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An Overview of the TSI test

What is TSI?

The TSI, which also stands for the Texas Success Initiative is a test that assesses whether candidates are prepared for college-level studies in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. It is a state-legislated program that will help students be successful in college since it will decide the appropriate course work level for incoming college students.   

According to the TSI Assessments Program Manual, the TSI test is required by the state of Texas to be taken by its students. But, there are those who can choose not to take it because of the following TSI exemptions:

  • Candidate has met the minimum standards on SAT, ACT, and other tests for college readiness.
  • Candidate has completed college-level courses in English and Math.
  • Candidate has enrolled in a Level 1 certificate program, which is less than 43 semester credit hours.
  • Candidate doesn’t want a degree.
  • Candidate has been or is currently in the military.  

Format and Content Outline

What is the exam structure of the TSI exam

The TSI Assessment is a computer-adaptive test. It means that depending on how the candidate responds, the level of difficulty for the questions will increase or decrease. Moreover, the test is not timed, although it usually takes approximately 4 hours to finish it. The candidates can take all of the time that they need when it comes to answering the questions. Their performance is also crucial since it will affect their student placements for college-level or remedial.

Furthermore, before candidates can take the assessment test, they must first complete a Pre-Assessment Activity (PAA) which usually lasts for at least 30 minutes. Candidates can find the specific details about it in their preferred colleges or universities. But, the activity often contains:

  • information explaining the significance of the TSI Assessment and how it works
  • practice questions and feedback
  • information explaining candidates’ college developmental education or high school options if they don’t meet the minimum standard passing score. 
  • Information regarding community and campus resources 

After finishing the PAA, the candidates can take the TSI Assessment, which covers three basic academic skills: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. The assessments are also divided into three types: DE diagnostic tests, ABE diagnostic tests, and placement tests. 

TSI Reading Test
Content Areas Number of Questions on Placement Test Number of Questions on DE Diagnostic Test 
  • Main Idea and Supporting Details
  • Author’s Use of Language
  • Inferences in a Text or Texts
  • Literary Analysis
Approximately 24 questions Approximately 40 to 48 questions
TSI Writing Test
Content Areas Number of Questions on Placement Test Number of Questions on DE Diagnostic Test 
  • Sentence Structure
  • Agreement
  • Sentence Logic
  • Essay Revision
Approximately 20 questions Approximately 40 to 48 questions
TSI Mathematics Test
Content Areas Number of Questions on Placement Test Number of Questions on DE Diagnostic Test 
  • Elementary Algebra and Functions
  • Intermediate Algebra and Functions
  • Geometry and Measurement
  • Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability
Approximately 20 questions Approximately 40 questions 

What does the TSI test consist of?

The TSI test in Reading is a multiple-choice type. There are 4 content areas:

  1. Literary Analysis – This will determine whether the candidate knows how to analyze and identify elements of literary works. 
  2. Main Idea and Supporting Details – This will determine whether the candidate knows how to identify and comprehend the main idea of a passage and its explicit textual information.
  3. Inferences in a Text or Texts – This will determine whether the candidate knows how to organize ideas by making connections between two passages and inferences in single passages. 
  4. Author’s Use of Language – This will determine whether the candidate knows how to analyze tone, rhetorical strategies, organization and author’s purpose, among others. 

The TSI test in Writing has two sections: multiple-choice and essay. For the multiple-choice section, there are 4 content areas:

  1. Essay Revision – This will determine whether the candidate is capable of providing organization, unity, and coherence. There must also be effective uses of evidence.
  2. Agreement – This will determine whether the candidate is capable of performing subject-verb and pronoun agreements. 
  3. Sentence Structure – This will determine whether the candidate has knowledge of run-on sentences, fragments, subordination, comma splices, etc.
  4. Sentence Logic – This will determine whether the candidate is capable of using logical transitions and correctly placing modifying clauses. 

For the essay section, the candidate must be able to write a persuasive essay, which must have approximately 300 to 600 words. The essay must have a main idea and supporting evidence. It must also follow the proper usage of English grammar.    

The TSI test in Mathematics is a multiple-choice type. It has 4 content areas:

  1. Elementary Algebra and Functions – This will determine whether the candidate has knowledge of algebraic equations and expressions, linear equations, and word problems.    
  2. Intermediate Algebra and Functions – This will determine whether the candidate has knowledge of equations involving radicals, roots, powers and quadratic and other polynomial expressions.
  3. Geometry and Measurement – This will determine whether the candidate has knowledge of three-dimensional measurements, plane geometry, etc.
  4. Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability – This will determine whether the candidate has knowledge of categorical and quantitative data interpretation, probabilistic reasoning, and statistical measures. 

What are the passing TSI scores?

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has established that the following are the TSI Assessment passing scores:

  • Reading – 351 to 390
  • Mathematics – 350 to 390
  • Writing – Essay score of 5 or Essay score of 4 and 340 for the multiple-choice

How can you prepare for the TSI?

The first thing that you should do is take the Pre-Assessment Activity. It will guide you and evaluate you based on your basic academic skills. Before you can take the test, you must have completed this particular activity. 

