Details of the ESL Test for COMPASS

5 Reasons Why It Is Important to Score in ESL COMPASS Test

COMPASS is an important part of the college admission process across many states and institutions in the country today. For foreign students applying to higher education in the county, many institutions also administer an ESL test, to measure their language abilities as required for academic as well as day-to-day functioning. You can learn more about the different aspects of ACT COMPASS here including the importance of the ESL section.

What Is the COMPASS Test?

The ACT COMPASS is an evaluative test that helps colleges and other educational institutions evaluate the applicants' skills and abilities as required for college-level programs. The different subjects and skill tests included in it that help measure up the skills, knowledge levels, and academic abilities in the required area of study for each student and also help in understanding about any particular weak areas or shortcomings. Moreover, the test has no passing scores set; neither are there any time limits for completing the test sections.

While many institutes (and states) require that candidates take this test before enrolling, many others administer the COMPASS tests to students who have already enrolled in different programs (

The COMPASS Test Sections, Question Types, and Test Duration

The COMPASS is a customizable battery of computerized subject tests. Thus, each institution may choose and include tests that befit their particular program requirements. The following are the tests included in the COMPASS:

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

The details concerning the test sections for each of the COMPASS tests are as listed below:

  • The Reading Test tries to evaluate the test takers' reading abilities required for entry level college courses. Reading comprehension passages from different areas like Humanities, Prose fiction, Practical reading, Natural science, and Social Sciences are included in this test. All questions are of multiple-choice type.
  • The Writing Skills Test measures the test takers' writing abilities as required for entry-level college programs; it also helps colleges decide the need for any writing improvement programs. The questions in this test are of multiple-choice type and candidates are expected to correct the errors demonstrating their skills in usage and grammar, punctuation, rhetoric and style.
  • The Mathematics Test also contains multiple-choice questions from basic skills, application, and analysis areas. Pre-Algebra, Algebra, College Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry are the areas tested in the COMPASS Math test.
  • The Writing Essay Test consists of a single writing prompt, where the candidates are supposed to write a detailed answer, by taking a stance on the given issue and providing supporting arguments.
  • The ESL Test includes multiple-choice questions from Listening, Reading, and Grammar and usage areas. The ESL exam is generally administered to foreign students who have learnt English as a second language, so as to evaluate their language abilities as required for academic as well social life situations.

Also note that these tests are not timed. Hence, the candidates are free to complete the tests at their own pace. You can find sample test questions online at (

Why Score Good in the ESL COMPASS Test?

As seen earlier, the ESL is a part of the COMPASS testing and is administered to only those candidates who have studied English as a second language and not as their native language. The test is therefore, designed to include all relevant areas and skills of English language usage like Reading, Listening, and Grammar and Usage skills; so as to ensure that the candidates have the minimum required expertise and skill sets in all the three areas to communicate effectively. To summarize, here are a few reasons why this test is important to you and why you should score well in this test:

  • Since English is the medium of instruction and communication in all US educational institutions, as a foreign student, the ESL assessment helps you evaluate yourself as an ESL student, and improve your communication skills accordingly.
  • The exam helps institutions evaluate your communication skills as an ESL student, and thus place you in courses accordingly. Colleges may also suggest better English (writing, reading, and listening) skill programs for you to improve in any weak areas, if required, based on the scores.
  • ESL may be an essential part of your COMPASS test at a US institute, if you are a foreign student. Scoring well in this component, therefore, helps you prove your communication abilities as required for college-level courses, and thus get placed in the course that you are aspiring for.
  • To colleges, the scores of this test is an indicator of your ability to lead a productive social/community life at your institute.
  • By scoring high in this component, you reduce the need for focusing on your communication/language skills; instead you focus more on your main area of study.

Conclusively, the COMPASS is an important step in your college admission process across many institutions in the United Sates. If you are a foreign student, the ESL test is also critical for you, as it provides the colleges with the confidence that you can handle the English language, and thus complete your program successfully. In addition, it also provides you with a clear analytical picture of your English skills and opens up ways for improvement.

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