The ACT Compass test is a placement test that many colleges use in their admissions processes. The Compass tests include modules in reading, writing skills, essay writing, math and English as a Second Language (ESL). Colleges use the Compass test for different purposes, including: placement, diagnostics and demographic analysis. For placement purposes, colleges use a student’s scores on their Compass test to place the student in the level of courses that are most appropriate to the skill levels. Colleges also use the tests to identify specific areas that a student may need remedial help. Finally, some colleges use the tests to gain a better understanding of a student’s overall needs.
Compass Test Format OverviewThe ACT Compass test is a computerized test that has no time limits. The Compass tests are broken down into five modules: math, reading, writing, writing essay and English as a Second Language (ESL). Except for the essay, all of the questions on the Compass test are multiple choice.
The Compass Math test is used to evaluate a student’s mathematical abilities in areas such as basic operations, applied math, and analysis. Students are expected to perform sequences of basic math operation, apply math concepts to solve problems, and analyze situations by demonstrating an understanding of the principles and practices of mathematical operations. The Compass math test includes questions in the following five areas:
- College Algebra
The Compass reading test is intended to evaluate whether a student’s reading comprehension is sufficient for standard entry-level college courses. Students will be presented with reading passages and expected to use their reasoning and referring skills to: locate important details, identify main themes, make comparisons and understand sequences of events. The passages presented will be from the following types:
- Social Sciences
- Natural Sciences
- Practical Reading
- Prose Fiction
Compass Writing Skills
The Compass Writing test evaluates a student’s skills with respect to written communications. Specifically, the Compass Writing test will present reading passages and require a student to find and correct errors in mechanics and usage in the following areas:
- Basic grammar
- Sentence structure
Compass Writing Essay Test (e-Write)
The Compass Writing Essay test is intended to provide a direct measure of a student’s writing ability. The essay is often used in combination with the Compass writing skills test to determine the appropriate level of English course that a student should be placed in. Students are presented with a writing prompt that poses an issue or defines a problem. The writing prompt also describes two points of view. The student’s essay is based on their response to a question about their view on the presented issue. The scoring on the essay includes scores in the following areas:
- Style – use of language that supports and enhances the presentation
- Content – appropriate development of the topic including supporting examples
- Focus – presenting a clear and consistent point of view
- Organization – use of logical and coherent presentation of ideas
- Conventions – use of appropriate punctuation, spelling, grammar and usage.
Compass English as a Second Language (ESL) Test
The Compass ESL test is an optional test that is intended to evaluate a non-native English speaker’s readiness for entry-level college courses. The Compass ESL test is comprised of four sections:
ESL Listening – measures a student’s listening skills. Students are presented with spoken passages that range from beginning level ESL to higher proficiency levels with heightened speech rates and increased vocabulary and diction.
ESL Reading – students are presented reading passages and expected to demonstrate their referring and reasoning skills. Students may also be asked to interpret charts, tables, photographs and map directions.
ESL Grammar/Usage – measures a student’s comprehension of sentence elements and sentence structure/syntax. Students will be evaluated on their understanding of:
- Subjects and objects
- Function words
- Word formation
- Word order
- Relationship between clauses
ESL Essay (ESL e-Write) – students’ writing is evaluated in the areas of language usage, focus, organization, theme development and mechanics.
The ACT Compass test is a placement test used by colleges to evaluate an incoming student’s readiness for entry-level college courses. The majority of colleges give the test to already admitted students during their freshman orientation. Some schools, however, use the test as part of their admissions process especially for specific programs (such as Nursing). The Compass test is given via computer and has no time limits. Students are allowed to use calculators that meet the ACT calculator specification. A student’s scores are immediately presented and the score report will provide information on course placement and registration information that is specific to the school that administers the test.
For More Study Tools - see Test-Guide.com's Recommended Compass Study Products (coming soon) to improve your chances of passing.
COMPASS Practice Test Review
Each individual approaches test preparation in a different way. Many test-takers will choose a COMPASS Test Study Guide while others will prefer the modular approach of COMPASS Test Flashcards. Since so much is at stake, it is important to choose carefully as you are ultimately responsible for the test result you receive.
COMPASS Test Study Guide with Practice Questions
The ACT Compass is unlike many other standardized tests designed to be administered by colleges and universities used to assess and potentially place current students. It includes placement tests that staff or faculty can use to place students in appropriate coursework and diagnostic tests used to identify subject areas where an entire group or class of students may need additional help.
In most instances, the test is administered to newly-admitted students before they begin any or much of their formal classwork. In some instances, institutions may require a student to take a specific test before enrolling in a particular course, though the test is often administered and used as an all-encompassing placement test. Offered tests include reading, writing, math, writing essay, and English as a second language (ESL). ACT Compass test results are provided immediately to students-the scores are often less important to the students than in what coursework the students will be placed as a result of their scores. The test is computer-adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the questions being asked are determined by how well the test taker did on the previous questions on the test. Taking numerious COMPASS practice tests is recommended for test day success.
COMPASS Practice Tests
COMPASS Reading Practice Questions
COMPASS Math Practice Questions
COMPASS Writing Practice Questions
The math test includes questions in five subject areas with trigonometry being the most advanced. Certain types of calculators can be used during the math portion (see the ACT Compass website for the rules regarding calculators). The reading test is generally used to determine if students have the reading skills needed to succeed in entry-level college courses. The writing skills test requires students to identify and correct errors in essays as simple as punctuation to more complex skills such as overall essay organization. All of these tests are entirely in a multiple choice format.
COMPASS Exam Study Guide
The writing essay test is used to obtain a direct measure of a student's writing ability. The test consists of at least one writing prompt with multiple points of view on that issue and asks the student to respond regarding their position on the issue. Unlike many other computer-based writing tests, an instantaneous evaluation will be given on either a 2-8 or 2-12 score scale. The ESL test allows institutions to test the ability of non-native English speakers in listening, reading, grammar, and essay.
Unlike other standardized tests which only display final scores in a uniform format, the reporting from the ACT Compass can be customized in a variety of ways. Student reporting can include the raw scores of the various sections and subsections (and also the time spent on each subsection), but the scores also offer recommendations for additional assistance they may want to seek as a result. Many institutions choose to develop cutoff scores unique to their program, and the reporting shown to students can include messages about course placement as a result of the testing. Institutions can also elect not to show any results right away.
In addition, ACT Compass reporting for institutions can include a summary of scores for all students or for a particular subgroup. The ACT Compass can also be used to collect demographic information about students which can also be included in the reporting to institutions. An institution can also elect to receive a retention report showing the demographics of students who are more or less likely to remain in the program. Institutions are also encouraged to contact ACT Compass for unique reporting, offered at an additional cost, that they may be interested in receiving.
The benefits to institutions of the ACT Compass can include those beyond incoming or current students. For institutions that attract nearly all of their students from a specified geographic region, such as community colleges that attract almost all of their students from area high schools, the ACT Compass can also be used with high schools to help them improve the college readiness of their own students. This can help minimize the need for institutions to devote limited resources to ensuring that nearly all of their incoming students meet a basic level of readiness for college.
The ACT Compass can also be administered remotely either to students of institutions that offer online coursework or for institutions that require the exam to be completed by students who are not all in the same geographic area. When this is required, students can take the test in one of over 550 testing centers across the country.
Free COMPASS Math Practice Quiz
Unlike other standardized tests, students are not expected to prepare for taking the ACT Compass in any way because it is designed to be an indicator of their readiness for college at that particular moment. The ACT Compass website offers sample test questions but they are only intended to be used to familiarize a student with the test format.
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by Enoch Morrison
Last Updated: 02/20/2018