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Placement Test Practice Problems

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All entering students are required to take the mathematics and English placement tests.  For specific policies and procedures, please visit the Howard Community College Test Center.

The math placement exam is comprised of three test components:  arithmetic, elementary algebra, and college-level mathematics.  All examinees begin testing in the elementary algebra section, and will then branch out into the arithmetic or college-level algebra test based upon their performance.   Each test is adaptive (interactive), which means that as you complete an item, the computer evaluates your skill level and gives you another problem of either increasing or decreasing difficulty.  Questions are automatically chosen to yield the most information about your skill level based upon your answers.

Each section will offer you a description of the skills to be tested, accompanied by practice problems and answers.  For a more detailed list of test specifications, please contact

Feel free to scroll down to the section you would like to practice, and see how your skills measure up!


The arithmetic section of the placement test is comprised of 17 questions chosen to evaluate your skills in the three areas described below.  Your performance on this section determines your placement into MA-060 or MA-061.

About 31-44 percent of questions will fall in this category:

  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers and fractions
  • Recognizing fractions and mixed numbers
  • Estimating

Approximately 31-38 percent of questions will cover the following areas:

  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of decimals
  • Percent problems
  • Recognizing decimals, fractions, and percent equivalents
  • Estimation problems

The remaining 25-31 percent of the arithmetic test will contain problems from this category:

  • Applications and problem solving:  Rate, percent, measurement, simple geometry, and distribution of a quantity into its fractional parts.

Practice Tips

The following problems are merely suggested practice problems for the arithmetic section of the placement test.  Some of the problems may or may not be similar to the problems on the actual test.  If you have difficulty completing the problems, we recommend that you review the skills covered in a general high school mathematics class.

Elementary Algebra

The elementary algebra version of the placement test will determine your placement into either MA-061 or MA-064/065.

The first set of problems, comprised of twelve questions and equal to about 8-17 percent of your grade, will quiz you on...

  • Operations with integers and rational numbers
  • Computations with absolute value
  • Ordering

The second group of problems, adding up to around 42-67 percent of your grade, will cover...

  • Operations with algebraic expressions
  • Evaluation of simple formulas and expressions
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of monomials and polynomials
  • Evaluation of positive rational roots and exponents
  • Simplifying algebraic fractions and factoring

The third segment amounts to around 17-50 percent of the test and will cover these topics...

  • Solutions of equations, inequalities, and word problems
  • Solving of equations by factoring
  • Solving word problems presented in an algebraic context, including geometric reasoning and graphing
  • Translation of written phrases into algebraic expressions.

Helpful Practice Tips

The following problems are merely suggestions to help you better prepare for the elementary algebra section of the math placement test.  Some of these examples may or may not be similar to the problems on the actual test.  We recommend that if you have difficulty completing these problems, you should probably review the skills generally covered in a first-year high school algebra class.

College-Level Mathematics 

This slightly more advanced level of the math placement test evaluates your skills in terms of established requirements needed to register for college-level classes.  Results of this portion will enable us to place students in algebra, intermediate algebra, college algebra, college trigonometry, or precalculus.

This particular test evaluates the students in the following six areas.  Your results will determine your placement into MA 064/065, MA 070, or any of the college-level math courses offered at the college.  This first set of algebraic operations, comprising about 20 percent of the test content, will cover...

  • Simplification of rational algebraic expressions
  • The factoring and expanding of polynomials
  • Manipulating roots and exponents

Approximately 15 percent of the problems will evaluate students' knowledge of...

  • Solutions of linear and quadratic equations and inequalities
  • Systems of equations and other algebraic equations

In the area of coordinate geometry, about 15 percent of the test will involve...

  • Plane geometry
  • Coordinate plane, lines conics, and sets of points in the plane
  • Graphing algebraic functions

Applications and other algebraic topics will cover another 10 percent...

  • Complex numbers
  • Series and sequences
  • Determinants, permutations and combinations
  • Factorials and word problems

Another 20 percent of the test will cover the following functions...

  • Polynomial
  • Algebriac
  • Exponential
  • Logarithmic

Trigonometric functions, comprising approximately 20% of the problems, will complete the test.