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Accelerated Programs for Adults



COMPASS Placement Information

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Who takes the COMPASS placement test?

Students, who have not yet completed the pre-requisites or requirements for SAU's general education courses in Mathematics and/or English, may need to take the COMPASS tests. An Admissions Representative or your Academic Advisor will let you know which test(s) you need. If you completed a COMPASS placement test within the last two years, we will accept the scores from that institution.

What is the purpose of the COMPASS tests?

The COMPASS test assesses your skill levels in math and English. The test scores are equated to the skill levels needed for specific courses and assist in identifying if remedial coursework is needed in math or English. Please note: Students do not pass or fail the COMPASS tests. It is simply meant to increase your opportunity for success as you begin taking accelerated courses.  Students scoring at specific levels may be able to test out of math and/or English general education requirements.

When are the COMPASS tests offered at ACCEL 

  • The following Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in 2014
    • May 14th
    • June 11th

How do I register for the COMPASS tests at ACCEL?

Only six seats are available for each test date, so register early. You can register by simply completing this form. Please include your name, preferred phone, and email address. You will have the opportunity to designate your 1st and 2nd choice of testing dates. Every effort will be made to accommodate your first choice. The cut-off date for registration is two days prior to each testing date. Note: Registration for the placement tests is required; no walk-ins can be accommodated.

Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation from the Accelerated Programs office. The confirmation will indicate the assigned date of your COMPASS test.

Register for the COMPASS test online

Where are the tests given?

Placement tests will be administered in small groups. Call 563/333-5700 for the location since it has recently changed.

What is the charge for taking the COMPASS tests?

Students taking the COMPASS test for the first time at SAU may do so at no charge. Those who would like to re-test on any portion of the test will be charged $15, payable by check or cash at the time of the retest.

If I am not an SAU student, can I take the COMPASS test at SAU and transfer my scores to another intuition?

Yes, you may test at St. Ambrose and then request that your scores be transferred to another school. There is a $15 fee for this service, and it's payable by check or cash at the time of the test. Please register using this form. On the day of the test, we ask that you please bring a written request to have your scores mailed/faxed to the school of choice. It should include your name, the institution name, and contact information.

What do I need to do on the day of my test?

  • Arrive at the testing site 15 minutes before the test begins. If you arrive after the test has begun, you will need to reschedule.
  • Bring a picture ID
  • Bring a general or scientific calculator (optional)
  • Cell phones and electronic devices are not permitted

How long do the tests take to complete?

 Each student tests at a different pace and the maximum allowed time is three hours. