Texas TSI Exam – Introduction

The TSIA (Texas Success Initiative Assessment), also known as the TSI exam, is a diagnostic test that is used in Texas by universities and colleges to determine if incoming students are ready for their credit-bearing college courses.

The students may also be required to follow remedial coursework or other additional instruction before they will be allowed in the schools’ college-credit bearing programs.

The TSI exam covers three subtests that are covering the academic fields of Language Writing, Language Reading, and Mathematics.

The three TSI subtests are not timed. Students have as much time as they wish in order to attain optimal scores. All three sections of the TSI exam come with some twenty questions.

The entire TSI Assessment is computer-adaptive and delivered in multiple-choice format except for the TSI essay part. The level of the questions adapts to the level of a student’s answers.

Some students will need to take additional to help schools get a proper idea about their knowledge in some subject fields.

Check out these TSI prep resources:

Three TSI test sections

Language Writing

The TSI writing section comes with two subsections: a multiple-choice part and the essay part.

The TSI Essay – Students will receive a prompt with subjects based on current events and issues. They are required to produce an essay about the given topic of least five paragraphs and some 300-600 words in length. TSI test-takers get a scratch paper for drafting out their essays in the essay-writing process. Research papers and dictionaries are not allowed on the TSI Writing subtest.

TSI test-takers are assessed on their writing skills, how well they can support their thesis statements with evidence provided in the prompt, and the strength of their thesis statements in general.

The TSI Writing Multiple-Choice Section – The TSI Writing exam multiple-choice section contains twenty questions that assess test-takers’ skills and knowledge in relation to their writing skills.

There are 4 focus points: sentence logic (the use of transitions and other sentence enhancers); essay revision (how well the main argument, supporting details, and evidence-based arguments are used); sentence structure (can test-takers easily correct grammatical errors); agreement (verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, and more grammatical subjects).

Language Reading

The TSI Reading section also has twenty 20 questions that assess students’ reading skills in four distinct subject fields: interpretation of texts, analyzation of literary texts, inferences based on the provided information, using clues in context to identify main ideas of texts.


The TSI math section comes with twenty questions spread across 4 specific fields of mathematical reasoning.

The first field is data analysis. This addresses deciphering statistics, sets of data, and probability.

The second field addresses geometry knowledge. This covers distinguish symmetry, area and surface measurements, and 3-dimensional shapes.

The third math field tests algebraic knowledge on basic and intermediate levels.

The fourth TSI math field measures skills in solving various equations.

On the Math subtest, the use of a calculator is not allowed. Read also “What’s on the TSI Test”

Who must take the TSI Assessment?

In Texas, students looking to enter college are required to sit for the TSI exam unless they are exempt. This is a standard part of the enrollment process. All students will receive notifications from their chosen colleges.

Students don’t need to be discouraged or worried. The purpose of the TSI Assessment is solely to measure to what extent students are prepared to successfully follow the schools’ college-level courses.

If the TSI results show that students are not sufficiently prepared, educators can use their TSI results to identify what courses will help students get optimally prepared for college. The TSI scores are an indication of a student’s skills and knowledge level so the school can provide appropriate classes.

Students that attain sufficient scores on the TSI Assessment have proven to be ready for credit-bearing college courses and they don’t have to take any remedial classes. This website’s free practice tests and video lessons are great to help students attain good scores on the TSI Assessment.

Students with sufficient ACT, SAT, TAKS, or STAAR scores may be exempt from taking the TSI Assessment.

Students with at least a 500 score in SAT Math and Reading; at least a 19 score in ACT Math and English; a 2200 points score in TAKS  Maths and English and at least a 3-score in TAKS Writing; or have at least a 2000-points score in the Reading and Writing section of the STAAR exam and at least a 4000 score on the STAAR Algebra section, are considered for TSI exam exemption.

TSI pre-assessment activity

All students that must take the TSI Assessment are required to first take the TSI pre-assessment activity. College-bound students that didn’t complete the pre-assessment activity are not allowed to take the  TSI exam. This activity is a shorter version of the long TSI exam that will take some 30 minutes to complete, on average.

In the Pre-Assessment Activity, students will receive lots of useful information regarding the actual tests provides clarification about why the TSI Assessment is used.

They will also get lots of useful tips and tools for success in college, which steps to take if their TSI scores are indicating they’re not ready for college yet, as well as practice questions to get familiarized with the TSI exam.

The TSI Assessment comes with a fee but the TSI pre-assessment activity is free. Upon completion of the pre-assessment activity, students will receive a certificate of completion so they can sign up for the real thing.

Students should take multiple practice tests to get used to TSI testing. This website’s free practice tests will let you find out about your strong and weak points so you won’t have to waste your precious time on subject areas that you already know.

Use your time to focus on those fields that require your attention and you’ll get you ready for the TSI exam efficiently.

TSI ‘passing’ scores

There’s actually no passing or failing the TSI Assessment. TSI Assessment scores are indications of whether a student can successfully attend a school’s academic courses or whether first attending remedial classes or following college readiness courses are required for the students to be successful in college.

Students are usually exempt from having to take additional courses before they can enroll in college programs if they attain the following TSI scores.
Math: 350
Language Reading: 351
Language Writing: 5 for their essay or 4 for their essay and at least 340 for the multiple-choice writing section. For more information, click here.

So to (as some students call it) pass the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, these scores are minimally required.

Students who attain at least the above-listed TSI cut scores are considered to be ‘college-ready’. They can enroll in entry-level college programs.

The TSI exam is entirely administered on a computer. It is a computer-adaptive test meaning the level of the test questions is based on a student’s answer to the previous question and the difficulty level of the questions will increase or decrease depending on a student’s response. Since the test is computer-adaptive, students cannot go back to change their answers once they’ve answered a test question.

Students with low scores in one of the subject fields may be given additional diagnostic questions to provide study advisors with more detailed information to help them with proper placement advice.