The Skills Required for the COMPASS Reading Test

What Skills Are Tested In COMPASS Reading Test?

The ACT COMPASS Placement test is a test that helps the educators understand a student’s abilities and skills. This is a computer-adaptive test and there is no time limit for this test. At the same time, there is no fixed number of questions or “passing score” in this test. The scores in this test are mainly used to identify the students’ strengths and weaknesses. Reading, Writing Skills, Writing Essay, Math and English as a Second Language are the areas where the students’ skills are tested. The test is given during the orientation itself to the incoming freshmen.

The placement test results are released immediately after the test. The score report will also include a placement message telling the students about the courses that can be taken up by them and how to register for the same.

COMPASS Reading Test

The Reading test is a multiple-choice test that helps the educator to determine if the student has the reading skills that are essential to succeed in a standard entry-level college course. There are five types of reading passages given to the students in this test. Based on the contents of the passages, the five passages fall under the domains of:

  • Practical Reading
  • Prose Reading
  • Social Sciences
  • Natural Sciences
  • Humanities

The student is expected to understand and conclude inferences from the given passages. Usually, the passages are 190 to 300 words long. The English section evaluates the student’s abilities in reading comprehension, vocabulary and reader profile.

It is advised that the students read the full passage before beginning to answer the questions. Moreover, reading the passage more than once also helps the students to comprehend the passage more thoroughly. This way, answering the questions that follow the passage also becomes easy.

There is no negative marking for wrong answers in this test. Therefore, students can mark any one of the choices even if they do not know the correct answer. By doing this, there is at least a 25% chance that the marked choice will be the right answer.

Question Types

The number of passages in the comprehension section depends on the student’s reading skills. As stated earlier, this test is adaptive in nature which means that the difficulty level of the test is adapted to the student’s ability level. If the student is a strong, good reader, there will be more reading passages. Whereas, if the student is not very good, there will be fewer passages for comprehension.

Three types of questions are asked in the Reading Test. These are:

  1. Referring Questions– The questions where the answers are in the passage itself.
  2. Reasoning Questions– The questions that require critical understanding and making inferences.
  3. Vocabulary Questions– The questions that require the meaning of unfamiliar or difficult vocabulary used in the passage.

In the new format of the Placement test, students can see and read the passage on one side of the screen and at the same time, the questions along with the answer choices are shown on the other side of the screen.

Importance of the Test

The scores that a student attains in the Reading test determine the courses the student can enroll for. Therefore, if the student gets a score lower than his/her ability; more classes have to be taken up by the student. Hence, it is based on these scores that the educators can help students connect to the many available resources that the student may require to succeed in academics.

Test Preparation

There is no specific syllabus for the Placement test, since it tries to identify whatever the student has learnt through the school years. However, good preparation will ensure that the student remembers whatever has been studied at school. The best way to prepare for the test is to read as many comprehension passages as possible and try to answer the questions that follow these passages.


The Reading component is a test that tries to identify the student’s skills and abilities without a time restraint. Therefore, the student can take up this test without any stress and show the skills that he/she has acquired during the school years.