The Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment measures your abilities in math, reading, and writing courses and assesses whether or not you’ll be able to handle college level classes.

If you pass the test, you can register for the entry-level composition, reading, and math classes you want, while other students who failed one or more of the sections will find themselves spending money on developmental classes that cost money but don’t provide college credits toward a degree. 

Did you know?

The TSI Test consists of three sections: (1) math, (2) reading, and (3) writing. Passing scores in the three sections range from 340-351, which will allow you to register for college-level classes. Successful candidates have a strong grasp of high school math and English materials. When you pass the test, you’ll graduate faster while spending less money on meaningless courses.

The TSI test contains three sections: reading, writing, and math. It is an untimed test that can be done all at once or spread out over time. Students can also stop in the middle of an assessment, save their progress, and return at a later time to finish the test. For students taking all sections at one time, they can expect it to take between 3-5 hours.

Students take the TSI test at their college or university. Prior to taking the test, students must first take a Pre-Assessment activity (PAA). After they complete the PAA, they receive a pass from their college admissions office to take the TSI test. Students who want to improve their scores may take the TSI test as often as needed. There are a number of exemptions for students, including high scores on ACT and SAT tests, but for those without exemptions, the test is mandatory for Texas college students.

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The TSI test is used by Texas higher educational institutions to determine a student’s correct academic level in math and English. The assessment is divided into three sections, which measures a student’s abilities in the following areas (for complete list, please see Technical Facts section):

  • TSI Math Section – algebra, geometry, and statistics
  • TSI Reading Section – literary analysis, main idea recognition, and language skills
  • TSI Writing Section – grammar, sentence structure, and logic

In addition, the writing test requires students to write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay. 

The test is untimed and taken on a computer. Calculators, dictionaries, mobile phones, or other study guides may not be brought into the test. Each test is different, as it is computer adaptive. Questions get either easier or more difficult based on correct and incorrect answers.

Did you know?

Each test is different, as it is computer adaptive. Questions get either easier or more difficult based on correct and incorrect answers.

Tests are typically administered at a university testing center. However, for out-of-state  students or students who live far from their university, the test can often be taken at a local university or testing center.

The test includes a “save and finish later” option, which can be used during any section with the exception of the essay section. The test must be completed within 13 calendar days.

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Each section of the test contains approximately 20 multiple-choice questions, based on four different categories. In addition, test takers must write an essay. 

The three sections and their categories on the test are:

TSI Math Categories

  • Elementary algebra and functions – students are tested on their knowledge of linear equations, inequalities, and systems. Additionally, questions cover algebraic expressions, equations, word problems, and applications. 
  • Intermediate algebra and functions – students must answer questions on quadratic and polynomial expressions, equations, and functions. The test also covers expressions, equations, and functions as they relate to powers, roots, and radicals. Finally, it challenges test takers with problems relating to rational and exponential expressions, equations, and functions. 
  • Geometry and measurement – students are faced with questions covering plane geometry, transformations, and symmetry, as well as linear, area, and 3D measurements.
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability – students must choose the correct answer in questions relating to interpreting categorical and quantitative data, statistical measures, and probabilistic reasoning.

TSI Reading Categories

  1. Literary analysis – students are asked to identify and analyze ideas in and elements of literary texts.
  2. Main ideas and supporting details – students must prove they can identify the main idea in a passage and comprehend explicit information.
  3. Inferences in a text or texts – students must show they can make a connection or comparison between two passages and make appropriate inferences about individual passages.
  4. Author’s use of language – students must choose the correct answer demonstrating their ability to identify the author’s tone, purpose, or rhetorical strategies, as well as use context to determine word definitions. 

TSI Writing Categories

  1. Essay revision – students are asked to display coherence, organization, and good word choices. 
  2. Agreement – students must prove they understand subject-verb agreement and pronoun agreement, and can show their ability to determine verb tenses.
  3. Sentence Structure – students must show their ability in areas like comma splicing, run-on sentences, punctuation, sentence fragments, and other grammatical issues. 
  4. Sentence logic – students must be able to modify phrases and clauses, as well as use logical transitions. 

The essay challenges test takers to write the following:

  • 5 paragraphs (300-600 words)
  • State main idea
  • Support idea
  • Use grammar correctly

The test is taken on a computer monitor in a university or other testing center. Scratch paper is available for students to use, but they are not permitted to have any additional resources.

TSI tests cost $10 per section. Students who are eligible for Pell Grants can request a waiver. Payment is valid for 6 months from the date of purchase. Students should only purchase the sections that they wish to take. 

Did you know?

TSI tests cost $10 per section. Students who are eligible for Pell Grants can request a waiver. Students may retake the test as needed.

Students may retake the test as needed, but it is recommended that they take a course or make time for additional study.

Before students can take the TSI test, they need to participate in a Pre-Assessment Activity (PAA). Each school’s PAA is different, but they all include the following:

  • An explanation of the importance of the TSI test results in a student’s academic career
  • Practice questions and feedback
  • Explanation of the consequences of doing poorly on the TSI test, and the options available to students who fail 
  • Resources students can use to help succeed in college

Student Exemptions – There are a number of reasons why a student would be exempt from taking the TSI test. These include:

  • ACT score of 23 or higher with minimum of 19 on both Math and English
  • SAT – Pre-March 2016 – combined score of 1070 with minimum score of 500 on both sections
  • SAT – Post-March 2016 – Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 480 or higher and Math score of 530 or higher. 
  • TAKS scores of 2200 on Math and English, with at least a 3 on the Writing subsection.
  • Active military personnel, veterans, or reservists
  • Transferring from another school having satisfactorily completed college level coursework
  • Enrolling in 1-year certificate programs at a public institution

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Students receive results via email on the day they take the test. 

