Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS) 

Southern Oregon University has partnered with ALEKS to administer math placement tests for new and current students. These tests are used to assist students with beginning in the most appropriate math course, based on previous background. Students who take the math placement exam will using the ALEKS Placement, Preparation, and Learning (PPL) system. Below you will find information on the background of the ALEKS exam itself, and how it is used to assist students. 

What is ALEKS PPL, and how does it work?

ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning (ALEKS PPL) offers colleges & universities a complete solution for math placement and course preparedness. Combining a research-based, accurate placement assessment with personalized learning tools to help students refresh on lost knowledge, ALEKS PPL gives students the opportunity to succeed before they even begin class.


  • Artificial intelligence efficiently assesses course readiness
  • Open-response, adaptive assessment covers 314 topics in 30 questions or less
  • Places students from Basic Math up to Calculus I in single assessment
  • Seamless transition from placement assessment(s) to individualized Prep and Learning Modules
  • Six months access to Prep and Learning Modules to refresh their knowledge, and 12 months to take up to four additional assessments to improve their course placement
  • Mastery-based learning motivates students to achieve higher placement results
  • Online flexibility allows for on- and off-campus testing and simple implementation

The most important feature of ALEKS is that ALEKS uses artificial intelligence (AI) to map the details of each student's knowledge. ALEKS "knows," at each moment, with respect to each individual topic, whether each individual student has mastered that topic. If not, ALEKS knows whether the student is ready to learn the topic at that moment. ALEKS uses this knowledge to make learning more efficient and effective by continuously offering the student a selection of only the topics she is ready to learn right now. This builds student confidence and learning momentum. 

ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions and instead uses flexible and easy to use answer input tools that mimic what would be done with paper and pencil. When a student first logs on to ALEKS, a brief tutorial shows him how to use these ALEKS answer input tools. The student then begins the ALEKS Assessment. In a short period of time (about 60-75 minutes for math placement), ALEKS assesses the student's current content knowledge by asking a series of about 30 questions. ALEKS chooses each question on the basis of his answers to all the previous questions. Each student, and therefore each set of assessment questions, is unique. It is impossible to predict the questions that will be asked.

By the time the student has completed the assessment, ALEKS has developed a precise picture of their knowledge of the course, knowing which topics they have mastered and which topics they haven't. The student's knowledge is represented by a multicolor pie chart.

The pie chart is also the student's entry into the Learning Mode. In the Learning Mode, a student is offered a choice of topics that they are ready to learn, based on placement outcome. When choosing a topic to learn, ALEKS offers practice problems to teach the topic. These problems have enough variability that a student can only get them consistently correct on understanding the core principle defining the topic. If a student doesn't understand a particular problem, they can always access a complete explanation. Once a student can consistently get the problems for a given topic correct, ALEKS considers that the student has learned the topic and the student chooses another topic to learn. As the student learns new topics, ALEKS updates its map of the student's knowledge. After completing these learning modules, a student can potentially retake the math placement exam, and have an opportunity to improve their score, moving from one score-tier to the next.