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Mathematics Department
Mathematics student

Validation and Placement

4/C Mathematics Placement Exam

All 4/C midshipmen take the Mathematics Placement (pre-calculus) exam, which is an online, multiple-choice exam covering pre-calculus topics — exponents, fractions, factoring, solving equations, functions, graphing, word problems, logarithms, trigonometric functions, and geometry.  Midshipmen are instructed to take this exam before they report to USNA. Calculators are not allowed on this exam. The exam is given in four parts on Blackboard. All four parts are timed but need not all be completed in one sitting. Parts 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

The standard expectation is that Midshipmen begin in Calculus I. In special cases, a handful of Midshipmen are placed in SM005, Pre-Calculus Mathematics. A number of factors, including performance on the placement exams, the math SAT score, high school courses and any education post high school are all considered in the placement. A Midshipman who starts in SM005 will be required to take Calculus II during summer school after their Plebe Year.

Calculus I

Calculus I and Calculus II are the courses most Midshipmen will start in. SM121, which is a four-hour course, is the standard Calculus I course. Those who have good pre-calculus skills, have taken some level of Calculus I and II, and attempt the Calculus validation exams, can be placed in SM122X. A 4 credit "accelerated calculus" course which is taken with the follow-on course SM221X. This allows a plebe to get credit for 3 semesters of calculus in only 2 semesters, by covering material from Calculus I, II, and III, in 2 semesters. The exact percentages depend on staffing constraints and the Mathematics Department Chair's criteria decisions.

Validating Calculus I

Midshipmen who have finished the online pre-calculus exam have the opportunity to take a pair of online multiple choice Calculus I exams. These exams are updated each year to reflect any changes in the Calculus I 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 the 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. The Math Department does not validate based on IB exam scores, so please take the Calculus validation exams if you want to attempt to validate one or more calculus classes.

Validating Calculus II

Those who have taken the Calculus I validation exams and have taken a course in Calculus II are invited to attempt the Calculus II validation exams on Blackboard. The Calculus II exams are also multiple choice. Calculus I and II can also be validated by means of the AP Calculus BC exam. Those who scored a 4 or 5 on the BC exam validate Calculus I and Calculus II.

Validating Calculus III

Those who have taken the Calculus II validation exams and have had a course in Calculus III are invited to take the online Calculus III validation exam. The Calculus III exam is part multiple choice (to be taken online) and part long answer (to be taken with pencil and paper). If your online score is high enough, you will be invited to take the long answer test after arriving at USNA.

In all placement decisions, special circumstances (previous college math courses, amount of time since last math course was taken, etc.) are considered. The Math Department does NOT validate courses by transcript grades alone, regardless of institution. In general, to validate a course, a Midshipman must have taken that course previously and must take a validation exam on it or have scored high enough on an AP exam. Ensure your AP scores are submitted to USNA well before your arrival on I-Day to avoid being placed in the wrong Math course.

These same policies apply to validation of upper level courses. You must demonstrate a satisfactory level of knowledge on a subject by taking an exam in order to receive validation.


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