Contents of the Math Section of COMPASS

What to Study for COMPASS Math

ACT COMPASS is a computer - adaptive college placement test. This is an untimed test that helps the educators assist you in indentifying the appropriate courses for you based on your abilities and skills. The test is given to incoming freshmen and it is not a traditional test as there is no "passing score". Moreover, these scores are used to identify the strong and weak areas of the students. Students’ skill levels in Reading, Writing Skills, Writing Essay, Math and English as a Second Language are evaluated in the tests.

COMPASS Math Subjects

Math is one of the important sections in the test. This multiple choice test evaluates the student's skills in basic and advanced mathematics. Five areas of mathematics are offered in the exam. These areas 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 as diagnostic tests.

The basic skills that are tested in this test are the ability to perform basic operations in a sequential manner in new settings or in complex ways. Mathematical operations relationships and understanding of principles and concepts are also tested. 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 skills

Calculators are allowed during the exam but there are certain specifications that need to be adhered to.

Level of the COMPASS Math Test

The initial Math test begins with Algebra questions. The difficulty level of the questions keeps increasing till you are unable to answer a specific level of questions continuously. Moreover, the test ends only when you give the right answers consistently for the questions at a certain level. Based on this, your placement level will be assessed. If the questions in the algebra section are not answered correctly, the computer will start generating questions pertaining to lower level basic math. The test will reach higher levels of difficulty and move over to trigonometry or calculus, if you do well in the algebra test.

Thus it can be said that the first few questions are very important as they decide on the level of the questions and your placement level.

Importance of COMPASS Math Test

The scores you get in the test will determine the math classes you can enroll into. If your scores place you in a level lower than your actual ability level, you have to take extra classes. However, these extra classes will not count for any other purposes. The educators based on the test scores help students connect to the various resources that they may require to achieve academic success.

COMPASS Math Test Preparation

Preparation is essential for appearing this test. Most often, students do badly in the test because of the lack of preparation. Mathematics is a subject that requires constant refreshment. Therefore, it is best that you prepare for the test well and get placed in a level that shows your actual ability. This way, you need not waste time and money on math courses that you may not require.

There is no specific book that can help you prepare for the test because the design of the test is such that it helps you identify how much you have learnt through all your school years.


The questions in the test begin at the algebra level and move to higher level difficult topics like calculus or move to lower level difficult topics like basic math depending on how well you answer the algebra questions. This is a very useful test as it shows where exactly you stand in your preparation for the mathematics subject. Based on these results, you can choose the courses you want to take up. A good and thorough preparation for the test will ensure that you get placed in the level that reflects your true abilities.

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