How I prepare for ETS Major Field Test Computer Science – Part 1

Information about the test and sample questions can be found at:


  • 66 multiple choices questions in 2 hours
  • Can be taken in person or online
  • Fee
  • Topics on the test: discrete structure (15-21%), programming fundamentals (21 – 27%), algorithms & complexity (16-22%), systems (16-24%),  software engineering (3-9%), information management (3-8%), other (3-8%).

At the time of this blog, I know that I have to take this test in order to strengthen my application to graduate program in computer science per suggest from the school for my non-CS undergraduate background. This is the first time I know this test exists, and I need a link sending from the school to sign up for the test. The test is from ETS, but surprisingly I cannot find any preparation material or book for this test. The most useful easily found material is probably the 16 samples question from ETS, which is enough for me to get a feel what kind of questions I will be answering.

I have less than one month to prepare for the test, and there are a wide range of topics I need to know. I was told that even if I don’t do well in a couple of topics on the test, that should not traumatize my application dramatically. So I assume that the school just wants to make sure I have somewhat a good understanding of CS fundamentals for the road ahead in graduate school. Therefore, my master plan is to use all of my time in next few weeks to target on the big 4 topics that would take up most percentage on the test.

I found a few useful courses online that I will watch the lectures everyday to know as much as possible about these topics. Here are the courses:

  1.  Discrete math by TheTrevTutor on Youtube
  2. Graph Theory by Sarada Herke on Youtube
  3. Algorithms and Data Structures by Ravindrabadu Ravula on Youtube
  4. Algorithms Specialization from Stanford on Coursera <- I already took a few courses in here, so I will review the material that I learned before.
  5. Cisco Networking Basics Specialization on Coursera <- I aim to read and watch videos for the first 3-4 courses on this specialization
  6. Introduction to Operating Systems on Udacity (free materials and taught by GATech professor)
  7. Intro to Computer Science & Programming by MIT on Youtube <- This is an old course (2008), but I found it may a good deep review to programming fundamentals.

I came across many more courses, but these courses above are a few that I think that would “work” for me. Because time is a critical factor for me to learn ALOT in a short term after a long day from full time job, I also have my own criteria to choose the courses that I want to stick to:

  1. I MUST NOT feel sleepy when watching the lectures. Sleepy here is in the way that the lectures put me to sleep.
  2. It cannot be so long. I think I would skip the history section, anything that goes into the point as much as possible is great.

So there it is for the plan. Now time to come back to studying and will see what how I will make out of it after a few weeks.

Update test result for August 3rd 2018:

  • 137/200, 20th percentile. This is obviously too low and not sufficient for ASU requirement. I am not sure what is the requirement, but that’s what I was told – “not sufficient”.
  • The consequence of this is I did not make enough time to study. This is a big test, like the whole CS degree compact to one test. It’s not as hard as the GATE CS test in India but this one only has 2h for 66 questions.
  • I was given the opportunity to re-take the test for the current term (Fall 2018) or the next term Spring 2018. I chose to take the test in November for Spring term. By the time typing this, I just finished taking the second test, the result was somewhat better. I’ll update in the part 2 post how I prep for it.
  • Part 2 is here I did retake, did not meet the requirement again!


  1. Hi, how did the test go? I am also thinking about taking a cs masters program. I am a biology major myself, and thinking about filling those prerequisits. Which university did you apply for?

    1. Not great. I ended up with not having as much time as I thought to prepare, so I did pretty bad to be honest. So I am taking it again in more than a month, this is for ASU online MSCS.

      1. Thanks for sharing you material. just wanted to check if by any chance do you remember the questions? Also any other website/material which can give use sample full test question to practice? The one which is posted on the website if having only 16 question. so checking.

      2. There is no full test out there. I think the closest thing you can find is the old GRE CS test samples or the Gate CS tests in India. Although I think both GRE and Gate tests are more knowledge intense than this one test.

      3. Any update did you take it again. I have been asked by ASU to take it too. And there is very less context available

  2. Hi , Is there a part 2 for this article ? I am also in the same situation and will you be able to help me find precise material for this test? I really appreciate your help and thank you!

  3. Thanks for this post, even I am planning to apply for ASU online MSCS. I have a Computer Science background but it has been a while since I have revised those concepts again. The only sections which I am comfortable with at the moment are :- Programming and Algorithms. So will have to study for the other sections (Discrete and Systems). However, it is strange that there is no online study material for this MFT test. Maybe I have not searched enough. But do keep us posted about your progress and what books/material have you been studying and the overall preparation time.


  4. Thanks for sharing the resources you used. They’re very helpful! I’m preparing for the test now. Look forward to the part 2 prep.

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