The ALEKS learning module for first-year engineering students
The Faculty of Engineering has put into place a math preparation course known as ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces) Placement, Preparation and Learning (ALEKS PPL) to help prepare students for academic success. In the past, weak mathematical abilities and missing background topics have been identified as a cause for poor academic performance. Possible missing background topics are even more relevant in 2020, given that many incoming students have had their final year of studies interrupted by the pandemic. This year we are providing students with ALEKS PPL to assess their personal level of math preparation and enable them to easily fill in any missing background.
What to expect in the math preparation
ALEKS PPL begins with an initial assessment of your level of math preparation and then provides you with a personalized plan for review. Before you begin, ALEKS PPL provides a short tutorial on how to enter your answers, use the built-in calculator and use the graphing utilities. Please TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS IMPORTANT TUTORIAL! After this, you will answer up to 30 questions. The assessment generally takes 60-90 minutes to complete. The assessment is not timed. If for some reason you are unable to complete the assessment in one sitting, you have up to 48 hours to complete it. Once your assessment is finished, an individualized Preparation and Learning Module is created for you to refresh your knowledge on forgotten topics. You then have the opportunity to improve your preparation and reassess your math preparation.
The goal is to achieve a level over 80 as this has been identified as the minimum for student success in your first year calculus course. If you score less than 80, do not worry. The individualized Preparation and Learning Module will focus on topics where you are weak and will tailor a study plan to help you. Once you have mastered these topics, you can do a reassessment and see if you can exceed the goal of 80. You have up to five attempts in total, with a minimum of 48 hours between assessments. If you do not achieve an 80 by the time the fall term starts, we will find options in your first year curriculum to help you. If you exceed a level of 80, you can still challenge yourself to be even better prepared by continuing to access the ALEKS system until next June.
ALEKS PPL is an online, adaptive system that covers a broad spectrum of mathematics topics. The length of the Preparation Assessment will vary, but can be up to 30 questions. You will see some, but not all, of the math you have learned in high school. It is a preparation assessment, not a preview of math courses at the University of Waterloo. It is designed to identify if you are prepared for a particular course. After you take your first preparation assessment, you will have the opportunity to review and master additional topics to reassess and improve your score.
- Real numbers (including fractions, integers, and percentages)
- Equations and inequalities (including linear equations, linear inequalities, systems of linear equations, and quadratic equations)
- Linear and quadratic functions (including graphs and functions, linear functions, and parabolas), exponents and polynomials (including integer exponents, polynomial arithmetic, factoring, and polynomial equations), rational expressions (including rational equations and rational functions)
- Radical expressions (including higher roots and rational exponents)
- Exponentials and logarithms (including function compositions and inverse functions, properties of logarithms, and logarithmic equations)
- Geometry and trigonometry (including perimeter, area, and volume, co-ordinate geometry, trigonometric functions, and identities and equations)
What you need
- About two hours of uninterrupted work time
- Your UW email address and your UW student number
- A pencil and paper
- A reliable internet connection
- A quiet space that allows you to do your best work
- Do NOT use your own calculator
All other resources are built into ALEKS PPL.
When do I do the assessment?
You are encouraged to take your assessment well before the end of July. This will give you ample time to work through the suggested Preparation and Learning Module during the rest of July and early August, prior to your Fall 2020 courses starting in September. Students will receive registration instructions for ALEKS PPL approximately in the middle of July 2020.
The assessment is not a timed test. You have up to 48 hours to complete the assessment. If you need other accommodations, please contact https://uwaterloo.ca/accessability-services/
Academic integrity and assessment of your preparation
The only aids allowed are a pencil and paper. No calculators or computational aids are allowed. No smart relatives or friends allowed either! As we are not monitoring the assessment, we cannot stop you from cheating, but you would only be hurting yourself. Remember, this program is here to help prepare you for first year. As such, there is no benefit to inflating or deflating your abilities on the assessment. ALEKS scores will not change your acceptance to UWaterloo.
For information on the University of Waterloo’s Academic Integrity Policy, see: https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat/policies-procedures-guidelines/policy-71
Will the data from these assessments be used for any purpose?