Each test section is scored on a slightly different scale. Students are considered college-ready if they can achieve the following scores on the different sections:

Math – Score between 350-390

Reading – Score between 351-390

Writing –  Score between 340-390 on multiple choice questions with a 4 or higher on the essay, OR score 310-339 in multiple choice questions, receive a 4, 5, or 6 on the ABE diagnostic section, and a 5 or higher on the essay.


Students who are unable to achieve these scores are directed to taking either the DE or ABE diagnostic test. These tests point out the areas where the student struggles and is useful in determining which developmental courses the student should take.

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How long does the TSI Test take?

There is no time limit on the TSI test. The test takes an average of 3-5 hours to complete all three sections. However, with the exception of the essay section, students can save their progress and return to the test within 13 days if they are unable to complete the test.

What should I bring to the TSI test?

Test takers must bring the following to their test:
– State- or government-issued photo ID
– Certificate of completion of the pre-assessment activity (PAA)
– Payment receipt or proof of fee waiver

Does it matter if I pass the TSI test?

According to Austin Community College, students who do well on the test and are college-ready can complete their degree in 2 years at a cost of $7,000.
Students who are not college ready need to take two extra classes in math and a developmental writing in English. These extra classes and costs mean it will take a student three years to complete their degree and $8,050 dollars.
When faced with the extended timeline and extra costs, it’s clear why so many students in Texas schools are taking practice exams and courses through companies like iPrep.

What students are exempt from taking the TSI test?

Students who performed well on their ACT or SAT, have already completed college-level coursework at a different school, or have a military background are usually exempt from taking the TSI.

How can I prepare for the TSI test?

Taking practice tests and review courses, like those offered by iPrep, are the best ways to prepare for the TSI test. During the test, remember to read each question carefully, and understand what is being asked. Remember, there are no time limits, so be sure to take your time. 
If you are unsure of an answer, read through the questions to eliminate answers that don’t make sense. Then, read through the remaining options and pick the best answer. If you are unsure of an answer, you should guess.

What is the TSI Pre-Assessment Activity?

Before students can take the TSI test, they need to participate in a Pre-Assessment Activity (PAA), where they learn about the test, and the consequences of failing the test.

What type of questions math problems are included in the TSI test?

The twenty multiple choice questions measure a student’s abilities in the following areas:
– Elementary Algebra and Functions
– Intermediate Algebra and Functions
– Geometry and Measurement
– Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

What type of writing questions are included in the TSI test?

The twenty multiple choice questions measure a student’s abilities in the following areas:
– Essay Revision
– Agreement
– Sentence Structure
– Sentence Logic
In addition, students are required to write a 3-5 paragraph essay.

What type of reading questions are included in the TSI test?

The twenty multiple-choice questions measure a student’s abilities in the following areas:
– Literary Analysis
– Main Idea and Supporting Details
– Inferences in a Text
– Author’s Use of Language

What score do you need to pass the TSI test?

Test takers need a minimum score of 350 in math, 351 in reading, and 340 with an essay score of 4 or higher to pass the writing section. Students can also pass the writing section with a score of 310-339 in multiple choice questions, a 4, 5, or 6 on the ABE diagnostic section, and a 5 or higher on the essay.

Can I retake a TSI test if I want to improve my score?

Students can retake the TS as often as needed. However, students should take some type of prep course, like iPrep’s practice course, if they intend to improve their score.

Are there fees to take the TSI test?

The TSI costs $10 per test or $30 for all three tests. Students who are eligible for Pell Grants may get the fee waived.

Free TSI Practice

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To do well on a test that covers reading, writing, and math, you need to have precision, plan, and practice. Although it may be difficult, the following tips will help:

1. Take your time

The TSI is non-timed, so do not rush through the questions. Take the time to verify that you completely understand the question and read it as many times as you need. After completing the question, take another minute to review your solution.

2. Learn your weaknesses and strengths

Some topics will be more difficult for you to grasp while others you will answer more intuitively. Identify these topics while practicing and spend more time on improving your skills and understanding in those you find difficult. However, if there is a minor topic that you do not understand, no worries – you do not have to get a perfect score as the next tip says.

3. Maintain your peace of mind

Stress might impair your decision making and concentration. Being stress-free doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about your score; however, remember that no one needs a perfect score on the TSI. You only need to get your target score to avoid unnecessary classes. This means that you can drop at about 3 questions in each section without even thinking of it. You should still get a good score if you nail the rest of them.

4. Remember that the test is multiple-choice

This means that there are always clues within the answers that can help you solve the question correctly. You can also try to directly check the solution with any of the answers instead of trying to solve the question and only then check for the solution.

5. Guess if you have to

Even if there is a question that you do not know how to solve, take a guess. A guess has a 25% chance to be correct, while an unanswered question has no chances of being correct. In addition, increase your chances of guessing correctly; try to eliminate answers which are definitely wrong, guess between the remaining options.

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  • Test Location: Typically administered at a university testing center.
  • Test Schedule: Most students take the TSI test before registering for freshman classes
  • Test Format: Multiple choice questions on computer
  • Test Materials: Computer. Calculators, dictionaries, mobile phones or other materials are prohibited. 
  • Cost: $10 per test, $30 for all three tests
  • Retake Policy: Students can retake as needed. However, most universities require students to take some type of prep course before scheduling a retake.

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The TSI test was initiated by the Texas State Legislature, and first administered in 2003. The current test was created by the CollegeBoard ACCUPLACER platform. It is used to ensure that students are assigned to the correct level class when they attend college.

Disclaimer – All the information and prep materials on iPrep are genuine and were created for tutoring purposes. iPrep is not affiliated with ACCUPLACER, which is the owner of the TSI test.

Get a taste of the TSI Test by practicing with these sample questions: