The Texas TSI Exam – Introduction

The Texas Success Initiative Assessment (generally referred to as the TSI exam) is a diagnostic test to determine the appropriate college course work level for incoming students. There are three subtests in the TSI exam: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

These subtests are not timed tests. You are allowed as much time as you want to attain the best possible score. There are students who may receive supplementary tests to help schools learn more about their skills and knowledge in specific subject fields.

The TSI test prep resources:

Each of the three portions of the TSI exam is assessing a specific skillset and includes around 20 questions. Other than the TSI essay part, the exam is in multiple-choice format and computer-adaptive, meaning the difficulty level of the questions will increase or decrease depending on a student’s previous answers.

The three TSI testing fields


The TSI exam’s writing section includes two subsections: the essay part and a multiple-choice part.

The Essay

You will be handed out a prompt that’s based on current issues and events. You need to write an essay about that topic of at least 5 paragraphs that is 300 to 600 words in length. You will also get a scratch paper to help you draft out your essay during the writing process. Dictionaries or research papers are not allowed. You will be tested on your basic writing skills, how well you are able to support your thesis statement by using evidence from the prompt, and your thesis statement’s strength in general.

The Multiple-Choice Part

The multiple-choice part of the TSI Writing subtest includes 20 questions that assess four specific capabilities in relation to your writing skills. The four focus points are sentence logic (how well you use transitions and more sentence enhancers); essay revision (how you are presenting your main argument and support that with evidence-based arguments); sentence structure (how easily you spot grammatical errors); and agreement (how well you master subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, and other grammatical subjects).


The TSI exam’s reading section includes around 20 questions that assess four distinct fields of your reading skills: how well you are able to interpret language, how well you can analyze literary texts, how well you can make inferences based on provided passage, and how well you are able to use context clues for finding the main idea of a text.


The TSI exam’s mathematics section contains 20 questions spreading across four specific elements of mathematical reasoning and knowledge. The first element is data analysis (measuring how well you can decipher statistics, probability, and sets of data. Then the math section addresses your geometry knowledge (how well you are able to distinguish symmetry, three-dimensional shapes, and area. The third part tests your algebraic knowledge on both basic and intermediate levels. The last part of the TSI math test measures your skill to solve different types of equations. On the TSI Math subtest, you are not allowed to use a calculator. Read more in the post “What’s on the TSI Test”

Who needs to take the TSI test?

If students are required to take the TSI exam as part of their enrollment process, they will be notified by their chosen colleges. There’s no need to be worried or feel discouraged. The sole purpose of this exam is to assess how well prepared you are for the school’s college-level curriculum.

If your TSI results indicate that you’re not prepared enough, educators will be able to use your testing results to help you get better prepared for college in a way that’s best for you. Your TSI scores help educators determine how they can help you best to be successful in college. By assessing your skills level, they can match you with appropriate classes.

If you attain sufficient results on the TSI exam, you have proven you are ready for college-level academic courses so you don’t need to take remedial classes. Our free video lessons and practice tests will definitely be a great help to be successful on the TSI test day.

Previous SAT, ACT, STAAR, or TAKS results may make that you don’t need to take the TSI exam. If you scored at least 500 in Math and Reading on the SAT; at least 19 for Math and English on the ACT; 2200 points for Maths and English and 3 in Writing on the TAKS assessment; or attained at least a 2000 points score on STAAR reading and writing and no less than 4000 points on STAAR Algebra, you will be considered for TSI exemption.

A mandatory element of the TSI testing process is the “pre-assessment activity” prior to taking the actual exam. Students who do not complete their pre-assessment activities cannot sit for the actual TSI exam. This is a very short part of the entire TSI testing process that averages at some 30 minutes.

This “pre-assessment activity” includes much useful information in regards to the testing experience and offers lots of clarifications about the usefulness of the test, college success tips & tools, steps to take when your TSI results indicate you are not college-ready yet, and practice questions to familiarize you with the test. The TSI is not free but the pre-assessment activity is offered at no extra cost and upon completion, you will be handed out a completion certificate that you can use to officially sign up for the TSI exam.

The best way to get all set for TSI testing is to take as many practice tests as you can. Our free practice tests let you discover your weak and strong points so you don’t need to waste your time on learning for subject fields that you already command. They allow you to focus on those areas that need your most attention and will get you test-ready fast and efficiently.

“Passing” scores

On the TSI Assessment, there is no failing or passing. Ther TSI score is an indication if students can enroll in academic college courses or if they must first follow college readiness courses to improve their and knowledge and skill level to be able to successfully enroll in college-level courses.

The following scores are the minimally required results to be exempt from taking additional prerequisite courses and to enroll in credit-bearing academic coursework. So to “pass” the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) exam, the following minimum scores are required:
Mathematics: 350
Reading: 351
Writing: a 5-score on the essay or a 4-score on the essay plus a minimum score of 340 on the multiple-choice section More information can be found here.

Students that score at or above the TSI cut scores are seen as “college-ready” and eligible to sign up for entry-level college courses.

Disclaimer: MyCareerTools is not endorsed by or affiliated with TSI (Texas Success Initiative). TSI a registered trademark used here solely for identification purposes.