Mathematics Placement

General Information on Math Placement

All students at Saint Mary’s College of California are required to take an appropriate mathematics course as part of their Core requirements and/or for their major. In order for you to be successful in these, you must enroll in a mathematics class for which you are prepared.

For incoming first-year and transfer students starting in Fall 2019: Your placement test is now available. Email instructions will be sent to you soon.

All incoming freshmen are required to take a Mathematics Placement Test. Transfer students should also take a placement test if they have yet to complete their required mathematics courses. Please see the instructions for taking the Math Placement Test.  If you are entitled to accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact Student Disability Services (, 925-631-4358) to make appropriate arrangements prior to taking the test.

Your score on the Math Placement Test, along with your high school record and your SAT/ACT mathematics score, will determine your mathematics placement.


Placement Levels and Registration Permission

Your placement level indicates the mathematics course in which you are prepared to succeed and therefore eligible to enroll.

  • Level 1: You may enroll in Math 2, 12, and 10 (subject to prerequisites)
  • Level 2: You may enroll in Math  3, 4 and 5 (as well as courses for Level 1)
  • Level 3: You may enroll in Math 13 (as well as courses for Level 1 and 2)
  • Level 4: You may enroll in Math 27 (as well as courses for Level 1, 2 and 3)

To determine whether your math placement is sufficient for your intended major, please consult this Guide to Majors showing the correspondence between majors and required placement levels.

Incoming first-year students are placed in appropriate courses as part of the advising/orientation process.

Math Readiness Courses

Regardless of whether you are an incoming or returning student, if your initial placement does not qualify you for the math course that you need to take, the best way to improve your placement is by completing a preparatory math course (Math 2 or Math 12) at Saint Mary’s College.

  • Math 2 (Math Readiness) is a preparatory course for Math 1, 3, 4, or 5.
  • Math 12 (Math Readiness for Calculus) is a preparatory course for Math 13.

Note that neither Math 2 or Math 12 fulfills the Mathematical Understanding requirement for the SMC Core.

Students may also qualify to retake the placement test by enrolling in a preparatory course elsewhere. This course would likely be Intermediate Algebra (to reach Level 2) or College Algebra (to reach Level 3). Students planning on improving their placement through outside work must make a plan ahead of time with the Coordinator of Mathematics Placement ( and will be required to demonstrate significant improvement by taking the placement test when their outside work is completed.


AP Credits:

A student who takes an AP exam will be awarded credit according to Saint Mary’s policy. To receive credit for a satisfactory AP score, the score must be officially reported to Saint Mary’s by the College Board. More information about how SMC uses AP scores can be found here.  Note: Since AP scores are not reported until July, it is advisable to take the placement test in May or June just in case you need it. 

AP Calculus: Students who earn a 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB exam or a 3 on the Calculus BC exam are awarded credit for Math 27 (Calculus 1). Students who earn a 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC exam are awarded credit for Math 27 and Math 38 (Calculus 1 & 2). All students who earn a 3 or better on either exam are awarded Level 4 math placement.

AP Statistics: Students who earn a 3 or better on the AP statistics exam are awarded credit for Math 4 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics) as well as Level 2 math placement.


  • Which test should I take?  The calculus readiness test should be taken by any student who wishes to take calculus. Calculus is required for all science majors, except Psychology, as well as the Bachelor of Science in Economics and the concentration in Business Analytics. Even if calculus not required in your major at Saint Mary’s, it is required or highly recommended for admission to many related graduate and professional programs. A student who is certain that calculus is not in his/her academic plans should take the other test, which assesses algebra skills needed for success in non-calculus courses.
  • Can I take both tests?  Yes, there is never any penalty for taking both tests. However, the only students for whom this is specifically advised are students who need to take calculus but are concerned that the calculus readiness test did not go particularly well.
  • Do I absolutely have to take a placement test? The short answer is that almost all incoming students need to take the test. Even if you think that you fit one of the exceptions noted below, a change in academic plans may result in the need to take mathematics courses not included in your prior plans. Thus, it is highly recommended that you take a placement test, no matter what your tentative plans might be. Below are the exceptions which allow you to skip the test:
    • A student who already has college-level credit for calculus does not need to take a placement test. (If you take the AP calculus test this May, your score will not be reported in time to exempt you from the placement test.)
    • A student does not need to take the test if they already have transfer credit for their SMC Mathematical Understanding course and for any math course required for their major. Note that Precalculus, College Algebra, Intermediate Algebra (among others) will not fulfill the Core requirement. Please consult with your admissions officer after enrolling to determine whether you will need to take math at SMC.
  • What if I have other questions or problems concerning the mathematics placement process? Contact the Coordinator of Mathematics Placement, Prof. Michael Nathanson ( Other resources for placement issues include the Registrar’s Office (, 925-631-4214) and the Office of New Student and Family Programs (, 925-631-4647).