Richard, Dave, Mary, Linda, et al

I took my math placement test yesterday and it was suggested I take pre-calc II. It was also mentioned that had my trig been stronger I’d have been placed into calc. My last formalized math class was in 1983. Eek!

I deductively answered many of the questions working the problem to a point, getting stuck, and then via elimination answered it. Apparently, I did that well. However, that doesn’t mean I understand the material well.

Here are my questions, and I’m specifically looking for your guidance (and recognizing the “go slow and steady, get great grades” mantra):

  1. Would you suggest to take the pre-calc I class to make sure I understand the material?


  2. Would you take pre-cursor to the pre-calc I class, College Algebra, then pre-c I, then pre-c II?


  3. Would you just take what they suggested, pre-calc II?

    My fear is that I’m ill equipped to take the higher math and get the “A” I need without the prior prep and full comprehension.

    Other suggestions?

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to answer the question, since my name hasn’t been mentioned in the title.

I think placement tests are petty accurate and you’d probably be fine taking pre-calc II. There’re are many classes you have to take as it is, so I think you really don’t need to add up to this your load. If you really have serious doubts about your math skills, check which book your college uses for this class/ or talk to people in pre-calc II and look through the book. See how it makes you feel.


Thank you, Kasia (you are perfectly qualified under the “et al” which is why I put it, figuring I’d forget someone - like Judy, et al… :D)

I tried to look at the book in the book store but it was shrink wrapped (even the used ones were) so that didn’t work. If I buy it to look through, I believe I’m given a surcharge for restocking if I decide to not take the class and return the book.

Then I looked up pre-calc class tests online to see if I could find some and did, but they were high school courses.

So, I pulled out my Kaufmann edition of College Algebra from 1983 and worked through some of those problems…

Then came here.

Thank you for responding, “et al” :smiley:

I am hesitant to comment too much based on “placement exams” as I never took one & have no idea how accurate or relevant they are. In my humble opinion, you should do what you feel most comfortable with. Of course, the caveate being, where does your comfort transition to anxiety & is that transition driven by legitimate ‘lack of comfort/understanding’ with the material or just the plain old jitters from intimidation.

My suggestion, sincere, objective, old-fashioned introspection. Did you actually guess & parse your way to a strong performance or are you selling yourself short on your abilities? If I were in doubt, I would definitely er on the side of caution. Having been since 1983 since you had a math class and knowing the you WILL need an intuitive ability to do algebra/trig sorta stuff for med school & the MCAT (no actual math, but you have to have the ability to reason thru mathematical “stuff”), I would belly up to the bar & take the pre-calc 1 & 2 sequence. And, if way back when you were taking those math courses, you really struglled with algebra &/or trig, strongly consider retaking those as well.

What is the downside of backing up and taking those courses? It’ll probably add a year to your pre-med path. What is the true detriment? That is perspective dependent, but in reality - it won’t make diddly’s worth of difference in as far as your admission prospects.

What is the upside of backing up and taking those courses? You will be able to walk into Calc confident you are ready to take it on! Also, do realize that most med schools do not require Calc nor do they require calc-based physics. Be absolutely sure that you must take these sequences before you do because they can be back-breakers, tangent upon your specific institution.

What is the downside of not taking these course? If you take Calc on straight off w/o recent math, tangent upon your school, it can be a back-breaker. That may force you into hard-decision world…just be aware of this possibility, esp if you are not Mr./Mrs. Math &/or your has a reputation for using Calc as a weed out sequence.

Do some thinking & weigh your options. Best of luck & success to you!

Thank you, Dave. I was hoping to hear from you!

I truly guessed and parsed my way to the answers on many of them. On a few of them I could reduce the equation to get close, then just deduced my way to right answer of two remaining (yes, I test well). My heart tells me to take the lower math class and build upon it; my head tells me I’m taking the easy way out and intimidated.

When I started college in 1982, I was in the advanced math and chem sequences - I love math, as I do biology, chemistry, zoology, biochem, genetics (ooooh - I LOVE genetics), micro, anatomy,… you get the idea. I had them all way back in early '80s. For kicks and giggles when my son was little, we’d head to Borders on Friday nights while he read his little books, I pulled out the GRE and “Calc for Dummies Books” to work through. (Yes, I’m a total geek!)

Back to the math: part of my reticence in taking the pre-calc 2 class suggested, is my on-going fear of not being adequately prepared for calc. I took calculus for engineers and understood most of it easily (despite being either unusually still drunk or hungover) and generally forgot about homework and thus, failed the class(es).

The U of MN does not specifically require calc, nor calc based physics, but many of the med schools I reviewed did. And, I’m trying to figure out how to make my application as strong as possible.

But if I’m hearing you right, calc and calc based physics really doesn’t do that as much as, I’m guessing, a solid 4.0 in math AND a physics course plus a 30+ MCAT.

Which if I went that way, I could take the MCAT next spring for 2011 apps? Oh Lord…

Maybe my focus is skewed?

I’m only replying because I had a similar decision to make. I was eligible to take calculus when I began school again, but wasn’t real confident. Instead of spending the extra money on tuition, as well as two quarters time, I decided to review all the pre-calc on my own. Fortunately, my school has a great math lab, with all the correct textbooks and syllabus, as well as tutors. If your school has a math lab you might take advantage of it this way also. Good luck

Thanks, Kangoroo! That’s a great idea and one I had not thought of. The U does have a math lab… will have to check into it. Thanks again!

I can’t answer this either for the initial reason that Dave gives. Besides, math was never my strong suit. I dropped calc in college before it dropped me. :slight_smile:



I can’t really say much about math, as that was my strong suit going into undergrad and ended up being my major. However, I do have a personal anecdote about placement exams. Going into school, I had to take a foreign language placement exam. As I had taken French in high school, this was the way to go. I did much the same as you did, guessing my way to a high placement (Intermediate French II). In my late teen naivete, I decided that the placement test knew best, so I took the recommended class. After a couple of attempts, it ended up being a (barely) D on my transcript. In retrospect, I really wish I had backed up at least one class to make sure I was ready for this one. Now perhaps you’re underestimating your ability; after all, I find that test taking skills and math skills seem to go together, what with the logic and all.

In any case, I wish you the best with your decision. If you’re like many others here, this next chance may well be the last one for a medical career, so be ambitious, yes, but don’t get ahead of yourself.


I’ve decided to take the pre-calc 1 class to make sure I thoroughly understand the base material before advancing. Plus, the faculty member for that class is an award winning professor as voted by both faculty and students.

Thank you to everyone who responded because each response seemed to echo my thoughts and just re-affirm what I was thinking.