What Is the Compass Test?


Quick Answer

A Compass test measures a student's skills in various subject areas in order for colleges to place the student into appropriate courses. Upon completion of the test, feedback is immediate, and the student receives a list of courses to choose from.

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Full Answer

American College Testing (ACT) Compass tests are a part of the registration process in many colleges. The purpose of the test is to assess a student's current skill level in writing, reading and math. An additional test is available in English as a second language (ESL) for non-native English speakers. The test has no time limit and subsequent questions stem from how a student has answered previous questions. There is no passing score; the test is merely an assessment to reveal a student's strengths and weaknesses in each of the subject areas.

The student's scores guide the student and adviser as to the best path toward success in college. The scores indicate at what level a student should begin in each of the subject areas. For example, a low score in the writing section indicates that a student may need a remedial writing course before taking the required core writing class. Though the student may see the test as onerous, it can keep the student from taking and failing a course for which he is not ready. If a student wants to have an idea of what the test asks, practice questions are available at the ACT website.

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