What to Expect on the Compass


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1 What to Expect on the Compass
2 What is 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 testtakers 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.
3 What is the Compass? This group of exams that make up the COMPASS test measures a potential college student's skill level in reading, writing, and math. Unlike other tests, the COMPASS test does not have a "passing" score. Instead, the test is used to determine a student's strengths and weaknesses, which may indicate the need for additional assistance. Despite the fact that students are not given a failing or passing grade, it is important that test takers do their best on the COMPASS test so that their results will accurately reflect their ability level in each of the different subject areas. Colleges give the COMPASS test to incoming students in order to decide which classes they should take. The COMPASS test is also used to identify problem areas students might have so the university can offer extra help, support, or resources in order to ensure students are successful academically in their postsecondary education. Test takers receive their COMPASS testing scores and a report as soon as they complete the test. The report includes information about what courses they should take and how they should proceed with registering for these courses.
4 Compass Test Breakdown This test is designed to determine the skill level of students in the following areas: Reading (includes questions that cover a variety of topics, such as humanities, prose fiction, social sciences, natural sciences, and practical reading) Writing (tests a student's knowledge of basic grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure, along with his or her ability to improve the organization, style, and content of a given passage) Math (measures numerical skills and knowledge of prealgebra, algebra, collegelevel algebra, geometry, and trigonometry concepts)
5 Compass Reading The Reading portion of the test, is a multiple choice test used to determine the reading level and reading ability of students in the following areas: Reading comprehension (how well students understand what they read) Vocabulary (whether students understand the types of words they are likely to encounter in the material they will be required to read at the college level) Reader profile (whether students can determine the intended audience for a particular passage)
6 Compass Reading The five different passage types students will encounter are: Practical reading (the types of documents someone might encounter in everyday life, such as advertising brochures, business letters, and consumer manuals) Prose fiction (made up stories that often contain characters and dialogue) Humanities (nonfiction accounts of the human condition) Social sciences (studies on the social life of human groups) Natural sciences (a naturalistic approach to the study of the universe)
7 Compass Reading Students will encounter both referring and reasoning questions on the COMPASS reading test. Referring items tend to be a little easier because they ask questions about content that is explicitly stated in the reading passage. Reasoning items are more difficult, requiring students to possess a clear understanding of the text, make inferences, and use context clues to figure out the meanings of difficult or unfamiliar words.
8 Compass Writing The Writing Skills Placement Test is given in a multiple choice format, and tests knowledge of basic grammar. Test takers are required to identify and correct mistakes in essays, and will encounter one or more passages on the test that contain multiple grammatical errors. When they find a mistake in the essay, students click on that part of the passage. Several alternatives will then be presented. Students should read the alternate choices carefully in order to determine which one best corrects the grammatical mistake.
9 Compass Writing The writing test covers the following key concepts: Skills in basic grammar usage and mechanics, including: Verb formation/agreement (whether students can identify the correct form of the verb tense  past, present, future, etc.  and determine whether it agrees with the singular or plural subject) Relationship of clauses (whether students can recognize if clauses used in the passage logically relate to each other and make sense) Shifts in construction (whether students can recognize if a piece of writing starts in present tense and changes to past tense, or vice versa) Spelling (whether students are able to recognize the correct spelling of certain words) Capitalization (whether students know when capital letters should be used) Punctuation (whether students know when to use commas, semicolons, colons, etc.) Sentence structure (whether students can recognize errors in how sentences are composed)
10 Compass Writing Rhetorical skills, including: Organization (whether students can determine the best order for sentences so that paragraphs flow logically, and also whether they can determine the best way to order paragraphs in order to make sure the writing passage makes sense) Style (whether students can determine the most effective way to use language in a given type of writing) Writing strategy (whether students can recognize the best way to go about composing a given essay)
11 Compass Math The Math Placement Test is a multiplechoice test designed to evaluate a student's math abilities and basic skills in the following areas: PreAlgebra Mean, median, and mode Fractions, decimals, and percentages Integers, exponents, square roots, and scientific notation Algebra Basic operations/factoring polynomials Setting up equations and substitution Linear equations with one or two variables Radicals and rational expressions College Algebra Matrices (basic operations, equations, and determinants) Arithmetic and geometric sequences and series Functions and complex numbers Geometry
12 Compass Math Geometry Angles (complementary, supplementary, adjacent, and vertical) Rectangles (area and perimeter) Triangles (area, perimeter, and Pythagorean theorem) Circles (area, arcs, perimeter, etc.) Threedimensional concepts Hybrid and composite shapes Trigonometry Special angles (multiples of 30 and 45 degrees) Trigonometric identities and functions Trigonometric equations and inequalities Righttriangle trigonometry Graphs of trigonometric functions
13 Compass Math At the lowest level, students will be tested on whether or not they are able to perform a sequence of basic operations. At higher levels, students will have to apply basic operations and sequences in either complex or novel ways. At the highest level, students will be expected to demonstrate a conceptual understand of the principles and relationships of mathematical operations. Students are allowed to use calculators on the Math Placement Test.
14 COMPASS Test Tips, Pointers, and Advice Don't stress out! Remember, the goal of the COMPASS test is to help you succeed at your chosen college or university. Your scores will help your school decide which classes are best suited to your ability level. The good news is that once you know what your academic weaknesses are, you can get the help you need to improve in these areas.
15 Prior to taking the COMPASS tests, you can prepare yourself by: Using the Study Guide: Understanding that the COMPASS test is not timed and that you can work at your own pace. Scheduling enough time to take the test. Each test typically takes between 20 and 30 minutes to complete, but these times can vary, so it's a good idea to set aside a few hours of your day to complete the exam. Arriving early enough before the test begins to allow yourself time to locate the testing area, go to the bathroom, get a drink, etc. It's important not to feel rushed so that you have time to gather your thoughts before the test begins.
16 While taking the COMPASS test, you can maximize your score by: Carefully reading the directions for each test and making sure you understand them. Reading each question carefully so that you understand exactly what it is asking. Completing all of the steps necessary to answer each test question. Answering every item. Remember, you will not be penalized for guessing. Answering all questions will provide better placement information to the college or university looking at your test results. Changing an answer only if you are convinced that what you originally put down was wrong. Focusing on the test and not letting yourself get distracted by anything else going on in the room.
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