COMPASS® ESL Test

The goal of this COMPASS test is to place ESL students in appropriate college or university courses. This test measures the following abilities of students who are not native English speakers:

  • Listening – Items progress from low level questions that require students to match spoken words with corresponding pictures to high level questions that ask students to draw inferences about various academic subjects. As items increase in difficulty, students are required to understand more complex vocabulary, a faster rate of speech, more complicated diction, as well as a variety of idioms and metaphorical language. The goal of the test is to measure listening skills in order to determine a student’s ability to understand spoken Standard American English.
  • Reading – This section consists of passages that range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs, depending on the difficulty level. At lower difficulty levels, students are asked referring questions about explicitly stated material. At higher difficulty levels, students must answer reasoning questions based on inferential reading. Along with reading passages, students may also be asked to follow directions using a map or diagram. In addition, students may have to interpret graphs, charts, tables, or photographs. The ultimate goal of this part of the test is to determine how well the student is able to read Standard American English.
  • Grammar/Usage – This section tests the student’s ability to understand the sentence elements, structure, and syntax of Standard American English. Some of the sentence elements that students will be expected to recognize include subjects, objects, verbs, modifiers, and word formation, as well as such conventions as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. The types of sentence structure and syntax questions students can expect to encounter include those dealing with relationships between and among clauses, word order, agreement, and how words function within a text. In this part of the test, students are tested on whether they can use proper grammar to communicate effectively.
  • Essay (e-Write) – Students are asked to write an essay. A grade is assigned by assessing the following areas: organization, development, focus, language use, and mechanics. The overall score is based on a weighted average of each of the above components.