Student Guide to the Proficiency Exam
The South Dakota Board of Regents
Proficiency Exam is designed to test foundational college skills at or near the
end of the first two years of college. There are four Proficiency Exam tests
that must be taken: Writing Skills, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning.
The South Dakota Board of Regents, in conjunction with faculty and
administrators from across the state's universities has selected these tests to
assess your achievement in selected core skills.
To be eligible to sit for the exam, students must be seeking either their first
associate or baccalaureate degree. Further, associate degree seeking students
must have passed 32 or more credit hours, at or above the 100 credit level, and
baccalaureate degree-seeking students must have completed 48 or more credit
hours. In accordance with the Board of Regents General Education Policy,
students should also have completed a minimum of three credits in each of the
following areas: composition, mathematics at or above the level of college
algebra, natural science (6 credits recommended), social science, and
Your participation in this evaluation program is important for your future
success in college and for assessing the quality of your education. The South
Dakota Proficiency Exam will help your faculty determine how well your education
compares to the education provided at other institutions. The faculty will study
the results for students as a group to confirm program strengths and identify
areas that need to be strengthened.
Be sure to treat the exam seriously, and try to do your very best on each of the
modules. Your individual report will be accessible only to those designated
university personnel with a need to know. Your report will allow you to compare
your performance to groups of other students at your school and around the
country. Although this testing is a requirement, it offers you a unique
opportunity to discover how much you have learned in selected foundational skill
areas. This information should give you important insights about your education
thus far and your potential for success in upper division courses. The
foundational skills being measured are important for functioning in today's
society and for doing upper level college work.
Description of the South Dakota Board of
Regents Proficiency Exam
Each test requires 40 minutes to complete. The Proficiency Exam is administered
in one time block in the following order: Writing Skills, Mathematics, Reading,
and Science Reasoning. The questions are numbered and the answer choices for
each question are lettered.
Writing Skills Test
This 72-item test measures your understanding of conventions of standard written
English in punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and
style. Spelling, vocabulary, and rote recall of rules of grammar are not tested.
The test consists of six prose passages, each of which is accompanied by a set
of 12 multiple-choice test items. A range of passage types is used to provide a
variety of rhetorical situations. The student must decide which response is most
The 35-item test is designed to measure your mathematical reasoning ability. It
assesses the ability to solve mathematical problems encountered in many
postsecondary curricula. It emphasizes quantitative reasoning rather than the
memorization of formulas. The content areas tested include pre-, elementary,
intermediate, and advanced algebra, coordinate geometry, trigonometry, and
introductory calculus. A subscore through college algebra only is reported.
This 36-item test measures reading comprehension as a product of skill in
referring, reasoning, and generalizing. The test items require the student to
derive meaning from several texts by:
1) referring to what is explicitly stated;
2) reasoning to determine implicit meanings; and
3) drawing conclusions, comparisons, and generalizations beyond the text. The
test consists of four prose passages of about 900 words each that are
representative of the level and kinds of writing commonly found in college
curricula. Passages are selected from published sources on topics from prose
fiction, the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Each
passage is accompanied by a set of nine multiple-choice test items.
This 45-item test measures your abilities and skills in scientific reasoning.
Its contents are drawn from biology, chemistry, physics, and the physical
sciences. The test emphasizes scientific reasoning abilities and skills rather
than recall of scientific content, or a high level of skill in mathematics or
reading ability. It consists of eight test units, each of which contains
scientific information and a set of multiple choice questions. Three different
formats are used in the test: Data Representation which presents graphic and
tabular material similar to that found in science journals and texts; Research
Summaries which provide descriptions of one or more related experiments; and
Conflicting Viewpoints which is designed to measure the ability to understand,
analyze, and compare alternative viewpoints or hypotheses.
Board of Regents Policy
Effective spring semester 1998 for baccalaureate degree-seeking
students and fall semester 1999 for associate degree-seeking
students, the South Dakota Board of Regents has mandated that all
students attending a state university in South Dakota and seeking
their first undergraduate degree take and pass the Board of Regents
Proficiency Examination. Baccalaureate degree-seeking students will
sit for the exam on completion of 48 passed credits at the 100 level
or above, and associate degree-seeking will sit for the exam on
completion of 32 passed credits at the 100 level or above.
Testing will be offered during a two-week period during the fall and
spring semesters. Students who fail to sit for the exam, when
required to do so, will not be allowed to register for courses at
any of the state universities for two academic terms.
Students failing to achieve the minimum proficiency level on one or
more components of the exam will be allowed to retest. Retesting
must occur one year after initial testing. During that year,
students may continue to enroll in courses. As preparation for
retesting, students are required to develop, in collaboration with
an academic advisor, a development plan for remediation to be
completed within one year. Students will be able to retest twice
during that year and a fee may be charged to cover the cost of
Students will be informed by the testing office when they are
eligible to test. Approximately 4-6 weeks after a student has tested
they will receive the results and an explanation of how to interpret
their achievement. Students who fail to achieve an acceptable score
within one year from initial testing will not be permitted to
continue their registration. An appeal process for certification of
proficiency using alternate methods is available to those students.
SOUTH DAKOTA PROFICIENCY EXAM TESTS:
Bring the following to the test administration:
- A Photo ID
- At least 3 sharpened soft-lead
(No. 2) pencils with erasers.
- A wristwatch to pace yourself
during the test. Do NOT bring a watch that has an alarm
function. The use of scratch paper, notes, or dictionaries is
NOT permitted. Scratch work is to be done in the test booklet.
- A calculator may be used on the
mathematics section of the exam.
The following test-taking strategies
Pace yourself to allow time for each question.
- Read the directions for each
- Read each question carefully.
- Answer the easier questions
- Use logic in more difficult
- Review your work.
- Answer every question because
there is no penalty for guessing.
- Be precise in marking your
answer sheet--stay within the circles.
- Erase all unintended marks