Placement and Credit by Examination
HCC has remote testing options, with limited in-person testing for those needing additional accommodations. Visit our student services page for current information on how to access the services you need from home.The Test Center provides placement testing to assist new students with selecting the right classes to begin or restart their college education. Students may also take select examinations that offer the opportunity to receive college credit for knowledge gained through previous courses or industry knowledge.
Howard Community College utilizes three computer-based tests: Guided Self-Placement (GSP) or Next-Generation ACCUPLACER for English and ALEKS PPL for Mathematics. The results of the assessments, in conjunction with your academic background, goals, and interests, are used by academic advisors and counselors to determine your course selection. Placement tests are administered after you have applied for admission to the college.
You may be exempt from placement testing based on your high school GPA, grades in previous classes, and scores from the SAT, ACT, GED or PARCC exams received within the last 5 years, see the table below for details:
High School GPA (graduated within the last 5 years)
Unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher (for ENGL-121)
Unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher (for MATH-070, MATH-132, or MATH-138)*
Language Arts/Literacy exam: Level 4 or 5 (score of 750 or higher)
Algebra II exam: Level 4 or 5 (score of 750 or higher)
Reading and Writing score of 480 or higher
Math score of 530 – 569
Math score of 570 or higher (for Precalculus I)
Reading score of 21 or higher
Math score of 21 – 23
Math score of 24 or higher (for Precalculus I)
Language Arts score of 165 or higher
Math score of 165 or higher (for MATH-070, MATH-132, or MATH-138)*
Transfer College-Level Placement Scores
Next-Gen ACCUPLACER score of 263 or higher
Classic ACCUPLACER score of 79 or higher
Next-Gen ACCUPLACER score of 263 or higher
Classic ACCUPLACER CLM score of 45 or higher
ALEKS PPL score of 30 or higher*
Transfer College-Level Credits
College-level English courses from an accredited college or university OR have the appropriate AP, CLEP, or DSST credit
College-level mathematics courses from an accredited college or university OR have the appropriate AP, CLEP, or DSST credit
* Also requires a college-level English placement (ENGL-121)
If you meet any of the following measures, send your transcripts to Admissions and Advising. If none of these apply and you still need to take the placement test, review the “English Placement” and “Math Placement” tabs below for instructions on how to test.
HCC is offering two remote English placement options:
- Guided Self-Placement (GSP): GSP is an online assessment that gives you the opportunity to answer questions about your experience and background. The GSP assessment consists of eight self-reflection questions followed by a written response in essay format.
- Next-Gen ACCUPLACER via Zoom: ACCUPLACER is a computerized, adaptive, multiple-choice placement test to assess your English proficiency. The ACCUPLACER assessment consists of two sections: reading and writing.
For more information on both options, please visit our English placement page.
ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning (ALEKS PPL) is an artificial-intelligence based assessment tool that zeroes in on the strengths and weaknesses of a student's mathematical knowledge, reports its findings to the student, and then provides the student with a learning environment for improving this knowledge to an appropriate level for course placement.For more information, please visit our ALEKS PPL page.
Frequently Asked Questions About PlacementWhich placement exams does Howard Community College offer?
When are the placement tests offered?
- We offer the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER tests for English and ALEKS PPL for Mathematics.
Who takes placement tests?
- The Test Center offers placement tests all year round. If you are trying to register for classes and want to know when you need to take your placement test, please contact Admissions and Advising for specific deadlines.
- Placement tests are offered on a walk-in basis. Please note that the ALEKS PPL Mathematics assessment must be started no later than 5:00PM Monday-Thursday, and no later than 3:00PM on Friday to ensure you have adequate time to complete the examination. During the summer session, placement walk-in hours may vary. Check our webpage for the most up-to-date hours.
- All degree-seeking students, unless exempt by one of the criteria below:
- All students planning to take English or math classes
- Any student planning to enroll in classes with English and math pre- or co-requisites
- All students seeking admission to clinical nursing or allied health programs must take the English placement exam regardless of previous college-level English coursework. The only exception made is for those students who have earned a baccalaureate degree from a United States accredited institution.
