College Algebra

In high school, it it called “Algebra 2”. In college, that content is labeled “College Algebra”. I recommend all students sit for this exam.

  1. You are studying it anyway!
  2. It can be used as a placement indicator at the college level.
  3. Some liberal arts college degrees only require one math course. This can fill that requirement.
  4. Even if applied as elective credits, refer to reason #1.

How best to prepare? The same 5 steps you have seen elsewhere on this site.

1. Review the content of this exam to familiarize yourself with it. Note the instructions on using the online calculator that is integrated into the test. Students are not allowed to bring their own, so take advantage of practicing with it in advance.

2. Complete your studies with gusto! Include exam-specific resources. You will get better results if you are able to include these into your studies as you go along, rather than cram at the end. ~ Math is an area that this might not apply since the content in most Algebra courses is fairly consistent no matter the curriculum used.

3. Take a practice exam. This will help identify areas of mastery, and those you may need to study more in-depth. Build knowledge in your weak areas by studying your wrong answers.

4. After building knowledge in your weak areas, take at least one more practice exam. If necessary, keep building your knowledge with more review. Try to achieve 60+% correct on at least two practice exams before you sit for the official exam. ~ Some great review sites are and If you need even more review, Saylor has a free self-paced course that a student could take for review. This might be helpful if your student is weak in Algebra or it is not fresh for them.

5. Schedule and take the test! Your scores are “banked” for 20 years. When you enroll in a college, just request your transcript be sent to them.



This review was posted on (Digest Number 3761)


There are pages to read for concept instruction, problems to work (you can print the pages, or just work them out on notebook paper; though for the more complex problems and graphing, printing it out is probably best), and videos to watch which also explain the concept. Saylor encourages you to do the reading, work the problems, and then watch the videos to “review and follow along for the solutions.” It might just be that I don’t have great speakers on my laptop, but I found even with the sound all the way up, I needed my headphones to really hear the speaker in the videos.

The readings are pulled from an online Beginning and Intermediate Algebra textbook (in PDF format). The individual assignment tells you what section or pages to read. The book was written by a Tyler Wallace of Big Bend Community College. I chose subunits at random and looked over the readings and his explanations are straight forward. There are sporadic “world view notes” that explain who first developed certain mathematical concepts. (“Nicolas Chuquet, the French mathematician of the 15th century wrote 121m¯ to indicate 12x−1. This was the first known use of the  negative exponent.”) It’s obviously not necessary, but it does make the reading a bit more interesting, IMHO. (Hmm. Okay, yes. Those were actually exponents in the PDF. I guess you can’t have exponents in gmail. LOL.)

There’s a lot of jumping around by way of clicking links. You open the PDF, you open the PDF workbook, and then the videos are through links that take you to separate webpages as well (as opposed to being embedded on the actual assignment page.) It’s not *that* big of a deal, but it’s something to note.

There are unit practice exams, which can help pinpoint gaps in understanding. There is an unproctored final exam that does not earn college credit, but a “certificate of completion.” The proctored exam is done through ProctorU for $25. On the proctored exam page there is this note: “If you choose to take this exam, you may want to first take the regular, certificate-bearing MA001 Final Exam as a practice test…” (Just note if you take the regular test and do not pass, you have to wait 14 days to try it again. This is true of the proctored exam as well.) A passing grade is 70% or higher.

My thoughts:

1. This course is free and the materials are free. The exam costs $25. If you factored in the cost of study materials, the cost of an exam, and a testing center fee, you could take the Saylor exam 4 – 5 times and still only spend as much as you would on the CLEP test. You could also go through the course and take the free, certificate-only final and see how that goes. If it’s a disaster, at least you are only out time, not a lot of money, and your student should have picked up some new math skills to help him with another credit-earning option. ALEKS is still the cheapest option overall if you finish within one month, but this is a close second. And if ALEKS takes longer than a month, Saylor actually comes out on top cost-wise.

2. It doesn’t seem like there’s any reason to print out the textbook unless your student really hates reading online, but as I said above, I would seriously consider printing out at least some of the workbook pages. You could get away with using notebook paper and graph paper, but it would certainly be more work for the student. So, keep in mind you will probably have some ink and paper costs.

3. When I have tutored high school students for algebra, I have found that very often one of the reasons they are struggling is because they do not have their math facts memorized. Students should have them down cold. They should be able to look at 7x=49 and instantly know that x=7. This is important for two reasons. The first is because they shouldn’t be spending too much time working out the arithmetic portions of their problems. If they are, they’ll get frustrated with the more complicated, longer problems and simply quit. The second reason is simply to help avoid “stupid mistakes.” If they’ve forgotten/don't know that 7×7=49 and somehow think it’s 7×7=54, they’ll end up getting the entire problem wrong. If you have a student who is having trouble with algebra or higher maths, stop and make sure this isn’t contributing to his struggles.

4. We used ALEKS in my household, but yes, if this had been an option at the time, I would have seriously considered using it with my daughter. My son is a math whiz and he whipped through ALEKS without breaking a sweat, but it was more involved/difficult for my daughter. She still pulled it off in only a couple of months, but I can see where she would have benefited from the format of the Saylor course.

5. For concepts that need extra help, Khan Academy has a large selection of videos. I also like One of the neat things about Math TV is they have different people explaining the same concept, so if you watch one video and are still not sure, you can watch another and hear it explained in a different manner that might make more sense to you.


Reprinted with permission


Related Exam: College Mathematics
To gauge readiness, take the practice test in the Princeton Review’s Cracking the CLEP. It is more closely aligned to the official exam than the REA book.

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