Scheduling First-Year Writing and Math for New Students

To prepare for your first semester, most new students need to take a survey to self-place into a first-year writing (English) course. Most students also need to take a mathematics placement. These placements need to be completed before Student Success can develop your first semester schedule.

Please see the information below about each and to determine whether you are required to complete these placements.

At the bottom of this page, you will find information for accessing both placements.

Choosing Your First-Year Writing Course


  • If you are a first-year student who is not in the Honors program.

Not Required:

  • If you are in the Honors Program.
  • If you are a transfer student and you have transfer credits for English 1100 or English 1200.

At PennWest, we allow students to choose their path through first-year writing using a process called Directed-Self Placement (DSP). We ask new students to reflect on their experiences with writing and their confidence related to different writing tasks by taking a survey in D2L. The survey is your opportunity to think about your writing skills and practices and decide what course(s) will best meet your needs.

It’s important to note that this survey is not a test, but at the end of it, you will receive a score. We recommend a score of 75% or higher for self-placement into English 1200, College Composition. Students who score below 75% tend to be more successful if they take English 1100, Intro to College Composition and follow it up with English 1200.

After you take the survey, you will also be asked to choose between English 1100 and 1200 in another one-question survey. It’s important that you complete both steps. As you make this decision, consider your survey score, your success with writing in high school, and your standardized test scores.

Taking Your Mathematics Placement


  • If your mathematics requirement for your major is any course other than MATH 1010 Quantitative Reasoning or MATH 1020 Survey of Mathematics.


  • If you have not received notification of transfer credits equivalent to the mathematics requirement for your major.

Not Required:

  • If you received notification of transfer credits that meet the mathematics requirement for your major.


  • If you have received notification of transfer credits in mathematics that satisfy the prerequisite for the requirement in your major.


  • If your major requires MATH 1010 Quantitative Reasoning or MATH 1020 Survey of Mathematics.

The mathematics placement is offered online, free of charge, and needs to be completed before a class schedule can be created for you. Students should remember the importance of academic integrity when completing a placement test without a proctor. Any assessment should be completed without support or guidance for you to receive an accurate placement.

The mathematics placement test, known as ALEKS, is a program that uses artificial intelligence to map a student’s knowledge in mathematics.

The mathematics assessment:

  • Has 25 questions.
  • Takes approximately one to two hours to complete.
  • Must be finished within 48 hours of starting it.

If you do not score as high as you wanted on your first attempt, you may attempt the placement a second time after completing a minimum of three hours of review in the prep and learning modules. Second and subsequent attempts may also require a proctor.

Your ALEKS score, or prior credit with a C- or better in a university prerequisite course, will be used to determine your proper starting point for your PennWest mathematics course.  

A list of prerequisites and minimum ALEKS scores can be found here.

Students with disabilities should make requests and inquiries for accommodations directly to:





Accessing Your Writing and Mathematics Placements

New Students

To get started, you need to have access to your MyPennWest platform:

1.   Sign into the myPennWest portal. If you have not set up your account yet, click here, scroll to the bottom of the page, and select “password set-up” under the Admitted Students section.

2.   Once you are logged into myPennWest, you will be able to see the placement testing card. The icon for each placement that you need to take is located on this card. See sample below:

3.   If you do not see the placement testing card, select the blue “Discover More” button that should be hovering near the middle of your screen. On the next screen, type “placement” into the Find Card search box.

Transfer Students

You will need your PennWest student email address and password to create your ALEKS account. Access the ALEKS assessment by clicking here.  You may be asked for a cohort or class code. If that happens, please use QH6LC-4PQJ9.

Need Some Help?

  • If you cannot view or find the placement testing card or have any other questions, please contact Claire Pizer at or 724-938-5779.
  • For technical problems with ALEKS, please call the helpline at 800-258-2374. Your score should be available in your myPennWest portal within 24 hours of completion.
  • For questions about choosing your writing course, please contact Dr. Rich Lane, Professor of English: