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Plaza College Current Students


ACT COMPASS Placement Testing 

 COMPASS provides measures of key skills useful for placing students into standard courses in the areas of writing, reading, and mathematics, and if needed, into English as a Second Language courses. The standard COMPASS placement measures, mathematics, reading, and writing, are designed to assist institutions in placing students into appropriate college-credit courses or developmental or preparation courses" (COMPASS Reference Manual, 2).

Ability-to-Benefit Testing- (FAQ)

Plaza College is now an official Ability-to-Benefit Testing Site. 

Why do I need to take an Ability to Benefit (ATB) exam? What exactly is meant by ATB?
If you do not have a US high school diploma or recognized equivalent such as a GED, you must take and pass an ability to benefit (ATB) exam approved by the NYS Board of Regents and the US Department of Education that has been designated by your school to be eligible to apply for certain financial aid and scholarship programs. Passing the COMPASS demonstrates the student's ability to benefit (ATB) from college classes.

If you have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from high school, is this considered the same as a high school diploma or GED for State aid purposes?
No, an IEP diploma is not equivalent to a local or Regents high school diploma. You will still need to take and pass the COMPASS.

If I graduated from a university outside the United States, do I still need to pass the COMPASS ATB exam?
Yes, you will need to take and pass the ATB exam to be considered for funding.

Will I be able to retake the COMPASS exam if I do not pass?
You may be able to take the COMPASS a second time.  Your eligibility will be discussed with you by Assessment Center staff and your admissions counselor.

Are high school diplomas earned in US territories acceptable to be eligible for aid?
Yes, high school diplomas earned from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands and qualify you to be eligible to apply for State aid.

What forms of identification are required to enter the test site? 
A government-issued, picture ID is required for to enter the COMPASS testing site. Acceptable forms of identification include a state-issued ID (a driver's license, non-driver ID), a military ID, or any government issued ID (valid passport, benefits card).

If you do not have appropriate photo identification, you will not be allowed to test. There are no exceptions to this rule!


The COMPASS exam is an untimed exam where answers are chosen by clicking the computer mouse.  There is no essay component.  Questions are asked in the areas of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.  The ESL/COMPASS exam is an untimed exam where answers are chosen by clicking the computer mouse.  There is no essay component.  Questions are asked in the areas of Reading, Grammar/Usage, Listening, and Math.  Applicants taking the ESL/COMPASS exam can use their own headphones or may borrow them from the Assessment Center.  All components of each test must be completed in one test administration; individual component scores cannot be used in combination with those from other test administrations.

Calculator Usage

Students may use their own calculator.  However, nothing more advanced than a TI-86 may be used for the ACT COMPASS test. Student testers have the option of using the calculator that is built into the ACT COMPASS test.

Reading (Part of the ESL and non-ESL testing)
This test measures reading comprehension in terms of the tester's ability to refer and reason.

Writing (Part of the non-ESL testing)
This test assesses a student's abilities in the categories of usage/mechanics (punctuation, basic grammar and usage, sentence structure) and rhetorical skills (strategy, organization, style).

Grammar/Usage (Part of the ESL testing)
The ESL Grammar/Usage test assesses students' abilities to recognize and manipulate standard American English in two areas: Sentence Elements and Sentence Structure and Syntax. 

Listening (Part of the ESL testing)
The ESL Listening test assesses students' abilities to recognize and manipulate standard American English in the two major categories of Explicit Information (listening for explicitly stated information) and Implicit Information (listening for implicitly stated information). 

Math (Part of the ESL and non-ESL testing)
Plaza College students are expected to display proficiency in pre-algebra.

Receiving Score Report

Students will receive their ACT COMPASS score report immediately upon completion of testing; this report will provide the student with scores. Assessment Center staff will interpret the scores for prospective students and refer them to their Admissions counselors for further information.

Minimum COMPASS Score Achievement Requirements for ATB Students as established by ACT

(effective for students tested June 19, 2002, and beyond)


ATB Minimum Score

Writing Skills




Pre-Algebra/Numerical Skills


Minimum ESL/COMPASS Score Achievement ATB Qualifying Scores for the ESL Tests in the COMPASS System

(effective for students tested May 19, 2006, and beyond)


ATB Minimum Score

ESL Grammar/Usage


ESL Reading


ESL Listening


Special Accommodations

If a prospective student needs special testing accommodations, he or she needs to provide documentation from an educational evaluator.

Testing Times

COMPASS and ESL/COMPASS tests are administered once daily, Monday through Friday.  Your Admissions counselor will schedule you to attend a College Skills Preview Seminar and then you will take the exam the next business day.