In more than 70 percent of universities, placement tests determine whether students should take corrective courses. If these tests are inaccurate, students can be incorrectly placed on a remediation track and enrolled in unbalanced classes that delay their degrees and increase the cost of their education.

A working document, one in a series issued by the National Office of Economic Research in June, suggests that the placement tests could be replaced by an algorithm that uses a set of larger measures to predict If a student would be successful in college credit collection courses.

The authors developed an algorithm and proved it in an experiment that included 12,544 first-year students in seven different community universities in the State System of New York University, observing a subsample of students for two years . The goal was to see how the placements changed as a result of the algorithm, and if the algorithm assigned students to courses at the university level at higher rates than placement tests. The researchers also wanted to know if the students placed by the algorithm passed their courses as expected.

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