Details of the Passing Scores of COMPASS

How Much Should You Score in COMPASS and How?

Being an inevitable step in the placement process at many higher educational institutes in the US, the COMPASS is an often-discussed topic among college aspirants. Passing in this test is discussed by one and all; in this article, find an answer to this popular question, and also learn how to prepare for the COMPASS testing better.

What is the ACT COMPASS Test and Why Is It Administered?

As a first step towards answering the question about obtaining passing scores you may need to learn more about COMPASS testing:

Used by many higher education institutions in the country, the COMPASS is a battery of computerized, untimed tests from different domains and skill areas. The test scores for this test help institutions analyze their students’ academic levels and skill sets, and accordingly place them in courses that fit their knowledge levels; also, the scores enable institutions assess the need for any extra or support programs to help students improve.

The tests are untimed, and therefore, provide candidates with ample opportunity to think and arrive at their answers, in a relatively less-stressed environment. The COMPASS test package is customizable, as well. That is, the tests included in the test package are chosen by each administering institute separately, according to their specific course needs. To get an answer to the question about passing and prepare yourself, you may also need to learn what is being tested in the COMPASS – that is, what are the different sections, what each section contains, and what are the types of questions asked:

  • The Reading tests - placement and diagnostic - include multiple-choice questions that test the candidates' abilities and skills at English reading, comprehending given information and inferring meanings from what is presented.
  • The Writing Skills tests - placement and diagnostic - measure the candidates' abilities at written language as required for college-level programs. The questions included here are of multiple-choice type.
  • The Mathematics tests include multiple-choice questions covering topics like Numerical Ability, Algebra, College Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.
  • The Writing Essay test requires candidates to answer a single writing prompt in a detailed manner, by taking a stance on the given issue and by providing supporting arguments to the stance they have taken.
  • The ESL test is administered to foreign candidates, mostly, for whom English is only a second language. Questions are of multiple-choice type and cover Reading, Listening, and Grammar and Usage areas.

To know more about the test components and the types of questions asked, you may visit the official COMPASS website ( Sample questions for the varying sections of the test are also available here.

How Important Are the COMPASS Test Scores?

As we have seen, the COMPASS is an evaluative test battery and not competitive in nature. The test scores do not determine your entry into college; instead, they are used by colleges to make placement decisions, and also to assess the need for any developmental programs to help you improve.

In line with the evaluative and diagnostic purposes of this testing, the test battery does not have any pass and fail criteria set. At present, all COMPASS scores are accepted by colleges, and these are considered to paint an objective evaluation of the candidates' abilities and skills; and therefore, used by colleges to place candidates accordingly. Thus, getting through the exam just by scores may not be relevant at all, in the context of this evaluation.However, scoring high in the test is highly recommended, as in any other test. If your scores are too low or moderate, that is an indication of your shortcomings in certain areas, and you may need to take developmental programs and improve yourself accordingly. On the other hand, by scoring well in relevant sections, you may avoid the need for taking any developmental programs, and focus more of your time and efforts on your course of study.

Also, how much to score in each section is dependent on the score requirements as required by the conducting institution. For example, a score of 45 in Algebra is considered good enough by some institutions, but may not be enough for Algebra course placement in some others (

How to Prepare for COMPASS

As we have seen, passing is not a relevant topic in the context of COMPASS testing; however, that does not rule out the need for preparation. Apart from learning about the test pattern, contents, and questions asked, you also need to practice a lot for taking the test. In addition, it is often recommended that you start your preparation with a pre-test to understand about your own strong and weak areas. With plenty of prep programs, materials, and online stuff available for test preparation, you are at liberty to choose different options for preparing for the test. However, it is wise to choose the best option/options that befit your requirements, and budgetary and time constraints, if any. Many community colleges and other educational institutions who conduct this test also offer prep programs and COMPASS prep resources that might be useful. However, you may also check with your institution for suitable prep options.

Thus, obtaining passing scores may not be applicable to COMPASS testing, although you should focus on performance, if attempting for college education in the US.