The Kinds of Math Questions in Compass

Question Types of COMPASS Math Explained

An evaluative test administered by many colleges and other educational institutions in the country, the test helps institutions evaluate students in terms of their college-readiness and accordingly place them into courses. The test helps colleges decide the college-readiness of test takers in relevant Math topics and accordingly place them into classes/courses that best fit their knowledge and levels. To learn more about the question types covered in the Math test, read on...


The exam is conducted to help colleges evaluate the students/applicants and then make placement decisions based on their academic levels and abilities. In this sense, it is never competitive in nature, but diagnostic and evaluative. The assessment is administered to those test takers who have enrolled to or are interested in joining college-level Math courses. To summarize, the exam is conducted so that colleges can;

  • evaluate students based on their academic abilities in Math topics ,
  • place them in appropriate course programs that befit their current skills sets and academic abilities,
  • understand any problem areas or weaker topics, and
  • offer developmental and supportive programs to students , if required, to avoid interruptions in the academic progress.

Like most standardized tests, the Math section is untimed. For more information about the Math test, refer to the official website

COMPASS in Math - The Test Topics and the Test Duration

Like many other tests, the Math test is conducted as a diagnostic as well as placement test. The placement test consists of five tests as follows:

  • Numerical Skills/Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra
  • College Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry

The diagnostic test includes 15 tests in total; seven in pre-Algebra sections and eight in Algebra.

Coming to the test duration, the COMPASS is an untimed test. Sticking to the evaluative purpose of the test, it is allowed that test takers complete the test sections at their own pace. Guess work is also encouraged as there is no negative scoring for incorrect answers. Hence, even if you mark an answer incorrectly, it may only be an indication of the limitation of your knowledge or skills in the area, and not a disqualification.

When taking the Math tests, you may also use calculators. Online calculators are also allowed, depending on the rules and norms followed by the individual institute. For more details, refer to:

COMPASS in Math - The Types of Questions Included

As we have already seen, there are close to 20 individual tests in total - including the diagnostic and the placement ones. These cover different core areas in Mathematics like Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry. The questions of all the Math test sections are, however, of the same type - multiple-choice. In the Math placement test, the questions try to evaluate the following abilities and skill sets of the applicants:

  1. Basic skills or the ability to perform basic operations in Mathematics
  2. Application skills or the ability to apply the basic skills under differing situations
  3. Analytical skills or the conceptual clarity and the understanding of Mathematical principles, theorems, and mutual relationships in operations

To elaborate, the Pre-Algebra section includes questions from Average, Fractions, and Percentages topics. Topics like linear equations, polynomials, and coordinate Geometry are covered in the Algebra questions; while those from complex numbers and functions are covered in the College level Algebra section. Angles, triangles, and trigonometric areas are covered in the Geometry and Trigonometry tests respectively. Sample questions for all the different types in Math test sections can be found at:

When taking the Math test, you should also keep in mind that the test does not have a pass and fail criteria. Plus, the scoring requirements required for placement into different college courses differ from institute to institute, and sometimes from state to state, as well. For example, a Math test score of 65 or more is considered good enough in Ohio, but not so in many other US states. Similarly, a score of 45 in Algebra might qualify you for an Algebra course in one institute, but for a pre-Algebra course in some other (

As in any other tests of a similar nature, it is important that you learn about the test well in advance before you take or attempt the test. It is also essential that you understand the institute-specific testing and scoring requirements before the testing, and accordingly focus on various areas of testing while test preparation.

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