COMPASS Placement

COMPASS is the computerized English & Math placement exam at Seattle Central College. All tests are multiple–choice and done with a keyboard and / or mouse.

Appointments are not made for COMPASS. COMPASS testing is strictly walk–in. You must arrive at least 45 minutes before closing to begin testing.

COMPASS Testing Times

  • Mondays: 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (must arrive no later than 4:45 p.m.)
  • Tuesdays: 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays & Thursdays: 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (must arrive no later than 4:45 p.m.)

COMPASS Prep for College Success

Don't take the COMPASS cold! Attend a free preparation workshop to refresh your skills or practice online. Go to beforeyoutest.org to find the most current workshop calendar.


What You Need to Know Before You Test

  • Weekend Testing is not available.
  • You will need to know your Student ID Number (not your Social Security #) from Admissions to take COMPASS. (Running Start students should visit the Running Start Office.)
  • There are 16 COMPASS stations: first come, first served. (Busiest times are 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
  • There is no time limit to the COMPASS test. You may take as much time as you need; it will not affect your scores in any way. If you do not finish at one time, the test can be saved, and you can return to finish within 30 days. Two hours is the average for the whole test (English & Math), but this varies a great deal.
  • Once you answer a question you cannot go back to change it. Be sure you are ready to go on!
  • You will never be told if your answers are correct or not.
  • You will receive a score for each section of the test. A perfect score is always 99.
  • When you come to test, you will be asked whether you need to take English only, Math only, or both English and Math. It is your responsibility to know what tests you need to take. If you take only one section and then have to come back and take the other section, you will be charged the full fee both times.

Testing Policies

  • Photo I.D. must be presented before testing, or picking up scores.
  • Testing fee is $19.
  • Please come to the Testing Office first for a payment slip to take to the Cashier. Cash, check, or cards are accepted until 4 p.m. on weekdays. After 4pm or on weekends, exact change cash or check only (made out to Seattle Central).
  • By law, scores are never released over the phone or e–mail. They may be sent by mail only by written request.
  • Score reports print immediately after testing. You will receive one free copy. Do not lose it! Additional copies from the Testing Office are $3. You may make photocopies of your own if you wish.
  • Scores are valid for 3 years only.
  • To re–test you must wait 90 days, and re–pay the fee, unless you present a waiver signed by an Seattle Central counselor. Waivers must be obtained in advance and presented at the time of testing.
  • Dictionaries are not allowed (except for Math Tests if English is not your first language.)
  • There is a standard MS Windows calculator built into the math program for you to use, with both basic and scientific functions. You may bring your own non–graphing calculator if you wish. Sharing calculators is not allowed.
  • Pencils and scratch paper are provided.
  • Babies and small children are not allowed in the testing room. If they are left in the lobby they must have supervision.
  • Pagers, cell phones, & personal stereos must be turned off. No personal headphones.
  • Testing staff are available to assist with computer use and interpreting scores, but may not assist with answering test questions.
  • If you have a problem with your computer, let the staff know. Please do not try to fix it yourself.

English Testing

There are two types of English Test:

English–Second–Language (ESL)
You should take this test if English is not your native language. You will be tested in Listening, Grammar, and Reading.
Sample questions for this test can be found at: act.org/esl/sample.html

English for Native Speakers
You should take this test if you are a native speaker of English. You may also take this test if you are bi–lingual in English and another language. You will be tested in Writing and Reading.
Sample questions for this test can be found at: act.org/compass/sample/

Both tests have the same level of difficulty, and both can place you in classes from pre–college English to English 101. You should only take one type of English test. It is not necessary to take both.


Math Testing

If you take the Math Test:

  • Viewing the sample tests available in the Testing Office is strongly recommended.
  • Sample questions can also be found online at: act.org/compass/sample/math.html
  • You will be asked what level of math you wish to begin with. You will be given three choices:
    Easier Items (Basic Math, Math 081 & 084),
    Medium Items (Math 084, 085, & 098),
    More Difficult Items (Math 098, 103, 107, 109, 116 / 141, 142, 151).
  • It does not matter which level you pick. If you answer questions correctly, they will become more difficult and work up through the levels; answer incorrectly, and they will become easier and work down. If you miss too many, the computer will eventually stop you.
  • You will not be told when the computer changes between levels of math.
  • Once you have picked a level, you cannot go back and choose a different one. If you choose a level that is too hard for you, you should do your best until you see something you are sure you can do. This does not affect your score. If you choose a very easy level, you will have to work up to your highest level.

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