Details of COMPASS as a Placement Test for Math Students

What You Need To Know About COMPASS Math Placement Test?

As the ACT COMPASS is a diagnostic as well as evaluative test that helps colleges decide the best course for each student, it is important that the test includes various subject areas. The Placement test checks the college-readiness of students in core Math topics and accordingly places them in appropriate courses. If choosing a Math program at college, it is, therefore, important that you understand the various aspects of this important component in advance. Read on...

The COMPASS Math Placement Test

The test includes tests that are untimed, computerized, and have no pass or fail criteria. The tests are administered as placement and diagnostic measures to enable educational institutions place students as per their skills and ability levels. This type of test helps colleges:

  • measure the students' skills and academic levels in Mathematics areas,
  • understand any strong and weak areas,
  • decide the best possible Math program for each student,
  • and suggest any additional Math courses for students for picking up in any weaker topics.

For more information about testing, refer to:

COMPASS Math Placement Test - The Test Topics, the Questions, and the Test Duration

Like the Reading and Writing tests, the Math test is also conducted as a placement test and as a diagnostic test. The exam focuses on measuring the college-readiness for college-level Math programs, with the help of the five tests included in it from various Math topics. Each of these tests comprises of multiple-choice questions.

The areas covered in this section include:

  • Pre-Algebra or numerical skills
  • Algebra
  • College Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry

The questions in each of these topics try to evaluate the following things:

  • The ability to perform basic operations
  • The ability and skills to apply the basic operations in various situations
  • The conceptual understanding of principles, theorems, and relationship; and the analytical power

More information about the Placement exams and sample questions are available at:

When taking the Math tests, students are allowed to make use of calculators. Guidelines for the usage of calculators are available at:

You may also note that this sub-section, like its counterparts, is not a timed test. Test takers are advised to complete the test at their own pace, taking time to answer each question and under no pressure. Guessing answers is encouraged as well, as there is no penalty for wrong answers, and also as each answer contributes more to the evaluative purpose of the test.

COMPASS Math Placement Test - The Scoring Process and the Scores

Though there are no pass or fail criteria for the test, the scoring criteria for the placement test might differ as per the individual institute or even the state where the test is administered. For example, a Placement score of 65 or more in Algebra is accepted as good enough in the state of Ohio, it is not so in many other states or institutes (

In addition, the overall Math section has different levels of testing. The first level tested is called the Initial domain and the last level tested is the Placement domain for each student. Levels of testing administered/ the movement from one level to the next are decided by the number of correctly-answered questions at the level (which is a pre-determined number decided by each college or institution separately).

To summarize, the Math Placement test is designed in such a way to measure the candidates’ level and skills, so as to place them appropriately. Though the test pattern and question types are the same across institutions, the specific scoring criteria may differ from state to state/institute to institute. Hence, it is advised that you check and understand the relevant details well before the test.