Validation and Placement
4/C Mathematics Placement Exam
All 4/C midshipmen take the Mathematics Placement exam, which is a 67 question multiple-choice exam covering pre-calculus topics — exponents, fractions, factoring, solving equations, functions, graphing, word problems, logarithms, trigonometric functions, and geometry. This exam has now been made available to take online. Midshipmen are instructed to take this exam before they report to USNA. Those that cannot are required to take the exam soon after they arrive at USNA. Calculators are not allowed on this exam. The exam is given in 10 modules of 10 minutes each. The modules need not all be completed in the same setting. However, once a module has been started, it must be completed. Modules previously completed may not be returned to. It is important to follow the instructions on how the exam is to be taken, to prevent incorrect placement in a mathematics course.
SM005, Pre-calculus Mathematics
Most midshipmen who correctly answer fewer than 40 of the 67 pre-calculus questions correctly are placed in SM005, Pre-calculus Mathematics. Most of those who correctly answer at least 40 are put into a calculus course. For those close to the cutoff, other information may be used to determine placement, such as the math SAT score, high school courses and any education post high school. Towards the end of plebe summer, any midshipman who has been placed in pre-calculus who requests a retest is given the retest.
Midshipmen who do not validate Calculus I and who have not been placed in the pre-calculus course take Calculus I. The Mathematics Department has three different Calculus I courses. Plebes who answered fewer than 45 of the 67 pre-calculus questions correctly and who are not placed in pre-calculus are placed in SM121A, which is a five-hour course. Those who answered at least 51 of 67 pre-calculus questions correctly and at least 13 of 25 Calculus I questions correctly are placed in SM131, which is a three-hour course, or SM122X.
SM122X is the first course of a challenging two-course sequence for students who have had calculus previously but did not validate Calculus I or II. The two courses consist mostly of topics from Calculus III together with embedded review of topics from first-year calculus. Students completing these two courses will receive credit for SM131, SM122, and SM221. Students invited to take SM122X will have the option of placement into SM131 instead.
The remaining students are placed in SM121, which is the standard four-hour calculus course.
Validating Calculus I
Midshipmen who have finished the online pre-calculus exam have the opportunity to take an online multiple choice Calculus I exam. This exam is updated each year to reflect any changes in our first calculus course. Calculators are not allowed on the Calculus exams. A score of roughly 70% is needed to validate the course.
Calculus I can also be validated by means of AP exams. Those students who took AP Calculus in high school and scored a 4 or 5 on the AB exam (or on the AB portion of the BC exam) validate Calculus I. High scores on an IB exam also count as validation.
Validating Calculus II
Those who validate Calculus I and who have taken a course in Calculus II are invited back to take a Calculus II validation exam. The Calculus II exam is also multiple choice. Calculus I and II can also be validated by means of BC exams. Those who scored a 4 or 5 on the BC exam validate Calculus I and Calculus II.
Validating Calculus III
Those who validate Calculus II and have had a course in Calculus III are invited to take a Calculus III validation exam. The Calculus III exam is 80% multiple choice and 20% long answer.
In all placement decisions, special circumstances (previous college math courses, amount of time since last math course was taken, etc.) are considered. In general unless a plebe has a high enough AP score or IB score, to validate a course he or she must have taken that course already and must take a validation exam on it. Midshipmen are not permitted to retake validation exams. The same policies apply to validation of upper level courses