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Things to Know / Frequently Asked Questions About the COMPASS Exam

What is COMPASS?
Is COMPASS required for everyone?
Do I have to take the COMPASS exam?
But I have no computer experience.
Where can I take COMPASS?
How long will it take?
Is it a difficult test?
What will I be tested on?
When will I find out my scores?
What if I don't do very well, can I retake the exam?
Do I need to prepare before taking COMPASS?
Tips for taking COMPASS.


What is COMPASS?

COMPASS is a series of basic skills assessments completed on a computer. Developed by American College Testing (ACT), COMPASS stands for Computer-adapted Placement Assessment and Support Services. Placement test results are used to assign students either to remedial, developmental, or college level courses. Your COMPASS scores indicate academic areas where you are strong, as well as academic areas where you are not as strong.

The exam is administered throughout the year. Typically students will take the COMPASS Exam prior to and during registration for each term or semester.

If you have specific questions in regards to your need for taking this exam, please contact your student services advisor.


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Is COMPASS required for everyone?

COMPASS testing is not required if you have previously:

  1. Completed a Bachelor's or Associate's Degree.
  2. Taken ENG 1101 (COMP 1) or MTH 1112 (Pre-Cal Algebra) with a grade of "C" or better
  3. Taken one of the following tests and met the listed required score.
    • ACT (English Component Score of 20 or higher Math Component Score of 23 or higher)
    • SAT (Verbal Component Score of 480 or higher; Math Component Score of 520 or higher)
  4. Valid ACT or SAT scores that are less than three years old.
  5. Previously taken a COMPASS exam at another institution (scores must be provided and be less than three years old)
  6. Taken and received credit for an AP Exam

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Do I have to take the COMPASS Exam?

If you are not sure if you need to take the test or which parts of the test you will be required to take, the following information is given to assist you.

Take the COMPASS exam...

  1. If you do not have ACT/SAT scores, you will need to take the COMPASS exam.
  2. If you have ACT or SAT scores and they are more than three years old.
  3. If your English Component ACT sub score is below 20 or your SAT Verbal score is below 480, you will need to take the English Area COMPASS Exam.
  4. If your Math component ACT sub score is below 23 or your SAT Math score is below 520, you will need to take the Math area COMPASS Exam.
  5. If you meet both qualifications from 2 and 3 above, you will need to take the English and Math Combination Test.
  6. If you are transferring from another college or university and have not successfully completed a college-level English Composition course and/or a college-level, algebra-based Mathematics course, you should take the COMPASS.

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But I have no computer experience.

COMPASS was designed for individuals with little or no computer experience. Testing staff will assist you in getting started. Once you type in some identifying information (name, address, etc.) you will simply use a few keyboard "keys" to select your responses. COMPASS is not timed, so you can relax!

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Where can I take COMPASS?

Students must take the COMPASS at an approved ACT/COMPASS testing location such as a Troy University Site, ACT/COMPASS Test Center or a college or university that offers the COMPASS Placement Exam. This exam is not available on line but is a computerized exam.

Please use this link to access the COMPASS Placement Exam Registration form: https://etroy.troy.edu/forms/ecompassexamform.aspx.

Once you submit your form the TROY Online COMPASS Exam Scheduler will respond to your email with instructions on how to go about scheduling to take your exam.

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How long will it take?

COMPASS is computer-adaptive testing, meaning that the computer will administer more or less items to you, depending on how you answered previous questions. Because everyone receives different numbers of items, it is difficult to predict how long it will take. You can expect it to last somewhere between 1.5 - 2 hours. Most importantly, since COMPASS is not timed, you should not rush. Students who relax and take their time are typically more successful test-takers.

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Is it a difficult test?

What makes COMPASS unique is that it adapts to your abilities. Questions increase in difficulty depending on your skill level. You will not receive a large number of questions that are too difficult for you. You will receive just the right amount of items for COMPASS to determine your level.

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What will I be tested on?

In COMPASS math, you will be asked to select a correct answer from a list of choices. You will be provided scratch paper. Although the test will provide a calculator, you may bring your own calculator. Please see Calculator Guidelines for more information.

The reading/writing section assesses your reading comprehension by asking the tester to edit a passage of text that has a variety of "problems" related to grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. There are also multiple-choice format questions.

For more information about what to expect on COMPASS, select Sample Test Questions or COMPASS Test-Prep Review.

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When will I find out my scores?

Immediately after testing, you will be provided with a print-out showing your scores. A testing staff person will review this information with you.

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What if I don't do very well, can I retake the exam?

Every student is offered a maximum of two chances to take the placement exam. A student must wait at least 30 days before retesting.

After a student has used those two chances to test, approval from the department chair must be given before a student can reschedule and retake the exam.

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Do I need to prepare before taking COMPASS?

COMPASS testing is designed to assess your current skills, in order to determine your readiness for college classes. For more information about what to expect on COMPASS, select Sample Test Questions or COMPASS Test-Prep Review

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Tips for taking COMPASS:

* Relax! The COMPASS tests are designed to help you succeed in college. Once you identify your academic strengths and needs, you can select the right courses and get the help you need to improve underdeveloped skills.

* Pace yourself! Test questions increase in difficulty, and there is no time limit for COMPASS.

* Ask questions if you do not understand the process for COMPASS. Testing staff are available to help you.

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