Placement Test Information

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 your mathematics and science classes you need to be in a college level mathematics class for which you are prepared.

All incoming freshmen are required to take the Mathematics Placement Test. Transfer students should also take the placement test if they have yet to complete their mathematics requirements. The results of your test as well as your high school background and your SAT mathematics score will determine your mathematics placement. Incoming freshmen are expected to take the test by May 31, 2015 so that the results are available for the course scheduling process in June. Transfer students, as well as freshmen who deposit later than May 20, should take the test within two weeks of receiving testing instructions. If you have a disability, please contact Student Disability Services (, 925-631-4358)  to discuss appropriate arrangements for testing.

Regardless of whether you are an incoming or returning student, if your initial placement does not qualify you for the math course you need to take, you may retake the placement test only after taking a preparatory math course such as 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.

Students may take an Intermediate algebra class instead of Math 2 or a College Algebra class instead of Math 12; these classes may not be online or hybrid classes. Any course taken at another institution must be approved by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and it must be passed with a grade of C- or better. Students enrolled in Math 2 and Math 12 retake the Readiness Exam as part of the course.

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)

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

Currently Enrolled Students

Through the Spring 2015 term, students already enrolled at Saint Mary’s will take the paper-based placement test used in the past. Contact the Director of Mathematics Placement (Charles Hamaker, for testing arrangements.

Taking the Online Placement Test

After committing to attend Saint Mary’s, you should receive an email, sent to your Saint Mary’s email account, with instructions on how to take the test. This will include the online site and login information (also given below).


Login id:  (your email id, e.g.  crh65 or fc2)

Password: (your 6 digit Saint Mary’s identification number, e.g.  123456 or 506070. Yours probably starts with a 9.)

If the password doesn’t work, the site has a “don’t remember my password” procedure on the login page which results in your password being mailed to you.

If you have further problems, contact the director of mathematics placement for help.

There will be two tests available, one designed to assess readiness for calculus and the other designed to assess readiness for non-calculus courses such as Finite Mathematics and Elementary Probability and Statistics. You may take either test or both, but each test may only be taken once.

If you wish to prepare for the placement test, there are various self-help books available. Any SAT subject preparation book covers most of the topics on which you will be tested. Such books contain explanations and practice exams to help you. The following is a sample of typical questions that appear on the Placement test. These questions should be done without the use of a calculator. The answers appear at the end of the set of questions.


Who’s in charge of this process?

The current Director of Mathematics Placement is
Charles Hamaker (, 925-631-4151)

After July 1, 2015, the Director will be
Michael Nathanson (, 925-631-4445)

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).

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 it is a recommended option in several other majors such as Business Administration. 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. Also, you should bear in mind that many students change their intended major, so taking the calculus readiness test helps keep options open for such a change.

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.

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.

Here are the exceptions which allow you to skip the test:

  1. A student who already has college-level credit for calculus does not need to take a placement test. This can take the form of successful course work at a community college or four-year college or an AP calculus score of 3 or higher which has already been reported to Saint Mary’s. (If you take the AP calculus test this May, your score will not be reported in time to exempt you from the placement test.)
  2.  A student, usually a transfer student, who already has transfer credit for the mathematics course required for their intended major at Saint Mary’s does not need to the test. You should bear in mind that a change of academic plans may require math placement results.
  3.  A small number of majors do not include a mathematics course in their requirements. Students in those majors can fulfill the Mathematical Understanding goal in their general education Core Requirements by taking Math 10, which does not require a mathematics placement level. Once again, bear in mind that a change of academic plans may require math placement results.

What if I pass an AP test?

A student who is awarded credit for an AP test reported by mid-summer or for college-level work  should have a course schedule that reflects the credit. To receive credit for a satisfactory AP score, the score must be officially reported to Saint Mary’s by the College Board. Official transcripts for college-level courses must be submitted to the Registrar. The Director of Mathematics Placement will assist students in adjusting schedules, if necessary.

What if I have other questions or problems concerning the mathematics placement process?

Contact the Director of Mathematics Placement by email or phone. Be sure to describe your issue clearly and to leave adequate contact information.