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 COMPASS score is interpreted by different colleges differently. For some colleges, entry level criteria in the COMPASS 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 in the COMPASS 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 COMPASS 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 of the COMPASS is required. The criteria usually is that a COMPASS 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 COMPASS score, 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 COMPASS 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 COMPASS test that are most popular. The COMPASS 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 COMPASS 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, the reading and writing section COMPASS score of around 75 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 is if you are taking the COMPASS for admission purposes. And to score high, understanding how the COMPASS 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 COMPASS is half the job done. Hope this article helped in explaining the relevance of the COMPASS score, and in answering how it should be interpreted.
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