer the questions correctly, the test will stop and your course placement is determined.

Math test scores are valid for two years.

One retest is allowed within 12 months of the initial attempt on the Virginia Placement Test, if taken before you enroll in a math course.

The importance of reviewing material that you have previously studied cannot be over emphasized. The placement test is not an admissions test or an aptitude test. The test measures how well you demonstrate skills and your score indicates the courses you are prepared to take. Not reviewing before taking the placement test could possibly place you in a course that is lower than your actual skill level, delaying your math sequence by one or more semesters, costing you time and money.

Starting your review process early will give you enough time to practice so that you can feel confident of doing your best on the placement test.

Review for the Math Placement Test at this link:

To view the content of the precollege math skills on the test, go to

Accessing the Online No-cost, Diagnostic Virginia Placement Test Practice Test:

1.       1. Go to

2.       2. At the login, click Student Registration and enter the following:

o   Institution: Select VCCS Practice Test Institution from the drop down box

o   Site: VCCS

o   Password: Virginiapt

3.       3. Complete the Student Registration Form noting the following:

o   Student ID Field: 

         Use a combination of letters and numbers for the Student ID field.

         For current VCCS students, the recommended Student ID is the college abbreviation plus the EmplID, for example NVCC#######.

         For an individual taking the practice test who does not have an EmplID, the college abbreviation could be followed by most any combination of numbers and letters. The Student ID should not be numbers only following NVCC as a random Student ID entered by one student may coincidentally match another student’s EmplID.

o   Email Address: Since the VCCS email address will be used for the “real” test, the VCCS email address should NOT be entered when registering for the practice test. An alternate email should be used so that the student can receive an auto-generated email containing the logon and password info to resume the practice test if it is isn’t completed in one sitting.

4.       4. Click submit

5.    5. The test can be taken at home.

Practice Test 1: Addresses the content of Developmental Math Units 1-5.

Practice Test 2: Addresses the content of Developmental Math Units 6-9.

Click: “VCCS Practice Exam #1” or “VCCS Practice Exam #2” to begin the exam.

Click: “VCCS Practice Exam #1” link after completing the test in order to view the score report.

Click: on the item numbers to view the item, the correct answer, and the answer that was chosen.

Click: on the skill for additional information.

For a comprehensive review you may want to reference the book, Chart Your Success on the COMPASS.  (ISBN 0-89892-302-6) This book is available on closed reserve in some of the libraries on NOVA campuses. NOVA no longer uses the COMPASS test for placement in mathematics. The review in this book is still very helpful with preparation for The Virginia Placement Test. You can also purchase an electronic version of a study guide from:  

Need to review? Click on the links below to see the appropriate lesson online at, and other math sites. This list is a very good review and is intended to be a sampling of topics. There could be topics on the test that are not included in this list.

Sample questions for the Virginia Placement Test: Click here. 
When you open the document, the answers are at the end.

Numerical Skills/Prealgebra



Operations with Integers
Multiples and factors of integers
Operations with Fractions
Operations with Decimals
Conversions between fractions and decimals
Exponents, square roots, scientific notation
Ratios and proportions
Averages (Means, Medians, and Modes)
Percent Word Problems
Number Word Problems




Substituting Values into Algebraic Expressions
Setting Up Equations for Given Situations
Basic Operations with Polynomials
Factoring Polynomials
The AC method of factoring
Linear Equations in One Variable
Exponents and Radicals
Simplifying Rational Expressions
Adding and Subtracting Rational Expressions
Multiplying and Dividing Rational Expressions
Linear Equations in Two Variables

College Algebra


Exponents and Radicals
Complex Numbers

Other topics may include:
Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences and Series
Matrices (basic operations, equations, and determinants)



Geometry Review #1
Geometry Review #2
Geometry Review #3
Geometry Review #4
Geometry Review #5



Trigonometric functions and identities
Right-triangle trigonometry
Trigonometric equations and inequalities
Graphs of trigonometric functions
Special angles (multiples of 30 and 45 degrees)




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Last modified: July 9, 2012