How Does the COMPASS Scoring Work?

COMPASS exams measure students' strengths and weaknesses.
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Many community colleges and some universities use placements tests to steer freshmen and transfer students into classes that match their level of knowledge. The Computer Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System -- COMPASS -- exam assesses a student's strengths and weaknesses in essay writing, English, English as a Second Language, writing, reading and math. Most schools look at the reading, math and writing scores to determine what classes a student is eligible to take.

1 Standard Individual Report

A standard individual student report is given immediately after you complete the test. The report consists of eight sections which include general information, background, local demographic items, choice of programs and assessment results. The report format provides a comprehensive view of your high school background, educational plans, information about the last time you took courses such as algebra and English and any kind of assistance you have requested -- such as financial aid -- from the community college or university you are attending.

2 Math Scoring

The math placement test evaluates your knowledge in pre-algebra, algebra, college algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Though there is no pass or fail component to the COMPASS, the higher you score, the greater the number of classes you can take. The scale for the math assessment is from zero to 100, with zero being the lowest and 100 being a perfect score. Each college has its own standard, but, in general, scores from zero to 40 will result in you having to take a basic or remedial math course, scores from the low 40s to the mid 60s make you eligible to enroll in intermediate level math and scores from the upper 60s to 100 demonstrate proficiency in math and allow you to enroll in any math course at the freshman level, including general math and statistics.

3 Reading Scoring

The COMPASS reading placement test consists of comprehension passages in practical reading, humanities, prose fiction, social sciences and natural sciences. It is designed to evaluate your comprehension and vocabulary skills to determine your likelihood of success in standard literature and English courses. Reading scores range from zero to 100, and many institutions use a score of 70 or higher to determine proficiency. If you score below a 70, you may have to complete a remedial English class before you are eligible to take entry-level English courses. Some institutions may waive the freshman English requirement if you score in the 90s.

4 Writing Scoring

The writing skills test consists of multiple-choice questions that require you to analyze sentences and paragraphs and correct mistakes in eight major areas: organization, sentence construction shifts, relationships of clauses, verb formation and agreement, usage, capitalization, spelling and punctuation. The scoring scale is from zero to 100, with a 75 being a common threshold to indicate that you have the necessary skills to enroll in college level English and composition classes. Scores below 75 or 70 will often require you to take an introductory writing skills course before you can take a standard-level composition class.

Sampson Quain is a screenwriter and filmmaker who began writing in 1996. He has sold feature and television scripts to a variety of studios and networks including Columbia, HBO, NBC, Paramount and Lionsgate. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.