Contact Info

Testing Center
Melissa C. Murphy
Horton Hall, room 019

School of Academic Programs & Services
Shippensburg University
Shippensburg, PA 17257
(717) 477-1014

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Optional Placement Testing

Taking any optional placement test will not result in a negative impact your placement. In fact, some students will benefit from choosing to take an optional placement test. The information below will help you decide whether or not taking an optional placement test is right for you. If you still have questions after reading this information, please contact the placement testing office.

Optional Math Testing (Begins April 1st)

If your math SAT is between 535 and 605 you are automatically designated as mathematics placement level 4. But if you would like a more advanced placement level, you may register to take one of two mathematics placement exams. You may also elect to take the optional math testing if you complete the Accuplacer test and placed into Level 4. Whether it is worthwhile to voluntarily test in math or not depends upon the math requirements of your major.

If you choose to major in a liberal arts or other non-technical field, you can satisfy the university’s mathematics competency requirement by achieving Math Placement Level 5 or 6. This automatically happens if you have a math SAT score above 605.

If you choose to major in business or economics, you will be encouraged to participate in voluntary placement testing. This may allow you to begin in a higher-level math course and avoid taking a prerequisite course. For example, business majors are required to take applied calculus; students with placement level 4 must take college algebra as a prerequisite course, but students with placement level 5 or 6 can go directly to applied calculus.

If you choose to major in mathematics, computer science, engineering, the sciences, or middle level education, you will be strongly encouraged to participate in voluntary placement testing. This may allow you to begin in a higher-level math course and avoid taking one or two prerequisite courses. For example, all of these majors are required to take Calculus I; students with placement level 4 must take college algebra and pre-calculus as prerequisite courses, but students with placement level 5 can bypass college algebra, and students with placement level 6 can go directly to Calculus I.

If you choose to major in teacher education, then you should be aware that middle level certification majors have very different mathematics requirements from PreK-4 majors. The former group is included (above) among students required to take Calculus I and so voluntary testing is strongly encouraged, while the latter group will find no benefit in achieving a higher mathematics placement level.

Optional Math Testing – How To Do It

Once you have either completed the Accuplacer math test placing into Level 4, or your math SAT scores are between 535 and 605, determine whether or not it is beneficial for you to improve your math placement based on your major. If it is in your best interest to complete the optional online math placement test please continue reading.

The Mathematics Department has designed a self-paced test that can be taken, reviewed, and retaken, AT HOME, any number of times in order to provide a fair assessment of your mathematical abilities. The Mathematics Department Placement Test is good for providing review for students who have already taken lower level coursework and who may just need a refresher. If you have questions about this option, contact the Melissa Murphy, Director of Placement Testing at (

Optional Reading Testing (Strongly Encouraged) 

Developmental Reading: How Students Are Placed
Currently, we are not conducting a Reading Placement Test. Students are placed into Developmental Reading & Study Skills (RDG: 050) based on their Verbal SAT score. Scores below 425 will result in placement into the Developmental Reading course.

Developmental Reading Placement: How This Impacts Students
A developmental placement requires you to pass coursework designed to improve your skills. Students must earn a grade of “C” or higher to satisfy the developmental reading placement. See the Options Based on Placement tab on our website and click, Reading Options for information regarding remediation options prior to beginning classes at Ship.

Students who do not complete their Developmental Reading course requirement prior to beginning classes in the fall will have a schedule that is restricted to 12 credits (including the Developmental Reading & Study Skills course). The Developmental Reading & Study Skills (RDG 050) is a three-credit course that does not count toward graduation.

Optional Testing: The Developmental Placement Challenge Test
Students with Verbal SAT scores of 425 and below who wish to challenge their placement have the option to take the Reading Placement Challenge Test, the Nelson Denny Reading Test.  Students can only take the Reading Placement Challenge Test at Shippensburg University. Alternate testing sites are not available for this test.

The Nelson Denny is a timed test (35 minutes) composed of two sub-tests, Vocabulary and Comprehension. The Vocabulary section consists of 80 items and has a time limit of 15 minutes. The Comprehension section contains reading passages and 38 questions to be completed in 20 minutes. Nelson-Denny’s purpose is to identify students who have difficulty in reading, to gauge levels of progress after remediation, and to predict future potential for academic success.

IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO TAKE the Nelson-Denny, you will need to enroll in RDG 050 your first semester. This also means:

  1. Your first semester schedule will be restricted to, at most, 9 college level credits.
  2. You will essentially be a semester behind.
  3. Developmental courses DO NOT count toward the credits needed for graduation.