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Language and Math Placement

Language and math placement exams

Math Credit by Examination

During your NSO day, you received an academic profile that covered your proficiency in math, chemistry, and English among other things. Students who are advanced in their math studies and performed well on the Penn State math placement exam may have been given the option to "Take a test for Credit." This provides students who have a background in college-level calculus with the option to take an examination for credit in either Math 110 or Math 140 for a per-credit fee.

This test is essentially a final exam for Math 110 or Math 140, Penn State's two first-semester calculus courses.  If you receive a "C" or higher the credits will be added to your Penn State transcript; however, no grade will be assigned. Please see Senate Policy 42-50 for details of how the course will appear on your transcript.  If you have additional questions about the credit by examination route, and/or questions about the content and process of the exam, please contact the Math Department or your Smeal academic adviser.

Here are some things you might want to consider before taking the exam:

Did I take Calculus in High School?

Penn State’s math placement exam tests your preparation for college calculus by covering foundational pre-calculus topics that you need to have mastered before moving on to calculus. If you had a strong high school math curriculum and did very well on the placement test, it is possible that you were given the option to do the credit by examination for calculus. Unlike the math placement exam, however, this test covers calculus credit. If you have not had a course in calculus it is highly unlikely that you will be able to do well on this test.

Do I have AP or College Credit?

If you received credit for Math 140 by taking the AP Calculus Exam, or if you have college transfer credit specifically for Math 110 or Math 140 from a calculus course taken while in high school (via a dual-enrollment program for example), you do not need to take this exam. Your AP or transfer credits provide the same credits you could gain by taking this exam.

Do I have a strong background in Calculus?

Credit by Examination is not an easy test. It is an examination from a rigorous college-level calculus course, so don't take this high-stakes exam unless you are confident that your calculus preparation was strong.  If you didn’t take an AP or Honors level version of calculus, and you didn’t receive a "B" or above in your AP or Honors calculus course, it is unlikely that you will be successful on this exam.

In rare cases, students who did not already have AP or college transfer credit for Math 110 or Math 140 have been able to secure credit for one of these courses by taking the credit by examination route. However, this is the exception and not the rule.

Language Proficiency Exam

Smeal requires that students demonstrate proficiency in a world language at or above the 12th credit level. In some cases, you may already be proficient in a language other than English as a native speaker, or because of courses or instruction that you received prior to arriving at Penn State. In those cases, you have the opportunity to take a for-credit or non-credit language proficiency exam to establish that you have met or exceeded Smeal’s language requirement. If you believe that this applies to you, we suggest that you speak with your Smeal academic adviser, and also read the Language Department’s proficiency certification policy.