The next thing that you should do is to practice and review a lot. There are TSI study guides and TSI practice tests you can utilize. You can find free TSI Reading practice tests, TSI Math practice tests, and TSI Writing practice tests online. We at Practice Test Geeks offer such tests. You can also try to answer the following TSI practice questions taken from www.collegeboard.org:

TSI Reading Practice Questions 

1. If you are committed to healthy, green living and want to reduce your environmental footprint, you might consider expanding your daily diet to include bugs. Supporters of the edible insect initiative rightfully argue that farming insects has a much lower environmental impact than does raising livestock since bugs are easier to harvest and require a fraction of the water and land space that cattle need. Indeed, the high-protein, low-fat health benefits of bug-eating have long been known. For hundreds of years, crickets, silkworms and even tarantulas have been served roasted, stewed and fried at the dinner tables of many cultures. 

Which words best describe the author’s attitude toward the “edible insect initiative”?

  1. awe and amazement
  2. interest and support
  3. disgust and distaste
  4. fear and apprehension

2. Long thought to be a case of mistaken identity, the discovery of the Bornean rainbow toad by European explorers in 1924 was recently verified by scientists. The explorers had made a black-and-white sketch of an unusual toad they had found in the jungles of Southeast Asia, christening it the Bornean rainbow toad. Skeptical but curious, scientists recently went to look for the toad—and ended up finding three specimens. 

The passage implies which of the following about the Bornean rainbow toad?

  1. Some people doubted the existence of the toad.
  2. Scientists were confident that they would find the toad.
  3. The surviving toads have been relocated to Europe.
  4. No human being had seen the toad since 1924.

TSI Writing Practice Questions

1. The test-taker must choose the best version of the underlined part of the sentence. If the original sentence is the most appropriate, then choose the first answer.

The idea that lightning never strikes the same place twice is one of the oldest and most well-known weather-related myths; in fact, lightning strikes the Empire State Building in New York City about 100 times per year.

  1. in fact
  2. therefore
  3. moreover
  4. in contrast

2. Horror films that keep viewers in a state of endless fright and which draw record-breaking crowds.

  1. that keep viewers in a state of endless fright and which draw
  2. keep viewers in a state of endless fright and drawing
  3. that keep viewers in a state of endless fright draw
  4. that keep viewers in a state of endless fright and they draw

3. According to explorers, a “Lost Falls” resembling New York’s Niagara Falls have been found in Tsangpo River Gorge in the Himalaya Mountains.

  1. have been found
  2. has been found
  3. having been found
  4. being found

TSI Math Practice Questions

1. There are 3x − 2 trees planted in each row of a rectangular parcel of land. If there are a total of 24x − 16 trees planted in the parcel, how many rows of trees are there in the parcel?

  1. 21x − 18 
  2. 21x − 14 
  3. 8x
  4. 8

2. A group of 18 people ordered soup and sandwiches for lunch. Each person in the group had either one soup or one sandwich. The sandwiches cost $7.75 each and the soups cost $4.50 each. If the total cost of all 18 lunches was $113.50, how many sandwiches were ordered?

  1. 7
  2. 8
  3. 9
  4. 10

3. The yard behind the Cindy’s house is rectangular in shape and has a perimeter of 72 feet. If the length (l) of the yard is 18 feet longer than the width (w) of the yard, what is the area of the yard, in square feet?

  1. 36
  2. 144
  3. 243
  4. 486

After acquainting yourself with the content areas you need to study, the next step is to know how  to register to take the exam. You can register at your high school, your preferred college, and online. Here are some general steps you can follow:

  • As mentioned, you must first complete your PAA because it is a statutory requirement. Your high school will give you a proof of certificate. You can show the document on test day.
  • You should research the minimum passing standards for your preferred college or university. Remember that the TSI test is considered as either a diagnostic test or a placement test. It will help your college or university know the appropriate academic level to put you based on your skills and interest. 
  • You should pay the necessary fees. Most TSI testing usually costs $29. 
  • You should schedule your TSI test dates and take the exam.

Lastly, one of the best ways to prepare is to relax and not stress about it a lot. Make study plans that you can follow and get a good night’s sleep before the test day. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get TSI?

You can take the TSI Assessment at any public institution in Texas. Since the TSI test is required by law, you can take it at the college of your choice.  

How many questions are in the Texas TSI test?

There are 3 tests that you have to take: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics tests. For each test, there are approximately 20 to 24 questions for the diagnostic test. On the other hand, for the placement tests, there are approximately 40 to 48 questions for each of the tests.  

Is the TSI math test hard?

It can be difficult but as a test-taker, you are required to prepare for it. You should study and review for it to pass. You can also take practice tests and use study guides.

Can I retake the TSI?

Yes, you can. You can retake it at any time throughout the year. Colleges also have different regulations about retesting, so make sure to know it beforehand.  

Is a calculator allowed in TSI?

No, it is not allowed. You cannot bring electronic devices and study materials during the test.

Can you fail the TSI?

You cannot pass or fail the test because its purpose is to assess the college-level courses that are appropriate for your skill level. You can always retake the test to get a better score. If you also do not pass the minimum standard score, you are required by law to get TSI advising. You are also required to enroll in a program that will develop your skills.  

Can I take the TSI test online?

Yes, you can. Visit the official website of the college or university that you want to attend and see if they will give you the option to take the test online. There is an additional fee, and furthermore, it is a computer-adaptive test. You can take it at your computer provided that there would be a proctor monitoring you.  

What do I need to bring to my TSI test?

You should bring the following:

  • You must provide a valid I.D. It must contain your photograph.
  • You must present your Pre-Assessment Activity Completion Letter or Certificate
  • You must show your receipt or waiver for your payment of the testing fees.