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ACT Compass®

Year Introduced



ACT Compass is a computer- or Internet-delivered adaptive test that allows educators to evaluate students’ skill levels for appropriate course placement in postsecondary institutions. Five subject areas are measured: reading, writing skills, writing essay, mathematics, and English as a second language.

Intended Users

College and university students and course placement/advising personnel

Volume/Number of Users

Annually, more than 1.9 million students use ACT Compass.

Additional Facts

ACT Compass tests are untimed, designed for individual or group administration, and offer immediate scoring.

ACT Compass offers:

  • Fast and accurate results to guide optimal course placement decisions
  • Customization of test packages, cutoff scores, and placement messages as defined by each institution
  • Comprehensive reporting at the student and program level to ensure optimal student advising decisions and program evaluation decisions based on empirical data
  • High school outreach for early intervention and dual-enrollment programs in feeder high schools
  • Remote testing to meet the assessment needs of students anywhere in the country

Tests include:

  • Reading Placement: a multiple-choice test that helps determine if students have the reading skills they need to succeed in standard entry-level college courses.
  • Writing Skills Placement: a multiple-choice test that requires students to find and correct errors in essays, including basic grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.
  • Writing Essay (e-Write): e-Write can be used alone or in conjunction with the Writing Skills Test to place students in appropriate English courses.
  • Mathematics Placement: a multiple-choice test that evaluates students’ ability levels in terms of basic mathematical performance and application skills such as demonstrating conceptual understanding of principles and relationships for mathematical operations.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL): Tests assessing non-native English speakers’ abilities in Listening, Reading, Grammar/Usage for placement in appropriate ESL courses.

The College Readiness Benchmarks for ACT Compass are designed to be comparable to the College Readiness Benchmarks for the ACT® test. As with the benchmarks for the ACT, ACT Compass benchmarks might not serve as the appropriate course placement score at all colleges. Rather, the ACT Compass benchmarks represent a criterion for success for a typical student at a typical college. ACT will work with each postsecondary institution to conduct its own validation studies to establish local benchmarks that can be used as college course placement scores.