The English Test of COMPASS

How Important Is English COMPASS Test?

 Many colleges and higher educational institutions in the US, administer the ACT COMPASS which is a test that helps to decide the best possible course for each aspiring student. The English section, a part of COMPASS testing, measures the students' writing abilities and reading skills and, thus, evaluates their college-readiness for entry-level courses where their ability and skills at using the language play an important part. In this article, you can learn more about this section.

What Is the English COMPASS Test?

A customizable package of various subject tests, the COMPASS is an evaluation method that helps colleges and other educational institutions check the college-readiness of applicants, and place them to the best possible courses as per their skills and academic levels. The various subject areas covered in the test include, writing skills, reading skills, Mathematics, and ESL (for foreign students).

Most of the time, the tests are administered to students who have already enrolled at a college or institution; while some colleges also require that applicants take the tests before enrolling for any program. For more information on this test, refer to:

Though there are different subject areas included in the COMPASS testing, there is none as the English section since there are four different areas that measure the students' knowledge and skills in English language. These are:

  • The COMPASS Writing Skills test - placement and diagnostic
  • The COMPASS Writing Essay test
  • The COMPASS Reading Test - placement and diagnostic
  • The English as a Second Language (ESL) test

English COMPASS Test - The Test Duration, Sections, and the Question Types

As any other COMPASS test, the English language tests are also untimed. Students are encouraged to spend ample time thinking and giving the best possible/correct answer, so that the test scores reflect their best abilities and skills.

The purpose and the test contents for each category are as follows:

  • While the Writing Skills placement test enables institutions decide whether students can handle entry-level college courses with writing loads; the diagnostic test measures the students' skills in eight writing domains to identify the need and plan for developmental programs. During both the placement and diagnostic tests, students are provided with multiple-choice questions. The placement test covers the following areas, where students are expected to correct grammatical errors, and demonstrate their skills in usage, rhetoric, and style:
    • Usage and Writing Mechanics
      • Basic grammar and usage
      • Punctuation
      • Sentence structure
    • Rhetorical Skills
      • Organization
      • Strategy
      • Style
  • The Writing Essay test includes only one writing prompt, where students need to write their answers in detail. Each examinee is supposed to take a stance on the given topic or issue, and substantiate the response by giving supporting arguments to the stance he/she has taken up.
  • While the Reading placement test aids determine students' reading skill levels to take up standard freshman-level college courses; the Reading diagnostic test includes questions covering comprehension, reader profile, and vocabulary components. In the placement test, comprehension passage based multiple-choice questions are included from the following domains:
    • Humanities
    • Natural Sciences
    • Practical Reading
    • Prose Fiction
    • Social Sciences
  • The ESL test is for foreign students to evaluate their English language skills in listening, reading and in using the language grammatically correctly, as required for day-to-day as well as academic situations.

Sample questions for the different sections are available at: You can also find downloadable PDF sample files here.

How is the English COMPASS Test Important?

As the COMPASS tests help the educational institutions evaluate and understand each student's academic levels and abilities, they are placed in courses that suit their current level of skills. Various tests from different subject areas are included to fulfill this purpose. As the English tests measure various language skills of reading, writing, and comprehension, as required for successfully completing any entry-level college course; the English section not only hold good for those who want to take up writing courses at college-level, but for everyone who seeks higher education. Since diagnostic tests are also administered as part of this section, it helps colleges decide the requirement of developmental and supporting programs for students.

Thus, if you are seeking higher education in United States, it is important that you should be aware of the English test of COMPASS and prepare yourself for the testing, accordingly.

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