Math Section in COMPASS of ACT

Everything You Need to Know About COMPASS Math

What is the COMPASS?

The Math section of the COMPASS is a computer adaptive test that is used to ascertain if your skills in Algebra are sufficient to take up college level studies. Being computer adaptive means that the computer will adapt to your skill level based on the answers provided by you. If you consistently provide right answers, the test will increase in difficulty level. On the contrary, answering wrongly will make the computer put simpler questions to you. Thus, it tries to gauge your skill level, which is also called the "placement domain".

What is the significance of the placement domain?

Once a placement domain has been adjudged, the test will stop automatically. Based on the placement domain, the score sheet, which is also called the "Student Advising Report", recommends the courses you must take to be college-ready. If you are already college-ready, the scorecard of this test will not recommend any courses.

Is the COMPASS a pass/fail test?

The test is not a pass/fail test. It is usually administered to students after they have gained admission to a college. However, in cases when the student has had a long break/gap in his formal education, the COMPASS may be administered to ascertain if he still has his basics right, and satisfies the entry level criteria of the college. This is to make sure the courses have the desired effect, and the student does not feel like dropping out of courses mid way.

Why should I be bothered?

Many times, out of lack of awareness, students tend to ignore the importance of details. Knowing about the test and what it covers is the first step towards effective preparation. Just because COMPASS is not a pass/fail test does not mean you should take it lightly. The higher you score, the lesser preliminary courses you will have to take, thus saving your time and tuition fees.

How should I study?

The best way to prepare for the Math section is to practice exam relevant questions ruthlessly. This can best be done using the following steps:

  1. Understand the syllabus. The best way to do this is to go through a guide.
  2. Take a practice test.
  3. Identify your weak areas.
  4. Register for the test.
  5. Prepare a time table.
  6. Focus on understanding topics you find difficult using reference books.
  7. Practice each topic by solving and not just reading.
  8. Reassess your situation periodically until the test date by taking practice tests.

What strategy should I follow in the exam?

The best way to answer the math exam is to work slowly, steadyly and accurately during the first few questions. Double check your answers and keep asking yourself if you are extremely sure. Work by back tracing the answers from the available answer choices and use substitutions as a way to confirm results. As you answer questions correctly, the difficulty level keeps increasing. But since you have the advantage of time, you can think of many ways to solve a problem without worrying about the time pressure.

Where should I study from?

The best way to study is constant unwavering practice, and to do so, there are many guides available in the market. Choose a guide that is from a good publisher, is written by an established author and which has lots of practice exercises with step-by-step solutions. Although limited, there are books available that are dedicated for the math section. Some of them are COMPASS Exam - Bob Miller's Math Prep and Chart Your Success on the Compass Test by Carol Callahan.

What after the test?

If you think the test does not reflect your true capability, there is an option to retest with a nominal exam fee. However, some colleges do not allow more than one re-attempt in a specific timeframe. But try not to bank on a retest. It is best to go all guns blazing in the exam.

If you want to explore further, the link to the official site is given below. Good luck for the test.