Understanding COMPASS Through its Passing Scores

Is There a Passing Score for COMPASS?

COMPASS, being an important part of the placement process at colleges and higher educational institutes across the country, the test is widely discussed among college aspirants. Along with discussions on the important aspects like test sections, duration, and question types, an important question often heard is "How to pass this test? In this article, find your answer to this question and understand the COMPASS testing better.


The first step towards answering the question about passing in COMPASS is learning more about this test.

A computerized, untimed package of tests, the COMPASS is used by many higher education institutions in the country to find out about their students' academic skills and levels, and accordingly place them in entry-level courses. Based on the COMPASS results, students are sometimes placed into appropriate support or developmental programs also.

There are different subject areas included in COMPASS testing, and the test package is customizable, as well. That is, the tests included in the test package can be customized based on the requirements of each institute administering the test. The various tests included in COMPASS are:

  • The Reading test - placement and diagnostic tests
  • The Mathematics test - placement and diagnostic tests
  • The Writing test - placement and diagnostic tests
  • The Writing Essay test
  • The English as a Second Language (ESL) test - only for foreign students

The best resource to start learning about the COMPASS test would be the official COMPASS website (http://www.act.org/compass/student/index.html). You can also learn more about the test from the college or institute where you are applying.

COMPASS Test Content and Test Purpose

To get answer to the question about obtaining passing scores you need to, now, understand the test content and the test purpose. The COMPASS testing includes different untimed tests to measure the test takers’ abilities and academic levels in various domains. For example, as all students seeking higher education should be proficient in using the English language to a certain level, there are Writing, Writing Essay, and Reading tests included in the test. For those who want to pursue a Mathematics program at college level, it is essential that their college-readiness in the numerical ability, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry areas be evaluated prior to the starting of the course. Accordingly, various subject tests are included in the COMPASS test to cater to the differing needs of evaluation. In addition, colleges use the results to understand more about the strengths and weaknesses of students in particular topics, and accordingly plan for developmental programs to help them improve in their respective weaker areas. Tests are not timed also, so that you can take your own time and give your best.

Thus, we can see that this testing is designed to aid institutions place the students as per their current skills and academic levels. Hence, the question about passing in COMPASS is not relevant. As the test is evaluative and diagnostic in nature, there are no passing scores defined for any of these tests. Any scores you score in the test is an indication towards your abilities and skill levels in the respective area, and it just helps your college decide the best possible course for you, including developmental and supportive programs.

How to Prepare for COMPASS

Although, passing the test may not be a proper topic in the case of COMPASS, it does not mean that you need no preparation for the test. Once you have learnt about the test pattern, content, other vital details, you can choose from a variety of prep options available in the market today. In addition, you can start your preparation with pre-tests to understand about your own strong and weak areas. The prep materials include books, electronic resources, prep programs, practice tests, and much more. You may choose the best option that befits your requirements, budgets, and timings. Many community colleges and other educational institutions also offer prep programs and COMPASS prep resources. You can also check with your college or university, for suitable prep options.

Thus, obtaining passing scores may not be applicable to COMPASS, but how to do well in the test is something you need to seriously think about, while seeking higher education in the country.

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