Asee peer logo

Using The Sat And Act Scores For Placement Into Engineering Freshman Courses

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD5 -- Placement & Early Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1415.1 - 11.1415.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Gary D. Herrin University of Michigan

visit author page

Gary D. Herrin, Ph.D. is Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education of the College of Engineering and Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. He has authored over 150 papers in Industrial Engineering. His professional affiliations include ASEE and ASQ. He may be reached at

visit author page


Cindy Veenstra University of Michigan

visit author page

Cindy Veenstra is a Ph.D. Candidate in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a research interest in applying Quality Engineering to Engineering Education. Her professional affiliations include ASEE, ASQ and INFORMS. She may be reached at

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using the SAT and ACT Scores for Placement Into Engineering Freshman Courses I. Introduction

Engineering education research has shown that the placement of a freshman in his/her first semester in engineering is a key factor in his/her successful retention and eventual graduation. A first-term course that is too difficult may discourage a student from pursuing a degree in engineering.6 Recent college retention literature has emphasized the need for early assessment and intervention. 10,11,12

As part of an early assessment program, most engineering colleges use a placement test during college orientation to place a student into the most appropriate calculus course. A literature review shows that some engineering schools are having success using the ACT or SAT results as part of their placement process for the appropriate calculus course. If a student scores high on the ACT or SAT Math test, he/she is placed into Calculus I without a placement test. As an example, the University of Pittsburgh places a student with a SAT Math of 650 or higher into the first Calculus course without a placement test.9 If the ACT or SAT Math could be used to place a majority of the students, significant savings in placement testing would be the result.

Recently, ACT, Inc. has issued a report4 recommending a cut-point on the ACT Math test of 27 for predicting success in the first college level calculus course. At most engineering colleges, the first term courses include engineering courses that are math-intensive. This paper looks at the question of whether this ACT Math cut-point of 27 could be used to predict success in most first term engineering courses. This paper also compares ACT Math to the SAT Math scores as predictors of success in the first term engineering courses. Success is defined as having earned a “C” or better.

Placement in the College of Engineering

At the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, there currently is a placement test for both calculus and chemistry. The result of the math placement test is a placement of a student into either pre-calculus or calculus I. AP tests are used to place students in Calculus II or higher. Because it is recognized that the correct placement into the appropriate calculus is a critical part of the learning process, both a placement test and a math advisor is part of this placement process. The result of the chemistry placement test is a placement of a student into the regular freshman college chemistry course or a remedial section of the freshman chemistry course. The chemistry placement test is also used to place students into the sophomore level chemistry course.

In addition to calculus and freshman chemistry, most freshmen engineering students take either Engineering 100 or Engineering 101 in the first term of their freshman year. Engineering 100 is a project-based introduction to engineering course and Engineering 101 is a course on programming with engineering applications. There are no remedial sections or courses associated with Engineering 100 or 101.

Herrin, G. D., & Veenstra, C. (2006, June), Using The Sat And Act Scores For Placement Into Engineering Freshman Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--437

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015