- All credit students must take placement exams by the time they have accumulated 12 credits, regardless of academic goals.
Who is exempt from placement tests?
If you are newly admitted to HCC in the spring 2016 term or later, you are exempt from taking the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement test (Reading section and Writing section) if you:
- Have a high school unweighted GPA that is 3.0 or above in the last five years or
- Scored a 480 or higher on the critical reading portion of the SAT in the last five years or
- Scored a 21 or higher on the reading portion and also the English portion of the ACT in the last five years or
- Earned a “college ready” score on the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English at a Maryland community college within the last two years or
- Completed the highest developmental level of reading and writing at another Maryland community college or
- Transferred in college-level English courses from an accredited college or university, or have the appropriate AP, CLEP, or DSST credit.
If you are newly admitted to HCC in the spring 2016 term or later, you are exempt from taking the ALEKS PPL Mathematics placement test if you:
- Have a high school unweighted GPA that is 3.0 or above in the last five years, you are eligible for MATH-070, MATH-132 OR MATH-138 course or*
- Scored a 530 or higher on the mathematics portion of the SAT in the last five years or
- Scored a 21 or higher on the mathematics portion of the ACT in the last five years or
- Earned a "college ready" score on the ACCUPLACER Math or ALEKS PPL Math exam at a Maryland community college within the last two years or
- Earned a score of 4 or 5 on PARCC Algebra II may be able to place into college-level math courses or
- Completed the highest developmental level of mathematics at another Maryland community college or
- Transferred in certain college-level mathematics courses from an accredited college or university, or have the appropriate AP, CLEP, or DSST credit.
* Students wishing to place in a higher math course level may have to take the ALEKS PPL mathematics placement test.
Do you meet any of the above exemptions?
If you do, rush your official documentation to the Office of Admissions & Advising. Official documentation includes official score reports from the appropriate testing service:
- For SAT and AP scores, visit the College Board.
- For ACT scores, visit ACT.
- For ACCUPLACER or ALEKS PPL tests taken at another Maryland Community College, initiate the process with HCC's Test Center.
- For official transcripts from other institutions, contact the appropriate college.
What do I need to bring with me?
A valid (unexpired) government or institutional issued photo identification, such as your student ID, driver's license, passport or military ID. All personal items will be placed in lockers, including books, notes, pens, pencils, calculators, cellular telephones, electronic devices, purses, lip balm, watches, wallets and keys. All pockets must be empty.
The Test Center will provide pencils and scrap paper, and an on-screen calculator is available for use during Placement Exams.
What placement tests are administered?
The college administers the ALEKS PPL Mathematics placement test and the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement test.
- ALEKS Placement Preparation and Learning (PPL) is an adaptive, computer-based mathematics assessment tool designed to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses while providing an individualized study plan to improve your score.
- The Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement test is an adaptive, computer-based test developed by College Board. The English placement includes a reading section which evaluates comprehension skills, and a writing section which evaluates writing skills.
- Students may be asked to write a paper-and-pencil based essay if their first attempt at the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER writing section is below a certain threshold. The essay exam is timed - students are allotted 45 minutes to complete the essay.
All of these tests are placement tests - students do not "pass or fail" them, and they do not affect admission to the college. They are used to place students in the appropriate college-level or college preparatory courses, based upon their skills.
How do I prepare for the placement tests?
The ALEKS PPL approach is to relearn topics you may have forgotten or to improve math skills, so studying in advance is not necessary. Based on your performance on the initial assessment, ALEKS PPL creates a tailored, individualized study plan just for you. If you would prefer additional free math resources to prepare, visit the following websites:
To study for the Next Generation English placement test is easy with a free ACCUPLACER study app. The app includes sample questions and explanations for your responses. Download the free app at accuplacerpractice.collegeboard.org.
How are the tests administered?
The ALEKS PPL and the Next-Generation ACCUPLACER tests are administered on Test Center computers. Prior computer or typing experience is not necessary for taking the tests. Easy to understand instructions and tutorials appear on the computer screen.
