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Math Diagnostic


Getting started in the correct math course for you is important, so we have put together some resources to:

  • Help you understand the math courses at Morris
  • Explain our Math Diagnostic (which helps you determine which course is right for you)
  • Assist in your preparation for the Math Diagnostic Exam


Here are the courses in which a freshman typically enrolls:

Typical Freshman Math Course Path

The arrows indicate prerequisites, so if you needed Calculus I for your major you would need to have mastered:

  • Precalculus I: Functions
  • Precalculus II: Trigonometry

before taking Calculus I.

Excursions in Math
Excursions in Math has no prerequisites other than high school math—this course meets the M/SR General Education requirement, but relies only minimally on the algebra you learned in high school. It is typically taken by Elementary Education majors who are not pursuing the Math Sub-plan, or any student who wishes to meet a general education requirement but are not planning to take any further math courses (this course does not prepare you to take Calculus I, for example).
Survey of Calculus
Survey of Calculus is an introduction to calculus that does not involve any trigonometry. It is an option for students who major in Biology, or any student who wants to meet the M/SR General Education requirement by learning some more about what calculus is all about.
Calculus I
Calculus I is an introduction to calculus that will use trigonometry, and is required for students who plan to major in Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Science, Financial Management, Geology, Math, Physics, or Statistics. Computer Science majors typically take Calculus I, and Biology students may also take Calculus I for the Biology major.

The courses Basic Algebra, PreCalculus I: Functions, and PreCaluclus II: Trigonometry are also frequently taken by Freshmen who need to build their mathematical skills before preceding to Survey of Calculus or Calculus I.

Basic Algebra
Basic Algebra reviews the algebra you will use in PreCalculus I and PreCalculus II. It generally moves at a slower pace than the precalculus courses.
PreCalculus I
Functions reviews the concept of functions and properties of functions you will use in Survey of Calculus, Calculus I and beyond.
PreCalculus II
Trigonometry reviews the trigonometry you will use in Calculus I and beyond.

You can find more detailed descriptions of all our courses in the Morris Catalog.


Morris offers exemption from Calculus I and/or Calculus II to those who do well in AP calculus, according to the following scale of performance.

  • Automatic exemption from Calculus I and II for AP calculus B/C score of 4 or 5.
  • Automatic exemption from Calculus I for AP calculus B/C score of 3 or AP calculus A/B score of 5.
  • Exemption (subject to mathematics faulty approval) from Calculus I , for AP calculus A/B score of 4.
  • An AP calculus A/B score of 3 does not gain an exemption for Calculus I.
  • Automatic exemption from Survey of Calculus for AP calculus A/B score of 3 or 4.

For all other students intending to do a mathematics course in their first year, advice is given based on a combination of their performance in a diagnostic ‘placement’ test, their ACT math subscore and information on previous math courses they have done.


The Test

This computer-based, diagnostic test consists of 40 short multiple-choice questions. It tests the level of your command in three areas of precalculus mathematics - basic algebra (14 questions), functions (13 questions), and trigonometry (13 questions). Each section of the test is timed at 25 minutes. The purpose is to assess the level of your command of the material in each section. A preliminary recommendation is made, based on various combinations of scores, taken in conjunction with your ACT mathematics subscore, of which courses you are deemed to have gained equivalence. A table of these equivalencies is below. This preliminary recommendation is conveyed to your advisor, who considers it in conjunction with other relevant information before giving a further recommendation.

The levels at which the preliminary recommendations are made are based on correlation, made over several years, with student success rate in the subsequent course entered. They are chosen to anticipate a 90% success rate at the grade of 'C' or above in the course a student enters.


In order that your true level of mastery may be determined it is recommended that you review material before doing the test. This advice is especially true for those who may not have taken any mathematics for several months or even a year.

Practice material for the test is available for download:

After a student has an account as an incoming student, on the Morris computer system, access is available to a practice test from the Morris Test Center.

When the test is available

A usual time to do the placement test is at the beginning of the day you come to Morris to register for classes. However you may also arrange with Jane Kill in the Testing Center, to do the test remotely online. It is required that your testing be proctored by an approved teacher or counselor, or at a testing center at another tertiary institution (for which you may have to pay a small fee).

Repeat testing

If you are dissatisfied with your initial performance, you have the opportunity to complete a repeat test. This may be done before classes begin in the fall or remotely, as above.

A difficult choice

Students who are recommended to start in Basic Algebra have a difficult choice as the credits for this course do not count towards graduation, though they do count for financial aid and athletic activity requirements. Some students given this recommendation attempt to start at the next level, Precalculus I. The success rate for these students at the grade of ‘C’ or above is historically at the 50% level, with very, very few students gaining a grade higher than the 'C' level in precalculus. The Mathematics Discipline's strong recommendation is that you should build a firm foundation in your mathematics skills before proceeding!


The introductory mathematics courses and their prerequisites are:

Course Prerequisite
Calculus I
  • Precalculus I
  • Precalculus II
Survey of Calculus
  • Precalculus I
Precalculus II
  • Basic Algebra
Precalculus I
  • Basic Algebra

Based on the score in each section of the math diagnostic test (Trigonometry, Functions, Algebra) and on the ACT math subscore, each row of the table below indicates which prerequisite a student is deemed to have satisfied. When you take the math placement test you and your advisor will receive notification of your recommended math course. What follows explains how that recommendation was determined.

The table should be read line by line. For example, suppose a student has an ACT math subscore of 29 and in the placement test has scores of Basic Algebra 8, Functions 5, Trigonometry 5. By line: (a) the student has NOT tested out of Precalculus II (Trigonometry). However, reading down to the Precalculus I section, the student scores in Functions and ACT satisfy line (c) and so the student is deemed to have tested out of Precalculus I (Functions) - and hence, automatically, to have tested out of Basic Algebra.

Qualifying Scores

Prerequisite Satisfied Trigonometry Functions Algebra ACTMath Students should only be awarded pts
once from each prereq group
Precalculus II 7 - 13 (a) If yes, 4 pts; If no, 0 pts
Precalculus I 9 - 13 (b) If functions, add 2 pts
Precalculus I 5 - 8 29 - 36 (c) If both functions and ACT, add 2 pts
Precalculus I 7 - 13 5 - 8 20 - 28 (d) If all trig, functions, and ACT, add 2 pts
Basic Algebra 8 - 14 (e) If algebra, add 1 pt
Basic Algebra 9 - 13 (f) If functions, add 1 pt
Basic Algebra 29 - 36 (g) If ACT, add 1 pt
Basic Algebra 5 - 8 20 - 28 (h) If both functions and ACT, add 1 pt
Basic Algebra 7 - 13 20 - 28 (i) If trig and ACT, add 1 pt


Based on your score calculated from your total math placement points, the following is recommended:

Total Points Recommended Course Therefore, exempt from: Math Student Group
7 or 6 Calculus I (Math 1101) - OR - Survey of Calculus (Math 1021; biology, environmental science, geology, and financial management majors) Precalculus I and II MAT5
5 or 4 Precaculus I (Math 1012) Precalculus II MAT2
3 or 2 Precalculus II: Trig (Math1013) - OR - Survey of Calculus (Math 1021) Precalculus I MAT3
1 Precalculus I: Functions (Math 1012; coreq for Chem 1101) - AND/OR - Precalculus II: Trig (Math 1013) Basic Algebra MAT2
0 Basic Algebra (Math 0901) MAT1