DePaul University College of Education > Student Resources > Academic Success Center > Test of Academic Proficiency

Test of Academic Proficiency

The Test of Academic Proficiency (formerly the Basic Skills Test) consists of 170 multiple-choice questions in reading comprehension, language arts (grammar and writing) and mathematics, and a written essay assignment. Given the high stakes nature of this test, we urge you to be prepared. Sitting repeatedly for a test will be costly.

Required for advanced standing.
Students cannot take advanced standing courses without passing this test, so take it as soon as possible:
Undergraduate Freshmen During first year at DePaul
Undergraduate Transfers During first quarter at DePaul
Graduate Students During first quarter at DePaul
Students can take this test up to 10 years prior to the issuance of a teaching certificate. Effective May 6, 2014, there will be no limit to the number of attempts for the same ILTS test. If you pass some sections but not others, you may bank the passes in those sections and not retake them. Do not repeat the test without taking measures to remediate the areas of weakness.

TAP Subarea I: Reading Comprehension

The Reading subarea of the TAP is made up of 60 multiple-choice questions. This subarea requires demonstration of literal, inferential and critical reading skills in a variety of written materials covering the areas of physical and life sciences, humanities and fine arts and the social and behavioral sciences.

The key to doing well in the Reading subarea is taking your time. The questions can be confusing, and sometimes it seems that more than one answer could be correct. It is important to look closely at the details of both the reading selection and the questions. Make sure that you can find support for your answer in the reading passage and that you understand what the question is looking for. As you practice, you will become familiar with the style of the test and the types of questions to expect. Reading comprehension questions typically fall into five categories:

Understanding the main idea of the passage. The correct answer to this question tends to be something general that applies to the entire reading selection, rather than a more specific answer that is relevant to just a few sentences of the reading. The main idea can often be found in the introductory paragraphs and the conclusion of the reading.

Determining the author’s purpose. This question is similar to the question about the main idea. Think about what the author wanted to accomplish by writing the passage. Generally, the purpose of the reading is to inform readers about a topic or to argue in favor of a particular point of view. Look for an answer that is not quite as broad as the main idea and seems to summarize what the author wants you to know after reading the passage.

Drawing conclusions or making inferences. These questions are about reading between the lines. The answer will not be directly stated in the reading. You will need to look for details to support your answer. Look at each of the answer choices. Then, look back at the reading and try to find statements that support your answer choice.

Understand the organization or outline of the passage. These questions are difficult for many people because the answers involve great detail. Look closely at each answer choice, then look back at the reading selection to review the order of the selection. Think about what the author writes in the introduction, in the body of the piece, and in the conclusion. The correct answer choice should match the order of the passage.

Looking at the details of the passage. There is usually a question or two about the topic of the passage. To answer these questions, look back at the reading for specific details. Sometimes, the question will direct you to a specific paragraph in the passage. If not, look for key words in the reading that are repeated in the question or in the answer choices.

TAP Subarea II: Language Arts

The Language Arts subarea of the TAP consists of 60 questions. This section is made up of short reading passages followed by multiple choice questions related to grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, word choices, and clarity of the writing. Although there are a lot of areas to study to prepare for this subarea, grammar and punctuation are often the most challenging areas for students.

Grammar, Punctuation & Structure. These questions will ask about the use of commas, colons and semi-colons, as well as sentence fragments and run-on sentences. You may also be asked about subject-verb agreement, adjectives and adverbs and correct word choices.

  • Review grammar concepts including independent and dependent clauses, and correct use of commas and apostrophes. 
  • Review the rules of grammar, spelling of tricky words (affect, effect, there, their), and subject/verb agreement. 
  • Review elements of sentence structure including fragments, run-ons and clauses.

Word Choice & Clarity of Writing. These questions will ask you to evaluate the organization and flow of the passage – this could include replacing words, changing the order of sentences and making other edits that improve the quality of writing within the passage.

TAP Subarea III: Math

The Math subarea of the Test of Academic Proficiency (formerly the Basic Skills Test) examines students’ knowledge of basic algebra, geometry, probability and statistics. This portion of the exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions. Calculators are not permitted on the test. A formula sheet that contains conversions and formulas for perimeter, area, volume and the surface area of some basic figures is provided. Make sure that you are comfortable doing basic operations with fractions, solving proportion word problems and using the geometry formulas included with the test.

Students taking the math subtest should expect to see about ten questions each from five major skill areas:

Skill Area One. Demonstrate knowledge of integers, fractions, decimals, percents and the ability to convert from one form to another.

Skill Area Two. Utilize logic and reasoning to solve problems and patterns or to identify potential errors in an already given solution.

Skill Area Three. Solve linear equations, graphing equations, and problems involving angles and geometric formulas.

Skill Area Four. Interpret charts and tables, analyze data and an understand fundamental statistical concepts such as the mean, variance and correlation of a dataset. Probability calculations are also included in this fourth major skill area and are new to the TAP exam.

Skill Area Five. Draw upon the skills of the first four major skill areas and apply these concepts in a practical real world story problem.

TAP Subarea IV: Language Arts - Writing

This subarea of the TAP asks students to write a unified, focused, sustained essay that takes a position on a contemporary social or political issue and to defend that position with reasoned argument and supporting examples.

Start with the Writing Subarea. It may be preferable to begin the Test of Academic Proficiency with the Writing Assignment. The writing for this test requires some forethought and contemplation if the result is to be an organized, concise flow of ideas expressed in a grammatically correct, well supported, logically progressed series of paragraphs. Writing a great essay can take more time than multiple choice questions. You cannot rush through it and expect to do well. If you do not finish the essay, you will not pass this portion of the test.

Make a List. When you examine the writing assignment given, write a brief list of pros and cons supporting each side. After completing your list, see which side has more valid items. Chances are the side with the longest list is the one that you, perhaps even subconsciously, feel most strongly about, and will be the easiest to support.

Organize the Essay. After you have decided which side to take, choose the three strongest arguments from your list of pros. These will be the three points that you will make in your thesis statement at the end of your introductory paragraph. Arrange them in order from least important to most important. The thesis statement, and subsequently, the essay, should grow in importance as it progresses. As the importance of the points argued in the essay grow in importance and scope, so does the persuasiveness of the essay, making it highly effective and well-written.

ACT/SAT in lieu of TAP

Applicants seeking admission to an approved Illinois educator preparation program can submit official ACT/SAT score reports in lieu of a passing score on the TAP.

Can't find what you are looking for? For more information, you can visit the ISBE licensure site.

Visit our TAP Study Guides page for study material and practice exams. 

If you are a current DePaul College of Education student and would like to make a tutoring appointment, please call us at (773) 325-1652 or email us at