The ALEKS PPL Mathematics assessment consists of 30 questions or less. The questions are not multiple choice. They are open response and require you to work out solutions. The Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement test consists of 40 multiple choice questions. Answers are easily marked using the computer keyboard or mouse. A few background questions will involve entering a simple response - for example, students must enter their name and student identification number.
Both the ALEKS PPL Mathematics and Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement tests are adaptive exams where the computer determines which questions are presented to each student based on their responses to previous questions. This results in a more accurate assessment of each student's skills by ensuring that the majority of questions they are asked are not too easy or too difficult.
How long does placement testing take?
On average, the ALEKS PPL Mathematics assessment takes 90 minutes to complete. However, you have three hours to complete the assessment.
The Next-Generation ACCUPLACER English placement, with the exception of the essay, is untimed . While each test generally takes 30 minutes to complete, some students may take longer.
Students taking the full battery of placement tests should plan to spend approximately three hours at the Test Center.
How will I get my results?
Students will receive a score report immediately following computer-based tests. Resulting course placement is available via a placement report in 1-2 days, or from an Advisor using the score report given to the student. Advisors and placement reports are available in RCF-245.
What about students with special needs?
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), students who require testing accommodations are asked to contact the Disability Support Services Office in RCF 302 or via telephone at 443-518-4629. The TDD# is 443-518-4023.
What is the retesting policy?
The reading, writing or math test may be retaken one time within a two year period, prior to enrollment in an English or math class.
Credit by Examination - CLEP and DSST Exams
*CLEP and DSST test administration is now available on Thursday from 10:00am to 3:00pm. To schedule an in-person appointment email the Test Center .
Credit Howard Community College provides students the opportunity to receive college credit by demonstrating what they know through a series of examinations. The Test Center offers these examinations to those who wish to earn college credit at HCC or another institution of higher education. The examinations offered by the Test Center are: College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) and Excelsior Examinations.
- The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) gives you the opportunity to receive college credit for earning qualifying scores on any of the 34 computer-based examinations. There are 2,900 colleges and universities that grant credit for CLEP exams.
- The Dantes Subject Standardized Test (DSST) program provides the opportunity for you to earn college credit for what you have learned outside of the traditional classroom by computer-based examinations. The program is accepted or administered at over 1,900 colleges and universities nationwide and approved by ACE (American Council on Education).
The Test Center administers CLEP exams year-round, by appointment only, except during final exam weeks and peak periods of placement testing.
Prior to taking your exam, please take the following steps to ensure a smooth process:
- Contact your institution's admissions and advising department to learn the appropriate exam and score accepted by the institution.
- Contact the Howard Community College Test Center at 443-518-1280 to ensure that the CLEP examination you want is offered.
- Set up an account at the College Board, and pay for your exam.
- Schedule your examination with the Test Center at 443-518-1280. Check our webpage for the most up-to-date hours.
- Pay a $30 proctoring fee to the Howard Community College Cashier's Office, located on the second floor of the Rouse Community Foundation Student Services Hall (RCF). Payment may be made by cash, money order or credit card.
- For more information or to view the Howard Community College CLEP Credit Table click here.
The Dantes Subject Standardized Test (DSST) program enables people to use their knowledge acquired outside the classroom to accomplish their educational and professional goals. The exams are generally offered year-round at the Test Center, except during final exam weeks and peak periods of placement testing.
Prior to taking your exam, take the following steps to ensure a smooth process:
- Contact your institution's admissions and advising department for appropriate exam type and score.
- Set up your DSST appointment at the Test Center by calling 443-518-1280. Check our webpage for the most up-to-date hours.
- An $80 fee, charged by the test organization Prometric, must be paid at the time of administration of the exam via a major credit card.
- An additional $30 proctoring fee must be paid to the Howard Community College Cashier's Office, located on the second floor of the Rouse Community Foundation Student Services Hall (RCF). Payment may be made by cash, money order or credit card.
- Changes Requested: Delete current factsheet and replace with updated attached factsheet and upload the quick instructions for ALEKS.
- Changes Requested: Center link on both the English and ALEKS page “create your ALEKS PPL account…”