COMPASS as a Placement Test

COMPASS Scores Required for Placement in Top Courses

The placement test, COMPASS is a computer-adaptive test given to the incoming freshmen during the orientation program. This exam identifies the skills and knowledge gained by the students in the high school years. The subject areas tested in this exam are Reading, Writing Skills, Writing Essay, Math and English as a Second Language.

Brief Description of the Sections in the Test

  1. The Reading Test - There are certain reading skills that are required for a student to succeed in a standard entry level college course. These skills are tested in this section of the test.
  2. The Writing Skills Test - The usage and mechanics which include basic grammar, punctuations and sentence structure and rhetorical skills that include strategy, organization and style in essays are tested in this section.
  3. The Writing Essay Test - This test identifies the writing ability of the students. Here, the students are required to respond to the questions describing their position on an issue given in the prompt.
  4. The Math Test - The abilities in Pre-Algebra, Algebra, College Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry are tested in this section.
  5. English as A Second Language Test - This test identifies the abilities of non-native speakers in four different areas.

Question Types

All the questions in the test are multiple-choice questions and pertain to the subject matter that has been learnt by the students in the high school years.

Duration of the Test

This is an untimed test. The number of questions asked depends on the capability of the students. If the student is good and is able to answer certain number of questions in a given section, another set of questions with higher difficulty level is given. Therefore, longer the test takes, the better is the student's performance.

Preparation for the Test

A thorough preparation is essential for this test. Though the questions are based on what the student has learned in the high school years, a good refreshment of the principles, concepts and formulae are needed to score well in the test. There are many cases where a good student gets a low score because he/she did not prepare well for the test. There is no single book from which you can prepare for this test. However, there are many books available in the market that the students can use for their preparation.

Significance of the Test

The scores are used by the educators to identify and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the students in the subject areas tested. This identification and understanding help the educators to advise the students on the courses they can enroll for.

COMPASS Test Scores

The unique feature about the test is that there is no "passing score" which means that a student does not pass or fail the test. However, the scores in the test decide the courses the students can opt for. The scores range from 0 to 100, 0 being the lowest and 100 being the highest.

Each course that a college offers will have a specific cutoff score. Only if the students score above that cutoff, they can register for the course. For instance, only with a good score in algebra, a student can join a mathematics course. A score in the range of 70-100 is required for taking up a mathematics course and a score in the range of 75-100 in the Writing section is required to take up a college level entry course.

With lower scores, students have to register for remedial courses.


The test turns out to be an easy one if the students prepare sincerely for it. A good score is required if the students want to join a college level entry course. If they do not get a good score, then they have to register for remedial courses. Registering for these courses is a waste of money and time. Moreover, these courses will not count towards college credit. Therefore, it is best that the students prepare well and get a good score in the COMPASS test.

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