Why is COMPASS conducted?

COMPASS is an untimed computer-adaptive placement test. This test is taken up by the incoming freshmen during the orientation program. In this exam, a student's skills and abilities that were acquired by him/her through her school years are tested. The different areas encompassed by this test are:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing Skills
  3. Writing Essay
  4. Math
  5. English as a Second Language

In this article, we shall first describe the different areas of the test and in the later part, the importance of the test has been described in detail.

  • The Reading Test

    The reading skills that are essential for a student to succeed in a standard entry-level college course are tested in this multiple-choice test. Based on the content of the reading passages, there are five types of passages that can be found in this test. These are:

    1. Practical Reading
    2. Prose Reading
    3. Humanities
    4. Social Sciences
    5. Natural Sciences

    Reading comprehension, vocabulary and reader profile are the abilities that are tested from these reading comprehension passages.

  • The Writing Skills Test

    The student is required to identify and correct mistakes in the usage and mechanics of English language in this writing skills test. Basic grammar, punctuations and sentence structure and rhetorical skills like strategy, organization and style in essays are the major areas of testing in this test. The eight content domains where the skill levels are evaluated are:

    1. Spelling
    2. Capitalization
    3. Usage
    4. Shifts in construction
    5. Organization
    6. Punctuation
    7. Verb formation/agreement
    8. Relationships of clauses
  • The Writing Essay Test

    The student's writing ability is evaluated in this test. The student is required to respond to a question describing his/her views on an issue that is given in the prompt. This writing prompt gives a problem or an issue with the description of two points of views. The scoring for this test is done either on a 2-8 or a 2-12 scale.

    Sub-scores in the following areas are also provided:

    1. Focus: Your clarity and consistency in sticking to the main idea
    2. Content: The way you develop the primary idea
    3. Organization: The way you organize the content
    4. Style: The language you choose to write
    5. Conventions: The way you control the mechanics in grammar, usage, spelling and punctuations
  • The Math Test

    The knowledge in five different areas of mathematics is evaluated in this math test. The areas where the student’s knowledge and abilities are tested are:

    1. Pre-Algebra
    2. Algebra
    3. College Algebra
    4. Geometry
    5. Trigonometry

    Further, seven topics in pre-algebra and eight topics in algebra are also offered. All the questions asked in the test fall under any one of these categories:

    1. Questions that test the Mathematics basic skills
    2. Questions that test the Mathematics application skills
    3. Questions that test the Mathematics analysis skill
  • The English as a Second Language Test

    A non-native English speaker's abilities in the English language are tested in this test. The tested areas are:

    1. Listening: The student's understanding of the Standard American English is assessed in this test.
    2. Reading: The student's referring and reasoning skills in understanding and manipulating Standard American English are tested here.
    3. Grammar/Usage:The student's ability in recognizing and manipulating Standard American English in sentence elements, sentence structure and syntax error areas is tested.
    4. Essay: The skills at the development of an idea, use of language, organization of thought, mechanics and focus are assessed in this test.

Importance of the Test

This test is not like a traditional test. This test is used for identifying and understanding a student's abilities and skills and different subjects. These scores help the educators to identify the right course for the student. There is no "passing score" for this test. The scores of this test are released immediately and the score report also includes a placement message telling the students about the courses that he/she can take and the method to register for the course.

Based on the scores, the educators also advice the students to take up basic courses if they find that the students abilities in a particular subject are lower than what is expected at the college entry level.


COMPASS is an untimed, multi-choice test that helps the educators and the students understand the abilities of the students. This is a very useful test and benefits the students immensely. Though this test evaluates the abilities gained by a student in his/her college life, a proper preparation is essential to get a good score in it.

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