LSU College of Science

ALEKS prereq for Math 1550 & 1551

ALEKS Calculus Readiness Assessment

ALEKS = Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. The ALEKS Calculus Placement Test (hereinafter referred to simply as “ALEKS”) is an assessment of readiness for calculus, testing skills in numeric manipulations, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. It is an adaptive test: later test questions are selected based on responses to earlier questions. The initial placement assessment quickly and accurately determines what a student knows and doesn't know in precalculus. ALEKS then provides a learning module that instructs students on the topics they are most ready to learn. The students’ scores improve with mastery of each module. ALEKS provides an opportunity to let students know whether they are prepared to be successful in calculus. ALEKS also provides an opportunity for students to become prepared and to refresh their precalculus skills.

Sole prerequisite for Math 1550 or 1551: ALEKS

Effective in Fall 2012 at LSU, an ALEKS score of 70% or higher for Math 1550 (Calculus I), and 75% or higher for Math 1551 (Honors Calculus I), is the only prerequisite for these courses. In the absence of the requisite ALEKS scores, prior coursework and high ACT scores are no longer sufficient for taking Math 1550 or 1551.

Placement in Math 1550 and 1551 by ALEKS Score Taken Through LSU
Most recent “fresh” score on the initial ALEKS placement assessment Placement
70% or higher Math 1550
75% or higher Math 1551

Students who will never need Math 1550 or 1551 may consider taking Math 1431, 1023, 1022, 1021, 1100, or 1029, instead, for which ALEKS is not required; click here for placement tables.

LSU students who are taking calculus at other institutions to transfer back to LSU for credit must meet the calculus prerequisites at that institution, which in most cases is not an ALEKS score. An ALEKS score is not needed for transfer credit in Math 1550.

Getting help and cheating:

If you get help from a person or an open book while taking the ALEKS Placement Test, you run the risk of placing yourself into a course for which you are not adequately prepared. Don't do it.

For the purpose of learning the material covered by ALEKS, you may use any resources available: the ALEKS Learning Module, books, and other people. But once you enter the "Take the Placement" portal (see "Two portals into ALEKS," below), you will want to do your own work with books closed. Otherwise, the ALEKS score will not reflect your mastery of these topics, and may result in your getting a bad grade in Math 1550/1551.

How to sign up for ALEKS:

To obtain an ALEKS score for Math 1550 or 1551, a student must first have an active “myLSU” ID (formerly called a “PAWS” ID). This is obtained once the student applies for admission to LSU. Once the student has obtained a myLSU ID, he or she can go to the myLSU login-page by clicking here, then log in, and then navigate to the “ALEKS Calculus Placement Test” link, located under the Student Services tab. Students can see screen shots previewing the sign-up steps at Once logged in and redirected to the ALEKS Corporation, the student will be required to submit a $25 payment via credit card; cards from foreign countries are often not accepted. None of this payment goes to LSU. It is important that the student register for ALEKS through myLSU, as this is the only way for the student’s ALEKS score to get reported to LSU.

Two portals into ALEKS: “Take the Placement [Assessment]” and “Learning Module”:

Upon entering ALEKS through the above steps, the student will eventually see two portals, one entitled “Take the Placement [Assessment],” and the other entitled “Learning Module.” The first time the student enters ALEKS, the Learning Module portal is dimmed out, and the student can enter ALEKS only through the “Take the Placement” portal. The placement assessment in the “Take the Placement” portal is called the “initial” assessment; it takes about 90 minutes. (ALEKS will automatically report the student’s initial assessment score to LSU the next business day.) After the student completes the initial assessment, ALEKS presents a report listing the precalculus topics the student has a good command of, and a list of precalculus topics that the student has not yet mastered. If the student is not satisfied with his initial score, he should not attempt to immediately re-take the initial assessment; rather, he should re-enter ALEKS through the Learning Module portal (which by then will no longer be dimmed out). The student will have access to the Learning Module for six weeks starting from the first time he clicks on “Learning Module.” Caution: After the expiration of the 6-week period of access to the Learning Module, the student may not buy a second 6-week period through LSU until the next “semester placement cycle” (see “ALEKS calendar” below); the ALEKS website does not warn the student of this rule.

Do not confuse the “initial” assessment with the “progress” assessment:

In the Learning Module, in addition to short, easy-to-follow lessons, there is also something called an assessment, which is a practice or “progress” assessment mirroring the assessment for placement. Scores on the progress assessment do not get reported to LSU. During the 6-week Learning Module access period, the Learning Module and the progress assessment can be accessed without limit. After the student has mastered some new topics in the Learning Module, he may re-enter ALEKS through the “Take the Placement” portal and take a new “initial” assessment; again, the score earned there will be automatically reported to LSU.


