Interpretation of the COMPASS Score

How do Colleges Interpret COMPASS Scores

The COMPASS is an untimed test that gauges your ability to understand college level courses. It is a computer adaptive test, and is not a pass/fail test. Most colleges in the US use this test to understand whether students are college-ready, or if they need to take some preliminary courses to make the best use of the courses they attend.

The score is interpreted by different colleges differently. For some colleges, entry level criteria in the test should be met for admissions. This is required if the student has not met the criteria using the SAT or ACT scores.

The scoring scheme is computer adaptive, and so the score you achieve is not dependent on the number of questions you answer. The test will administer difficult questions if you consistently answer correctly. It will automatically put you through easier questions if you are not able to answer correctly. Thus, even the number of questions on the test varies from person to person.

The score is displayed immediately after the test. The score sheet is also called the "Standard Individual Report", and is divided into around four sections as explained below:

Section 1: General Information and Student Background

This section contains information such as the name of the student, the date and place of test and the answers provided by the student before administering the test such as GPA and high school background. This information is used so that colleges know how recent the score sheet is, and if a retest score is required. The criteria usually is that a score is valid for two years.

Section 2: Demographics and Help requested

This section is usually meant for colleges to understand the interest level of the student and whether he/she needs help such as scholarships or career guidance. These questions do not count towards the results, and are only meant for colleges to understand the profile base of students it admits.

Section 3: Program Choice

This section details the choice of the student. It is usually an indicator of the course the student is interested in, and is optionally answered by the student. The score sheet mentions this in order to make the results as relevant and comprehensive as possible.

Section 4: Assessment Results

Your main score is displayed in this section. The section might be divided into the number of tests you have administered. Most likely, the section is divided into Mathematics, Reading and Writing, which are the three sections of the test that are most popular. The score displays the results in "domains" and an "initial domain" or a "placement domain" is adjudged for the student. This is also an indicator of the courses that might be required to be taken by the student to become college-ready. Different colleges require different types of courses to be taken for the same placement domain. Chances are, if you are already college-ready, you might not be required to take any courses at all, and the recommendations are not mentioned against your score.

Some colleges have a high cut-off for admission to courses, and it makes sense to use the time left for your exams to score as high as possible. To give you an indication, a score of about 75 in the reading and writing section is considered as a cut-off in most colleges. The exact cut-off is sometimes mentioned on the college site. Thus, scoring high allows you to save time and tuition fees by avoiding courses which you can study on your own.

Another important reason to aim for a high score is if you are taking the exam for admission purposes. And to score high, understanding how the test is scored is the first step. Thus, it is helpful to go through the target college internet site or brochure to understand what cut off scores it has for its courses, and then set a target accordingly. Well planned study for the test is half the job done. Hope this article helped in explaining the relevance of high scores, and in answering how it should be interpreted.