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COMPASS Placement Test

All students are required to take the COMPASS test upon arrival at the campus. The COMPASS test will determine your ability levels for reading comprehension, writing and math. The test is taken on a computer, so you will know the results minutes after completion. There is no time limit, but for most students the entire testing process takes 1-2 hours.

Taking the Test
When you arrive on campus, check in with the International Student Program office to schedule your COMPASS test. You should give yourself enough time to finish the test, which may be 1 - 2 hours depending on your skills, so check the Testing Center hours before you go. You'll need to show your passport at the testing center. Please see our Test Tips below for information to help you be successful!

Test Content
You will be tested in reading, writing and math. The questions are asked from the easiest to the most difficult; the test begins with the easiest questions, and with every correct answer, the questions get progressively more difficult. If your answer is right, the next question will be harder and your score will go up. If your answer is wrong, the next question will be easier and your score will go down. It is very important that you answer the first questions correctly! If you cannot answer the easy questions, you will never move to the more advanced ones, and your score will be low as a result.

  • Reading Comprehension: Students are asked questions about a brief section of text by referring to what is explicitly stated. The meaning of words is determined from the context. Students must use reasoning to determine implicit meanings and draw conclusions from the text. They must also make comparisons and generalizations.
  • Writing: Students look for problems in grammar, usage, and style in a series of essays. Upon finding an error, students may replace the portion of text with one of the five alternatives. The test focuses on:
    • Punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure
    • Strategy, organization, and style of standard written English
    • NOTE: Spelling, vocabulary, and rote recall of rules of grammar are not tested
  • Math: There are four different tests depending on your skill level:
    • Pre-Algebra
    • Algebra
    • College Algebra
    • Trigonometry

Download our printer-friendly version of the COMPASS Test Guide with sample questions (.pdf)

After the Test
When you have finished your test, you'll need to go the International Student Programs office in Building 25 to register for your classes. An advisor will talk to you and help you with everything!

If you feel that your test score is inaccurate and you wish to take the test again, you can pay $4.10 per section for a retest. Students are welcome to take the test up to three times per quarter, but there is a mandatory waiting period between tests. For best results, do not take the test the day after you arrive in the U.S. Wait until you are refreshed and healthy if possible!

Test Tips

  • Brush up on your math basics. The math test will have material that you may not have studied in a long time, so take a look at the Math Pre-Test to get an idea of what to expect.
  • Allow enough time. You will need 1 - 2 hours to take the test. The test is not timed, so you can take as long as you want. There is no need to rush.
  • Don't stress! You cannot fail the COMPASS test. The score is only used to put you in the classes that match your abilities. If your score is low, you will be placed in more basic classes. If your score is high, you will be place in higher level classes. Just do your best!
  • Get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on your test day.

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