The data from these assessments will primarily be used by you to inform you how well prepared you are for your first calculus course. Your score on the assessments will not be used in the computation of any of your grades. Rest assured that your privacy will be respected, but we do reserve the right to use the data internally to help improve our programs and to report on research related to aggregate student performance. No identifying information will be released about any individual student.
Instructions for starting the initial ALEKS Preparation Assessment
You will be sent an email from the Faculty of Engineering with a link to your program’s ALEKS preparation assessment website.
- Follow the ALEKS PPL registration link that was sent to you for your specific program from the Faculty of Engineering. Each program (for example, Software) has their own specific ALEKS registration link.
- Confirm that you are enrolling into your program by clicking on Confirm. For example if you are in Software Engineering, you should see:
- Select whether or not you have used ALEKS before and click on Continue.
If you have used ALEKS before, you will be prompted to enter your existing account information. In this case, you can retrieve your account information by clicking on I forgot my login information.
- Complete the registration steps to create a new ALEKS account and click on Continue. Please enter your name, Waterloo student number, and Waterloo email address as instructed. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address you provide.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to save your new login information!
- You are now officially an ALEKS student! Simply follow the on-screen instructions for the initial assessment and the personalized plan for review
Frequently asked questions
Can I practice using the ALEKS input tools before I begin the Preparation Assessment?
ALEKS will begin with a brief tutorial to make sure you are comfortable with the math palette tools before your Preparation Assessment begins. The tutorial shows you how to enter different types of answers, how to use the ALEKS calculator, and how to graph. If you aren’t sure how to input an answer, or need help while you are taking the ALEKS Placement Assessment, select the Help button below the answer pallet tools. Going to the tutorial during your Preparation Assessment will NOT impact your Preparation Assessment results.
Why should I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
The Preparation Assessment is used to help you determine if you are ready or not-ready for your first Calculus course at Waterloo.
Who can take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
All students who are enrolled into first-year engineering at Waterloo can take this assessment.
When do I take the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
Students will need to take the assessment and work through the suggested preparation and learning module during July and August 2020, prior to their Fall 2020 courses starting. Students will receive registration instructions for ALEKS PPL approximately in the middle of July 2020.
Is there a fee for using ALEKS PPL?
Use of ALEKS has been paid for by the Faculty of Engineering, in order to help its first-year students be successful in their first-year math courses.
Do I need to install any software or plug-ins prior to taking the ALEKS Preparation Assessment?
No. There are no required plug-ins or applets required for you to use ALEKS PPL. As long as you have access to the internet and are using an updated browser, you should not experience technical difficulties in taking your Preparation Assessment. For a list of preferred browsers, please review the ALEKS system requirements on their support site: https://www.aleks.com/support/system_requirements
Taking the preparation assessment
What is the format of the questions on ALEKS?
ALEKS is not a multiple-choice Preparation Assessment. It is open-response and requires you to work out solutions with a paper and pencil, then enter them into ALEKS. Be sure to have scratch paper with you.
May I use a calculator while using ALEKS?
ALEKS will provide an on-screen calculator if you need one to complete a particular problem. Otherwise, you may not use a calculator.
May I use any other resources during a Math Prepartion Assessment?
You may only use a pen or pencil, paper, and the resources provided within ALEKS. You should not receive assistance from friends, family, other websites, textbooks, or any other resource not provided by ALEKS. Using outside resources will lead to improper results and potentially sets you up to struggle in your first year math courses. Cheating on this assessment is a violation of University of Waterloo’s academic integrity policy.
May I review a question after I have answered it?
Because ALEKS is adaptive, once you submit an answer, you cannot change it. Be sure to carefully check your answer before submitting your response.
What if I see questions I do not know?
It is likely that you will be asked questions on material you have not yet learned. On such questions it is appropriate to answer, I don't know. On any question that you have familiarity with, however, it is important to do your best. I don't know is interpreted by ALEKS to mean that you do not know how to solve the topic, and this will be reflected in the Preparation Assessment results. There is no penalty for incorrectly answering a question on the Preparation Assessment, answering I don’t know only helps ALEKS understand what you know and don’t know.
Are Preparation Assessments timed?
