Pre-Algebra Content for COMPASS

What Should You Study For Pre Algebra COMPASS

The COMPASS is an untimed, computer adaptive test to identify if you are college-ready. The question types and the number of questions that appear in the math section vary from person to person depending on his ability. The test increases in difficulty every time you answer questions correctly, thus grading you higher in college-preparedness. It is therefore the first few questions that matter highly while tackling the math section. More often than not, these are questions from pre-algebra.

Before jumping into the topic, it is important to note that the test allows calculators, which can be very helpful while dealing with Pre-Algebra problems. Another important point to note is that any study of Math needs dogged and disciplined practice. Without practice, you will definitely make elementary mistakes. Many practice tests are available online and in books dedicated for the COMPASS.

The syllabus for the Pre-Algebra test covers the following main topics:

  1. Integers
  2. Fractions
  3. Decimals
  4. Exponents
  5. Ratios and proportions
  6. Percentages
  7. Averages

While these topics may sound elementary and simple at first, it should be understood that lack of practice will most definitely lead to inadvertent mistakes, which can be penalizing in your overall score.

For ease of understanding, the kind of questions in each of the topics listed above are covered in more detail below

  • Integers:

    This topic covers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of integers, which can be both positive and negative. For example

    63 - 8 / 2 + 6 = ?

    The correct way to solve these types of questions is to apply the familiar BODMAS rule, which asks you to perform operations from left to right in the sequence of Bracket, Of, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction. Using this logic, the answer to the above question is to be derived in the following sequence

    1st Operation 8 / 2 = 4

    2nd Operation 63 - 4 = 59

    3rd Operation 59 + 6 = 65

    This topic can also include word problems.

  • Fractions:

    The topic covers questions that deal with fractions. The questions may take the form:

    What is the denominator of (3/4 - 2/3) + (1/2 +1/3 )?

    The way to find the answer is to quickly find the least common multiple of the denominators, which is 12.

  • Decimals:

    The questions on decimals usually take the form of word problems, and are mostly about conversions from dollars to cents or conversions in weight. These include addition and subtraction of decimal values.

  • Exponents:

    The problems in exponents are usually based on large numbers or square roots. For example

    What is 3200000 written in exponential form?

    The answer is 3.2 x 106

  • Ratios and proportions:

    These questions are of the form "if the cost of 10 apples is $20, what is the cost of ....". On these questions it is important to read the question carefully as to what is asked. The mistake students generally make is to answer the cost of one item, instead of what is asked in the problem statement.

  • Percentages:

    The best way to solve percentage problems is to use a Venn diagram. Post that, it is only a matter of using logic and reading the problem correctly to derive the answer.

  • Averages:

    Understanding the meaning of terms such as mean, median and modes is crucial to solve these kinds of questions. Sometimes the question might be simply to calculate the mode of some numbers. If you do not know what the mode is, you will not be able to answer the question!

Purchasing a guide is a quick way to brush up your basics before the exams. There are guides focussed on Pre-Algebra and Algebra test. A guide that has detailed answer keys and a good set of practice questions and answers is the best way to prepare for the exams. Finally, no matter how good a guide is, nothing can replace the importance of constant practice for the Pre-Algebra test.