Scoring Details for the COMPASS

How to Decide Your Target Scores for COMPASS

The COMPASS is a computer adaptive test. What sets it apart from other tests is that it is untimed. One other feature of the test is that it is not a pass/fail test. It simply tries to find out whether your skills in subject areas of reading, writing and math are up to the mark to derive benefit or to understand college level courses. In other words, it is a test to identify if you are college-ready. In this article, you will be presented with the two most important questions that a COMPASS test taker must know. They are

  • How is the scoring done in the COMPASS test?
  • Should you set a target for the COMPASS? If yes, how?

What is the scoring system of COMPASS? If you are a student applying for college admissions, you might wonder if the scores are important at all. The answer is 'Yes', if you do not satisfy the entry-level score of the college in SAT/ACT. A college will ask you to take the COMPASS to judge your skills in the areas of reading, writing and math and determine if you might require certain 'helper' courses as a revision, to make you college-ready. This can also happen in case you have been out of touch with your studies for an extended interval of time.

Test Scoring Method:

When you think of an untimed test that has no pass/fail criteria, the first question that pops up in your mind would be about the method of scoring.The answer truly depends on the kind of skills that you have. If you keep answering questions correctly, the test increases in difficulty, and so do the topics covered. For example,  answering the algebra questions correctly will make you advance on difficult topics like trigonometry or even college algebra. When you consistently answer questions wrongly, the difficulty level decreases, and you would get questions in basic math.

Once a level is determined based on your skills, the score appears as a placement domain, and corresponding courses are suggested for that level. If the courses are not mentioned, then you are already college-ready and do not need to take the learning programs. This answers the first question about the scoring of COMPASS.

Why Should a Target be Set for the COMPASS?

The primary reason why students target higher scores in the COMPASS is the intention to save tuition fees on courses that can be done without an instructor. Since different colleges suggest different courses based on COMPASS scores, it is wise to select a target score based on the college you intend to study in.

Sometimes, the answer to the question about COMPASS scoring depends on the college. For example, in the University of Hawai'i Maui College, a cut off score of 0-55 in Reading test will place you in the ENGLISH-15 course. This is different in case of Gainesville State College, where a minimum score of 78 in Reading is required.

How to Set a Target:

To decide on a suitable target score, try to take a practice test first. Then look at the COMPASS scoring sheets available online for most colleges. One such sheet is available at

After arriving at a realistic target based on the timeframe, take as many practice tests as possible especially for the math section to achieve that target score.

Another important point to keep in mind is whether or not you should concentrate equally on all sections, and determine a target score for each section. The answer is yes, because thinking that a subject is cakewalk for you is being silly. The COMPASS test engine, as said earlier, will adapt to your skills, and keep getting higher in difficulty. Ideally, the score that you should aim for is the score that is considered to be college-ready for that college. Once you have taken the COMPASS test, the rule of some colleges state that only one more attempt can be made. This is why you shouldn't be taking it lightly.

In conclusion, scoring high on the COMPASS is profitable, and a sound study of the basics, or if you are up to it, even advanced level studies will make the difference while determining if you are college-ready. Understanding the scores can also make a big difference in your studies, because of the importance in being sure rather than being fast. Having a limitation on the number of attempts for the COMPASS in some colleges is enough motivation to do your best in preparation. The adaptive nature of the test places importance on answering correctly at the start of the test, even if it takes time. Finally, moving consistently on the math section will guarantee good scores.