The COMPASS Math Exam

Skills required for scoring high in math COMPASS

The COMPASS is an untimed computer adaptive test that measures your preparedness to take college level courses. It is meant to find out if a student is already college-ready or if he requires additional preparatory courses to be college-ready.

What happens if I fail the COMPASS test?

No matter how low your scores are, you cannot "fail" this examination. All you can do is score poorly. If you do score poorly in the Math section of COMPASS, you might end up paying more tuition fees for your graduation by having to attend more preparatory courses. This in turn will delay the time taken for your graduation. However, in some cases where you want to substitute your COMPASS score instead of your SAT score, the former exam will be instrumental in determining your ability to enrol in the college of your choice.

What must I study for the exam?

If Math is your weak area, you must study hard to be placed in the correct placement domain. Many students face a dilemma as to what topics they must focus on to make the best of their preparation time. The answer to this question is not easy. More often than not, the answer depends on the following factors

  1. How skilled you are at Math
  2. How much time you have for preparation
  3. What your target score is
  4. How badly you want to enrol in the college of your choice
  5. What your weak areas are

How do I go about my preparation?

To find the correct answer to these questions, you must take a practice test to understand where you stand. You must take the practice test in a disciplined manner without breaks, and determine where your current abilities stand.

Post the practice test, determine your pain areas and make a time table for your studies. Make sure you practice as much as possible, and also look into the answer keys time and again to determine if there can be a better technique to answer the question. Although the test is untimed, it makes a difference if you can get past questions without lengthy calculations.

What skills must I have for the exam?

The Math section will test of your ability in algebra. The exam starts with questions in algebra and progresses depending on the answers you provide. If you consistently provide the correct answers, you will be asked questions that are incrementally higher in difficulty. Thus, the exam will pose questions in advanced algebra, trigonometry and even college calculus, if you keep answering correctly.

However, if you consistently answer wrongly to the questions posed to you, you might be asked questions that are progressively simpler, and the subject might shift to basic Math.

By all means, the right thing to do therefore is to start your preparation with algebra and progress slowly towards advanced topics. If you make sure and steady progress, you will be placed in a higher placement domain than if you study only advanced topics and leave out the basics. Thus, it can be said that the exam is a test of accuracy rather than speed.

Should I be concerned if my test lasts longer than one hour?

The answer to this is an emphatic "no". This is because even the number of questions administered by the testing engine of the COMPASS to a student differ based on the student’s ability. If you cannot answer even basic Math questions correctly, the test will end and provide you with a placement domain that is initial, and consequently you might have to take courses in basic Math before you can start with college algebra.

What if my machine shuts down during the test?

This is an exceptional case, and if such a situation arises, you can reschedule your test without incurring the penalty of additional fees or additional attempts.