Compass Test Format and Content

The ACT Compass test is a computer-administered, multiple-choice formatted test with no time limitations, built to identify the necessary college-level skills in students applying to higher education institutions. The test consists of computer adaptive questions that increase or decrease in difficulty level according to your answers to previous questions, and three primary sections: math, reading, and writing.

Math Placement

The Compass math test assesses students’ skills in five fundamental concepts: 

  • pre-algebra 
  • algebra
  • college algebra
  • geometry
  • trigonometry

Test takers will be required to perform basic arithmetic operations, apply these operations in more complex ways, and demonstrate conceptual understanding of mathematical principles. The math Compass test begins with algebraic problems and either moves to higher or lower level math problems depending on the student’s current math skills; a calculator may be used on this section of the exam. The scores from this Compass test are used for placement in mathematics courses.

Reading Placement

The Compass reading test uses following reading comprehension passages to evaluate standard college skills:

  • practical reading
  • prose fiction
  • humanities
  • social sciences
  • natural sciences

The test consists of 3-5 short passages followed by a set of questions that require using critical thinking skills, drawing logical conclusions and inferences, and analyzing complicated text. Scores on this Compass placement test are used for placement into reading and English classes.

Writing Skills

The Compass writing test consists of 2-4 “flawed” essays that require students to identify and correct errors. These may include mistakes in: 

  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • grammar
  • sentence structure
  • verb formation
  • relationships of clauses

There is also the e-Write, the ACT Compass essay test that is the only non-multiple choice formatted exam, requiring students to respond to a question or an issue by providing a persuasive position. These combined results are used as placement into composition courses or others that require a certain writing skills level.

Compass Practice Tests

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