College Algebra

The College Algebra exam covers material usually taught in a one-semester college course in algebra.

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The College Algebra exam covers material that's usually taught in a one-semester college course in algebra. Nearly half the test is made up of routine problems requiring basic algebraic skills; the remainder involves solving nonroutine problems in which test takers must demonstrate their understanding of concepts. The test includes questions on basic algebraic operations; linear and quadratic equations, inequalities, and graphs; algebraic, exponential, and logarithmic functions; and miscellaneous other topics.

It's assumed that test takers are familiar with currently taught algebraic vocabulary, symbols, and notation. The test places little emphasis on arithmetic calculations. However, an online scientific calculator (nongraphing) will be available during the exam.

The exam contains approximately 60 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that won't be scored.

Scientific Calculator

A scientific (nongraphing) calculator, the TI-30XS MultiView™, is integrated into the exam software and available to students during the entire testing time.

To use the calculator during the exam, students need to select the Calculator icon. Information about how to use the calculator is available in the Help icon under the Calculator tab.

Students are expected to know how and when to make appropriate use of the calculator. Visit ETS to learn more and to practice using the scientific calculator.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the College Algebra exam require test takers to demonstrate the following abilities in the approximate proportions indicated:

  • Solving routine, straightforward problems (about 50% of the exam)
  • Solving nonroutine problems requiring an understanding of concepts and the application of skills and concepts (about 50% of the exam)

The subject matter of the College Algebra exam is drawn from the following topics. The percentages in parentheses indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on that topic.

Get more information about the scientific calculator and download a trial version.

Students will find the online scientific calculator helpful in performing calculations (e.g., arithmetic, exponents, roots, and logarithms).

Algebraic operations (25%)

  • Operations with exponents
  • Factoring and expanding polynomials
  • Operations with algebraic expressions
  • Absolute value
  • Properties of logarithms

Equations and inequalities (25%)

  • Linear equations and inequalities
  • Quadratic equations and inequalities
  • Absolute value equations and inequalities
  • Systems of equations and inequalities
  • Exponential and logarithmic equations

Functions and their properties* (30%)

  • Definition, interpretation, and representation/modeling (graphical, numerical, symbolic, and verbal)
  • Domain and range
  • Evaluation of functions
  • Algebra of functions
  • Graphs and their properties (including intercepts, symmetry, and transformations)
  • Inverse functions

Number systems and operations (20%)

  • Real numbers
  • Complex numbers
  • Sequences and series
  • Factorials and binomial theorem

*Each test may contain a variety of functions, including linear, polynomial (degree ≤ 5), rational, absolute value, power, exponential, logarithmic, and piecewise defined.

Score Information

ACE Recommendation for College Algebra

Credit-granting Score 50
Semester Hours 3

Note: Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from the American Council on Education (ACE). Contact your college to find out the score required for credit and the number of credit hours granted.

Add Study Guides

CLEP College Algebra Examination Guide

The College Algebra exam covers material that is usually taught in a one-semester college course in algebra.

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Study Resources: College Algebra

A study plan and list of online resources.


Sample Questions: College Algebra

Answer sample questions related to the College Algebra exam.


ACE Credit Recommendations

Recommendations for credit-granting scores from the American Council on Education.