Format of the COMPASS Test

COMPASS Test Break-up Explained

Those who are planning for getting college education in the country, it is very significant to learn about the relevant processes and any pre-requisites, in advance. One needs to understand about the different aspects of COMPASS testing.. In this article, you can learn more about the COMPASS test break-up.


The COMPASS is a computerized package of untimed tests from Reading, Writing, and Mathematics areas. The tests are non-competitive in nature, with no pass or fail criteria defined. The test content is standardized across the different test administrations and the scoring process is also streamlined. However, when you take the test during your admission process and what are the tests included in the administration differ from college to college. While some colleges require that the COMPASS test be taken by students who have already enrolled to courses, some others insist that applicants take up a COMPASS test before enrolling.

The test helps colleges and other educational institutions with the following tasks:

  • To analyze the abilities and skill levels of test takers
  • To place the applicants according to their skills and abilities in the appropriate courses
  • To understand about any shortcomings of test takers in particular areas, and suggest and plan for developmental programs to help them improve in those areas

For more information on the COMPASS test, you may refer to the official test website:

What Is On a COMPASS Test?

The question, about the questions asked in COMPASS is best answered when you understand the  test content. The following are the different tests included normally in a COMPASS test. However, it must be remembered that colleges may choose their own test sections from the available options, and customize the test according to their program requirements. Thus, the question about test content can be answered differently, based on the college, program, or state where you take the test:

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

To get answers to queries about COMPASS, we must also look deeper into the break-up of these test sections:

  • The Reading test is conducted in two different modes- as a placement test and as a diagnostic test. Both tests include multiple-choice questions based on comprehension passages. The Reading placement test includes comprehension passages from areas like Natural Science; Humanities, Prose Fiction, Practical Reading, and Social Sciences. The Reading diagnostic test includes Vocabulary, and Reader profile, and Comprehension sections.

  • The Writing Skills test also is administered in two different modes- as a placement test and as a diagnostic test. The placement test is enables colleges decide if test takers have the required writing skills to handle entry-level college courses, or will require developmental programs in writing. The multiple-choice questions in this test aim at comprehending the students' skills in language usage, punctuation, basic grammar, organization and sentence structure, style, diction, etc. The diagnostic test includes multiple-choice questions covering eight important writing skills.

  • The Mathematics placement test aims to measure the test takers' abilities and skills in basic arithmetic operations, their ability to apply the basic skills, and their analytical power and conceptual understanding of core Math areas, principles, and theorems. Pre-algebra or numerical ability, Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry are the core areas included in this COMPASS Math test. On the other hand, if we look at the Mathematics diagnostic test, there are 15 tests included in it, seven in pre-Algebra and eight in Algebra, so as to understand any strengths and shortcomings of test takers in the core Math areas as required for college-level programs.

  • The Writing Essay test is the only COMPASS test that does not include multiple-option questions. This test consists of only a single writing task prompt, for which the test takers should provide a detailed response. Furthermore, each test taker is expected to take up a particular stance on the given issue and substantiate the answer accordingly.

  • The ESL Test includes questions covering Reading, Listening, and Grammar and usage areas. This is a test, generally, administered to foreign students to check their English language skills as required for day-to-day as well as academic lives.

To learn further about this test, you may visit You can also download sample questions here for all the test sections.

While learning about the test, another important point to note is that all COMPASS tests are untimed. Hence, you may take your own time to complete the tests, and are less pressurized while giving the test.

How is COMPASS Important?

As mentioned earlier, the COMPASS test scores are used by many colleges and other institutions in their placement processes. As there are different subject/skill tests included in the COMPASS package, the institutions may test and measure the applicants' skill levels and abilities in the required areas, and accordingly place them. The test scores also provide a diagnostic view of the test taker's abilities and knowledge levels, and enable colleges assess the need for any developmental programs for students so that they can improve in their respective weak areas, if any. Moreover, this is a test that can help each of you realize your potentials and weak areas, if any, and enable you prepare for your future. Thus, it can be rightly concluded that the content of COMPASS  is decided very carefully and after much deliberation, so as to aid in the placement decision-making process of the institutions.

Terms and Conditions

Information published in is provided for informational and educational purpose alone for deserving students, researchers and academicians. Though our volunteers take great amount of pain and spend significant time in validating the veracity of the information or study material presented here, we cannot be held liable for any incidental mistakes. All rights reserved. No information or study material in this web site can be reproduced or transmitted in any form, without our prior consent. However the study materials and web pages can be linked from your web site or web page for

  • Research

  • Education

  • Academic purposes

No permission is required to link any of the web page with educational information available in this web site from your web site or web page