ALEKS allows a student to take the “initial” assessment (the one accessed through the “Take the Placement” portal) no more than 5 times in one semester placement cycle (see “ALEKS calendar” below). The student may take these successive, “initial” assessments even beyond the 6-week period of Learning Module access, but not beyond the end of the current semester placement cycle; and even in the case where the 6-week period of access to the Learning Module extends beyond the current semester placement cycle, the student cannot continue to take any more of the 5 “initial” assessments until the next semester placement cycle, and even then, only upon payment of another $25; the ALEKS website does not warn the student about this.

The last initial score (not the highest) is the one used to determine eligibility for taking Math 1550/1551.

Initial ALEKS score too low:

If a student’s score on the initial placement assessment is too low, he or she should proceed to the Learning Module and go through the lessons for several topics. Students should expect to require 2-3 hours' work on the ALEKS Learning Module lessons for each 1% increase in ALEKS score needed. Once the score on the progress assessment is 70% or higher, the student should retake the “initial” placement assessment.

For students who will eventually need Math 1550 or 1551, but who cannot achieve the required ALEKS score in time for the upcoming semester, the Math department recommends taking Math 1023, 1022, 1021, or off-campus Intermediate Algebra (offered also by LSU Independent and Distance Learning); see placement tables at, and consult an advisor. It is expected that earning an A or B in Math 1022 or 1023 will make it easy for the student to get a requisite ALEKS score; however, the A or B by itself does not qualify a student to take calculus.

When to take ALEKS:

Here there are several factors to consider:

  1. ALEKS tests students’ knowledge of algebra and trigonometry. Consequently, students currently taking LSU's Math 1022 or 1023, or taking a high school math course equivalent to Advanced Mathematics (precalculus version), Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, or any calculus course that includes trigonometry, should probably wait until they have completed or almost completed that course before beginning ALEKS. Students who earn an A or B in such a course can expect to do well on the initial ALEKS assessment; other students can also achieve a requisite ALEKS score if they are prepared to spend sufficient time with the ALEKS learning module. (While precalculus courses will help prepare the student to take ALEKS, the ALEKS learning module will, conversely, help a student master topics in his or her precalculus courses.)
  2. Students should take the initial ALEKS assessment early enough to allow time to make sufficient progress in the ALEKS Learning Module, if needed, or to schedule a lower math course.
  3. Incoming freshmen and incoming transfer students who are interested in taking Math 1550 or 1551 in their first semester at LSU should take ALEKS before their LSU Orientation meeting, if possible, so that their counselors can place them into the right Math course.
  4. The student should choose the semester in which he or she plans to take Math 1550/1551 in the first column of the ALEKS calendar below. The second column will then give a six-month freshness window; an ALEKS score earned during that window will count as the prereq for Math 1550/1551 in that semester (and not necessarily in later semesters, even in the case where the student repeats Math 1550/1551).
  5. ALEKS Calendar: Window, Cancellation Date, and Purge Date, by semester
    Semester in which student plans to take Math 1550/1551 Freshness window for ALEKS score to count as prerequisite for 1550/1551 ALEKS account cancellation date ALEKS purge date for Math 1550/1551
    Fall 2018 Feb. 21, 2018 to Aug. 29, 2018 Aug. 30, 2018 July 10, 2018, 11:59 PM
    Spring 2019 July 13, 2018 to Jan. 18, 2019 (none) Nov. 9, 2018, 11:59 PM
    Summer 2019 December 5, 2018 to June 6, 2019 Feb. 27, 2019 April 18, 2019, 11:59 PM
    Fall 2019 Feb. 27, 2019 to Sept. 5, 2019 Sept. 6, 2019 July 9, 2019, 11:59 PM
  6. ALEKS requires each university to establish its own “semester placement cycles”; we refer to the last day of such a cycle as the ALEKS account cancellation date for that semester. The above table shows the ALEKS account cancellation dates at LSU. On that date, ALEKS will not cancel the student’s 6-week period of access to the ALEKS Learning Module if that period is still ongoing, but ALEKS will cancel the student’s access to the “Take the Placement” portal. Thus, even if the student has done the initial assessment only once, and he then did some work in the Learning Module and is now ready to take the initial assessment a second time, he won’t be able to do so after the account cancellation date, even if fewer than six weeks have elapsed since the student had signed up for ALEKS. Consequently, most students will not want to purchase ALEKS shortly before the ALEKS account cancellation date. Students who sign up for ALEKS after the account cancellation date are treated by ALEKS as new students, whether they have used ALEKS before or not; thus, those few students needing a second six-week period of access to the ALEKS Learning Module may purchase it after the ALEKS account cancellation date.
  7. The fourth column gives the ALEKS purge date for Math 1550/1551 for the chosen semester. Before that date, students can provisionally schedule Math 1550 or 1551 without the requisite ALEKS score, on the presumption that the student will soon achieve the requisite ALEKS score. (See the guidelines in the table below for whether a student should provisionally schedule of Math 1550/1551.) On the ALEKS purge date, students provisionally scheduled in 1550/1551 without the requisite ALEKS score will be purged from those courses. This may eventually affect scheduling in other courses. Students who have been purged from 1550/1551 (and students who have not yet scheduled 1550/1551) can still schedule (or re-schedule) 1550/1551 in the period from the ALEKS purge date to the last day to add classes, but only after achieving the requisite ALEKS score.
Advising/Planning Guidelines for Provisional Scheduling of Math 1550 and 1551
For purposes of planning, all LSU students may, up until the ALEKS purge-date in the calendar above, provisionally schedule Math 1550 or 1551, even without having the required ALEKS score. It is important that students pre-schedule 1550 or 1551 only if they have a realistic chance of being ready (by the first day of classes) to perform well in calculus. The following guidelines give indications for who should pre-schedule 1550 or 1551:
1. MACT score of 27 (or QSAT score of 610) or higher.
2. Credit in Math 1022 or 1023 with a grade of A, B, C or P.
3. Currently taking Math 1022 or 1023 at LSU, or currently taking a high school second-semester Advanced Math course (precalculus version), Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, or any calculus course that includes trigonometry.
4. ALEKS score within 10 points of the required score and willingness to spend time with the ALEKS learning module.

