About COMPASS Test

COMPASS stands for College Placement Tests. It is a computer adaptive test that helps in appropriate positioning of students into courses according to their abilities. It is conducted by ACT. ACT is a not-for-profit independent organization that provides evaluation, research, information and program organization services. ACT gains its reputation due to its 50 years long history in the field.
The test is not a competitive test and in fact acts as an assessment of capabilities of applicants.  The purpose of conducting the test is to help educational institutions admit students into different courses according to their abilities. Some colleges require you to take one or more tests after they have selected you for admission. The test evaluates the skills of applicants and highlights the areas they are weak and strong in. Accordingly, they can be placed in courses as per their skill levels.
Besides, this process of testing enables you to take up a course that you can successfully complete by making optimum use of your potential. It also helps colleges in ensuring that their courses are made best use of and their institution functions smoothly.
The benefits of the exam are thus multiple. It serves colleges as well as students. The test also gives counsel on which courses should be taken and how one should register for them.

Key Features of COMPASS
The key features that make it a remarkable test are

  • Accurate and Quick Assessment: The test is computer adaptive and untimed. A computer adaptive test is one in which each applicant is administered the testing items according to his ability level. The test ‘adapts’ itself according to the test taker and ensures that he is not given items that are too easy or difficult for his level. The items are scored instantly and hence the results are available as soon as the test is over.

  • Customized: The test can be customized according to the requirements of an institution. The institution can choose test packages for administration, adjust cutoff scores, write placement messages corresponding to cutoff scores and add local items.
  • Comprehensive Reports: Institutions can create reports that give information about the institution’s requirements, obtain demographic information about their students and research reports for evaluation of their programs.

  • ATB Approval: The exam is an ATB (Ability-to-Benefit) test approved by US Department of Education.

  • Remote Testing: The COMPASS Internet National Remote Testing Network helps to administer the tests in more than 550 testing centers. This feature is useful for testing distant students in a quick and easy manner.

To register for the exam and inquire about the fee, contact an ACT office near you, if you are in US, Canada or US Territories. For international testing, registration and fee information can be acquired by contacting ACT International. Visit the website www.act.org for more information.

There are separate placement tests and diagnostic tests administered for helping place students in suitable courses and identifying areas where students need help respectively.
The subject areas tested through the test are:

  1. Reading: Reading Placement Test is a multiple-choice test meant for estimating reading abilities required for college courses.  Practical Reading, Prose Fiction, Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences are the content areas tested.

Reading Diagnostics Tests judge specific skills in Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary and Reader Profile.

  1. Writing Skills: Writing Skills Placement Test is a multiple-choice test that contains items on finding errors of usage and mechanics and rhetorical skills.

Writing Skills Diagnostics Tests cover the areas of punctuation, spelling, capitalization, usage, verb formation/agreement, relationships of clauses, shifts in construction and organization

  1. Writing Essay (e-Write): You shall be presented with a writing prompt defining a problem or a matter along with two points of view. You have to take a position on the issue and justify it. The essay is tested for focus, content, organization, style and conventions.

  2. Mathematics: Math Placement Test contains multiple-choice questions that test the basic skills, application skills and analysis skills of students. The five areas of knowledge tested are Pre-algebra, Algebra, College Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry.           

Math Diagnostics Test checks knowledge of students in Pre-Algebra and Algebra.

  1. English as a Second Language (ESL): These tests are meant for non-native English speakers. They test knowledge in Reading, Listening, Grammar/Usage and Essay. 

Score Reporting
Comprehensive reporting is one key feature of this test. The reporting pattern is such that students and institutions gain a lot through the reports. The results are reported in different types of score reports.

    • Standard Individual Report: This report is also called the Student Advising Report. It contains information about the educational background and plans of the student, local demographic items, help requested by the student, choice of programs, assessment results and recommendations and mathematics results and recommendations. Besides, Reading and Writing Skills’ results and recommendations appear on the report.

    • Student Demographics: This helps schools obtain demographic information about students. This information is helpful for advising students about academics.

    • Reporting Options: These options allow generation of customized list reports, placement summary reports and mailing labels. 

    • Research Reports: These are of different types and help institutions in recruitment, retention and evaluation of their programs.

One needs to understand that the test is not meant to act as a competitive test. It is meant to help you and institutions identify the best course for you. Hence, it is a skill-assessment test.
Though it tests your skills, you need to prepare for the testing experience in order to perform to the best of your abilities. You need to hone your skills and revise concepts already learnt so as to put your best foot forward in the test.
In case you are not able to perform up to your level best, you shall not be able to prove your capabilities to placement panels. Performing well in the exam is the only way to get admitted in a course of your choice.
For preparation of the exam, you can go through the sample questions available on the website www.act.org. The sample questions of each test shall help you understand how to prepare for it. Other sources of preparation include coaching classes, preparation software, books, flashcards, online coaching classes etc. Choose the sources that best suit your needs and put in the required hard work.

There are times when a student’s skills do not match his interests. However, once you are interested in a course, you can certainly develop the required skills to successfully complete the coursework. Though it would be foolish to try to achieve something that you are not skilled enough to achieve, there is no such skill that one cannot master with preparation. Hence, preparation for the required skills coupled with thorough determined efforts shall certainly bring you success.