How to prepare for the Math Placement Exam (MPE)

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“Don’t expect success. Prepare for it.”

Have you been given advice like this from a teacher, coach, or loved one? Take it to heart. Preparation is the key to succeeding in many aspects of life, including your education.

When it comes to tests like the Math Placement Exam (MPE), taking time beforehand to understand how the test works and reviewing content can affect your results in a big way.

Learn how to prepare well for the MPE by following these tips.

What can I expect?

First, when we reference the MPE, we are including two versions of the exam: the unproctored Math Placement Exam and the proctored Math Challenge Exam.  Incoming students may take the unproctored Math Placement Exam from anywhere off campus, and it is used for placement only.  The Math Challenge Exam can give placement and also potentially award University credit because this exam is proctored.  It’s most common for students to start with the unproctored Math Placement Exam.

The MPE (unproctored or proctored) is an online multiple choice assessment with some multiple response questions included. There are 50 questions broken into three parts: algebra, trigonometry, and logarithmic and exponential functions. You will have up to two hours and 20 minutes to complete the MPE, and you are allowed to use a graphing calculator.

Refer to What You Should Know about the Math Placement Exam (MPE) for more detail.

How hard is it?

Bottom line: Our goal is to help you place into the highest math course in which you can be successful. Your results will help you and your academic success coordinator or advisor select the just right math course(s) for you.

The MPE starts with algebra questions that cover topics that will look familiar from high school algebra. All incoming students are expected to attempt the algebra section. If you find as you go along that the questions in the trigonometry or logarithmic and exponential functions sections are above your skill level, then you may opt to end the exam without answering all questions. Simply do your best and do as much as you know.

Should I study for it?

In a word, yes. No matter how confident you feel, be sure to review and refresh before taking the MPE.

Studying will refresh material that you may not have used for some time. It will also help boost your confidence, which can lead to better exam performance.

When studying for the MPE, we recommend using the following tools:

  1. CSU MPE review. The CSU Math Department has compiled three study guides which correspond with each section of the MPE. Practicing problems within these guides will give you a full picture of what will be covered in the exam.
  2. Khan Academy. This free online resource allows you to view lessons, take practice quizzes, and refresh your skills in topics covered in the MPE. You may want to focus on algebra I, trigonometry, and exponential/logarithmic functions.
  3. PurpleMath. Similar to Khan Academy, this online tool offers free lessons on a variety of math topics.

What if I don’t get the results I expected?

Don’t get stressed — you will have an opportunity to take the exam up to two more times. Learn more by reviewing the MPE General Information.


Log in to the Personalized Math Plan website to get started.


Jill Baylis

Jill was a staff member in the Office of Admissions until 2019 when she moved to Denver. As a first-generation college student, she focused on simplifying the college admissions process and helping future Rams find community on campus.