List of topics and free trial:

While every student wanting to take Math 1550 or 1551 must sign up for ALEKS through myLSU, anyone at any time can review the detailed list of 281 topics in the ALEKS test by visiting, and scrolling down to “Prep for Calculus.” (This is the particular ALEKS course product that LSU is using.) Anyone can sign up for a free, 48-hour trial of ALEKS at; however, scores on the free trial will not be reported to LSU, and won't count for admission into Math 1550/1551. To repeat: the only way to get into Math 1550 or 1551 is to sign up for ALEKS at the student's myLSU account as described in “How to sign up for ALEKS” above.

Computer system requirements:

Students will need to install the free ALEKS plug-in on their computers before they can begin the ALEKS course; go to to get this plug-in. Most internet browsers seem to work well with ALEKS, with the exception of Mozilla Firefox, which often freezes up during the ALEKS sign-up process. For ALEKS Technical Support, go to

Do I really need ALEKS?

Q1. I have credit in Math 1550 and I already have an ALEKS score of 70% or higher, but I earned a D in Math 1550 and need to repeat it. Do I need to re-take ALEKS?
A1. Yes and no: Your score must be fresh (i.e., no more than 180 days old on the first day of classes in Math 1550) for the semester in which you want to re-take Math 1550. A score earned during certain periods can be fresh for two consecutive semesters, while scores earned in other periods may be fresh for only one semester. Recall the "ALEKS calendar" above. If your score is stale for the semester when you want to re-take Math 1550, then you must re-take ALEKS.

Q2. If I have credit in Math 1552 and need to take Math 1550, do I still need ALEKS?
A2. Yes.

Q3. If I want to take Math 1550 through LSU's Office of Independent & Distance Learning, do I need ALEKS?
A3. If you are an LSU student, then you must do ALEKS; otherwise, ALEKS is not required, and credit in MATH 1022 or equivalent will suffice.

Q4. If I want to earn or if I have earned credit in Math 1550 through AP Calculus courses taken in high school, through the CLEP or the IB math exam, through LSU's Calculus credit exam, or through transfer credit, do I need ALEKS?
A4. No, unless you want to take Math 1550 at LSU even after having earned credit in Math 1550. See tables at

Q5. I am a special butterfly student (that is, I've had calc in high school, I was valedictorian, and my parents are engineers and brain surgeons), and I don't see why I need an ALEKS score.
A4. You still need ALEKS if you want to take Math 1550.

Miscellaneous questions about ALEKS:

Q1. Does ALEKS give me credit in Math 1021, 1022, 1023, or any other course?
A1. No.

Q2. I got an ALEKS score of 82%, but do not feel confident about my precalculus skills (trig and college algebra). I know my ALEKS score will let me schedule calculus, but should I?
A2. This is where you need to take charge. If it's just a case of nervousness, don't let the word "calculus" intimidate you. But if you really feel that you are not in command of trig or college algebra, then you could consider taking either Math 1021 (College Algebra), Math 1022 (Trig), or the combination course Math 1023 (5 hours). However, if you already have credit in any of these courses, consult an advisor about the rules for repeating courses.

Q3. Will my ALEKS score (obtained through LSU as above) count as the prerequisite for a calculus course at another school?
A3. No. Each school makes its own rules on prerequisites for its courses. You must meet the prereq stated in that school's catalog.

LSU Math contact person:

For non-technical, procedural questions about ALEKS, contact Mrs. Soula O'Bannon, ALEKS Coordinator, Department of Mathematics, 301B Lockett Hall, 225-578-1617,

Last updated Aug. 10, 2018.