Pencils laying in a row

Preparing for the COMPASS

COMPASS is a set of untimed computer adaptive tests created by the American College Test (ACT) Program. Because COMPASS tests are "computer adaptive," the questions test-takers have to answer are based on whether they answered previous questions correctly or incorrectly. If a question is answered correctly and the student is not already at the highest difficulty level, the next question will increase in difficulty. On the other hand, if a question is answered incorrectly and the student is not already at the lowest difficulty level, the next question will be easier than the previous one.

The COMPASS test is scored on a scale from 0-100. For each section you are tested on you will receive a score. COMPASS uses section scores and does not generate a composite score.


The first section you will be tested in is writing. It is very important to read the instructions carefully. You are not being timed on the test, so make sure you understand what the instructions are telling you to do before you continue on. Understanding the format of the test can help your score tremendously.

The Writing Skills Placement is an untimed test based on 2 - 4 short essays. Questions include the following: 

  • Usage and mechanics: punctuation, basic grammar and usage 
  • Rhetorical skills: strategy, organization, style of standard written English

A writing practice test is available at:


Reading is the second section for those taking the full test. As with all sections, it is untimed and instructions are given before you start answering questions. You may need to read each passage slowly and carefully to score well. Remember, you may take all the time you need. The Reading section includes 11 - 15 items that measures reading comprehension.

Five types of reading comprehension passages are included: 

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

A reading practice test is available at:


Mathematics is scored in two sub sections:

  • Pre-Algebra: 0-100 (you must score at least 42 points in Pre-Algebra to be tested in Algebra)
  • Algebra: 0-100

For those testing in all sections, the Math section is the third and last section of the COMPASS. The Math Skills Placement is untimed and has multiple-choice items that test the following: 

  • Basic skills—performing a sequence of basic operations
  • Application—applying sequences of basic operations to novel settings or in complex ways 
  • Analysis—demonstrating conceptual understanding of principles and relationships in mathematical operations

A math practice test is available at:

Additional math instruction and tutorials are available at: