Details About the English Test of COMPASS

Things You Need to Know About COMPASS English Test

Used by many educational institutions in the country, the test is a measure that helps decide the best possible course for each aspiring college-level student. The English section of the test measures the English writing abilities and reading skills of a student, and evaluates the college-readiness for entry-level courses where the language-using skills play an important part. Here is an article that gives you a heads-up on the essentials of this standardized test.

What Is the COMPASS English Test?

An evaluative test that helps colleges and other educational institutions decide the college-readiness of applicants, the test includes different tests covering a variety of skill sets and subject areas. The test scores are then used to place students in classes that are best suited for their current skills and ability levels. At the same time, students may also be placed in specific developmental programs based on the analysis of their strengths and weaknesses in specific domains(

There are four main sections that test the students’ knowledge and skills in the English language usage and skills, though. These are as follows:

  • The COMPASS Reading Test
  • The COMPASS Writing Essay test
  • The COMPASS Writing Skills test
  • The English as a Second Language (ESL) test

It should be noted that among these four tests, the Reading test and the Writing Skills test are tested in two different ways, as the placement test and as the diagnostic test. Depending on the purpose of test – whether diagnostic or evaluative – the test topics covered in these may vary.

COMPASS English Test – The Test Duration, Sections, and the Question Types

Like all the other sub-tests, the English language tests are also not timed. Test takers may spend ample time for giving the best possible/correct answer for each question and complete the test at their own paces. Guesswork is also most welcome in the English test section, as there is no negative scoring for incorrect answers in this test.

The test contents of the English test can be explained as follows:

  • While the Reading Placement test aids determine a student’s English reading skill levels to take up standard entry-level college courses; the Reading diagnostic test includes questions covering English comprehension, reader profile, and vocabulary components. In the placement test, multiple-choice type questions are included and these are based on various comprehension passages from different domains such as:
    • Social Sciences
    • Prose fiction
    • Practical reading
    • Natural Sciences
    • Humanities
  • While the Writing Skills Placement test aids institutions determine if each student/applicant can handle entry-level college courses with considerable writing loads; the Writing Skills diagnostic test measures up the student’s/applicant’s skills in eight different writing domains to identify the need and plan for developmental/supporting programs. Both placement and diagnostic tests contain multiple-option questions only based on the given passages. The placement test includes questions on the following areas, where test takers need to correct any grammatical mistakes, and demonstrate their skills in language usage and style:
    • Usage and Mechanics
      • Basic grammar, language usage
      • Punctuation
      • Sentence structure
    • Rhetorical Skills
      • Content organization
      • Strategies of presentation
      • Style of writing
  • Unlike the other English test sections, the Writing Essay test includes only one writing prompt, which requires an elaborate answer. On the given issue/topic, each examinee should take up a position first and then substantiate his/her response by giving supporting points and arguments.
  • The ESL test is to evaluate student’s English language skills in listening, reading and in using the language correctly, as required for academic as well as other daily-life situations. The test is mostly administered for foreign students.

You may find sample questions for the different English test sections available at:

Other Important Aspects of the COMPASS English Test

As we have seen already, there is no single test called the English test; however, the several English tests included in the overall test together analyze and evaluate the language abilities and skills of each individual applicant, as required, and thus help colleges decide the best possible course for them. Here are a few other important aspects of the English test sections:

  • It should be noted that the English portion is important not just for those who wish to take up Writing courses at college, but also for everyone else wishing to join other courses; for most college-level courses (for example, Mathematics courses) require some amount of proficiency in using the English language effectively.
  • It should also be kept in mind that the scores required for entry into different courses might differ, based on each individual institute. After all, what is good enough for some may not hold good for some others.
  • All the English tests may not be administered to all the applicants. The test is a customizable battery and thus, the required English tests only are included in each administration to each applicant. Remember, you may find more information on what is included in the test from the institute where you are enrolling.

Thus, if you are seeking higher education in the country, it is important that you be aware of the various sections and related requirements, including any institute-specific ones, in advance; and prepare for the test, accordingly.