Placement Testing in COMPASS





How Does COMPASS Test Help Admission Authorities?

COMPASS is an evaluative test that helps higher educational institutions analyze the students' academic abilities and skills, and accordingly place them in courses. The test is also diagnostic in nature, and, in turn, helps colleges plan for remedial and supportive programs for individual students to help them improve in their respective weaker areas, if any. In this article, you may learn more on the COMPASS testing, including the placement testing.

What Is the COMPASS Test?

A computerized package of different subject and skill tests, the COMPASS tests do not have any fixed duration; nor are there any pass and fail criteria for this test. It is a test that helps educational institutions check the college-readiness of prospective candidates. The following are the objectives and purposes of the test:

  • To measure the test takers' skills and academic knowledge levels in relevant subject areas
  • To help understand any strong and weak areas for each individual candidate
  • To enable colleges decide the best possible entry-level course for each candidate
  • To help colleges assess the need for and suggest any developmental programs for those candidates who are weak in particular areas

To enable achieve these objectives, the COMPASS testing is done in two different modes - placement testing and diagnostic testing. To learn more about the COMPASS testing modes, you may refer to the official test website http://www.act.org/products/higher-education-act-compass/.

The different subject/skill tests included in the COMPASS testing are as listed below. You may also remember that the test is a customizable package, and not all test takers take all the tests. Instead, each individual institute administers the test based on their individual course requirements.

  • The Reading test
  • The Writing Skills test
  • The Writing Essay test
  • The Mathematics test
  • The English as a Second Language (ESL) test

For more information on the different sections, refer to the official test website.

What is the Placement Testing?

As seen, there are two different but mutually supporting objectives in COMPASS testing - to provide an evaluative picture of the students' abilities so as to enable colleges places them, and to paint a diagnostic picture so as to help colleges take required remedial measure to help students improve in their respective weak areas. The first process that focuses on the task of objective, analytical evaluation is called the placement testing; this is done in different areas like Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. The sections, subsections, and the question types included in this are as follows:

  • The Reading placement test includes comprehension passages from different areas like Humanities Natural Science, Prose Fiction, Practical Reading, and Social Sciences. Based on each passage, several multiple choice questions are included, where the candidates need to choose the correct answers. The questions in this test check two different types of skills - reasoning and referring. While referring questions are more direct and are about stuff explicitly given in the passage, the reasoning types of questions measure the candidates’ ability at critical analysis and understanding for deducing meanings. Some sample questions are available at: http://www.act.org/compass/sample/pdf/reading.pdf.
  • The Writing Skills placement test acts as a great aid for colleges in evaluating the test takers' writing skills as required for college-level courses, including those with considerable writing loads. Multiple choice questions are included in this; these require students to demonstrate their skills in the different areas of language writing including usage, grammar, punctuation and the like.
  • The Mathematics placement test also includes multiple-choice questions that analyze and evaluate the test takers' abilities and skills in basic arithmetic operations; in addition, the questions focus on their ability to apply the basic skills, and on their analytical abilities and conceptual understanding of Mathematical theorems, principles, and relationships.

    • Pre-algebra or numerical ability
    • Algebra,
    • College Algebra
    • Trigonometry
    • Geometry

  • In addition, the ESL test and the Writing Essay test also play an important part in deciding the best placement for each student. ESL COMPASS test is administered to foreign students only, who have studied English as a second language. The test includes multiple-choice questions from reading, listening, and grammar and usage areas. The Writing Essay test includes a single writing task, which evaluates the candidates' abilities at writing detailed responses by taking a stance on a given position and providing supporting arguments for that position.

Since, all tests included are untimed; candidates are encouraged to complete the tests at their own timings, and are under no kind of pressure or time restrictions limiting their performance.

How Does the Placement Testing Helps Admission Authorities?

The placement testing is a vital tool for most colleges, for many reasons such as:

  • As colleges expect and require a minimum level of expertise from entry-level college students, it is essential for them to understand the level of aspiring applicants and measure their college-readiness. This testing is a tool they can rely on for this purpose.
  • The COMPASS includes different topic and skill tests so that students’ abilities in various areas can be evaluated and they can be placed in the best courses accordingly.
  • The subject areas covered and the questions included in each test are carefully chosen and designed to cover all essential areas/skill sets as required for college-level studies. Thus, the test scores are a great help for colleges in placing students.

It can be very well said conclusively that this testing is a tool designed after much thought and deliberation to fit the purpose of college placements and admissions.




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