Yes, you have 48 hours to complete a Preparation Assessment once it has begun. We recommend that you budget a specific amount of time to take the assessment without interruptions. On average, it should take you about 1-2 hours to complete the assessment if you decide to complete it all at once. If you need to exit the Preparation Assessment for any reason, you will be able to log back in and pick up where you left off.
What happens if I do not complete a Preparation Assessment in the allotted time?
You will have to restart the Placement Assessment.
I am ready to start my ALEKS PPL Assessment. How do I begin?
Please follow the ALEKS PPL registration link that was shared to you by your specific program from the Faculty of Engineering. In other words, each program (for example, ‘Computer & Electrical’ or ‘Civil’) has their own specific ALEKS registration link.
If you have misplaced this email, please log into your Waterloo Ready Engineering LEARN course and check announcements to find the link to ALEKS module for your program.
Preparation assessment results
What is my result?
Your preparation result (overall score) is a number between 0 and 100. It represents the percentage of topics ALEKS has identified you have mastered.
Where can I see my score?
You will receive your score immediately upon completion of your Preparation Assessment. Your ALEKS score can be viewed by re-entering ALEKS using the same access link for which you took the Preparation Assessment.
What if I score 0-79?
This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Preparation and Learning Modules offered within ALEKS PPL. An individualized study plan will be created based on your performance on the Initial Preparation Assessment. ALEKS will identify what you know and what you are ready to learn next so you can brush up on lost knowledge.
What if I score 80-100?
Congratulations! Continue to use your Preparation and Learning Module to improve your chances for success. The preparation result required is the minimum preparation for your course. Take advantage of the individualized review and learning features in ALEKS to get a better grade in your class.
Can I retake the ALEKS PPL Assessment?
Yes, you may take up to five Preparation Assessments. However, to make each attempt worthwhile, it is important that you spend time working in your ALEKS Preparation and Learning Module between Preparation Assessments so that you can improve your skills. The Preparation and Learning module you will see after your assessment is called ‘Prep for Calculus’.
Can I retake the ALEKS Preparation Assessment immediately?
You must wait 48 hours between Preparation Assessments. There is generally no benefit to re-taking the Preparation Assessment immediately after completing a prior attempt. You cannot improve your results by simply re-taking the Preparation Assessment without spending time in the Preparation and Learning Module to refresh material that you may have forgotten.
Using the preparation and learning modules
How long do I have access to my preparation and learning module?
You have 12 months of access to your Preparation and Learning module. Access to the preparation course will not begin until you select start on the top of your screen. DO NOT select into the Preparation and Learning Module until you are ready to start working.
Is there a fee for my preparation and learning module?
Access to a Preparation and Learning Module is included along with the additional Preparation Assessments.
Must I work in my ALEKS preparation and learning module between preparation assessments?
You can retake the Preparation assessment up to four additional times to improve your score. (The highest score will be used). Students are required to work in the Preparation and Learning Modules for a minimum amount of time prior to each Preparation Assessment to increase success.
- attempt 2—required to complete three hours of work in the Preparation and Learning Modules before attempting a reassessment.
- attempt 3—required to complete three additional hours of work in the Preparation and Learning Modules before attempting a reassessment.
- attempt 4—required to complete three additional hours of work in the Preparation and Learning Modules before attempting a reassessment.
- attempt 5—required to complete three additional hours of work in the Preparation and Learning Modules before attempting a reassessment.
What are ALEKS Knowledge checks?
While working in a Preparation and Learning Module, you will periodically complete a Knowledge Check to make sure you have mastered the topics you gained in Learning Mode. If you do not show mastery during the Knowledge Check, the topics will be added back into your Learning Pie so you can review them again.
Does progress in an ALEKS preparation and learning module count toward my score?
No. You must complete a new Preparation Assessment to change your score result. Select the placement tab in the upper right corner of the ALEKS page to start a new Preparation Assessment.
Can I change to a different preparation and learning module later?
No. You may only use one Preparation and Learning Module, ‘Prep for Calculus’.
What do I do if my web browser gets stuck or my computer crashes while I am taking the preparation assessment?
Simply close the browser, or log out and log back in. ALEKS will resume the Preparation Assessment exactly where you left off, with no loss of your previous answers.
Where can I get help with ALEKS?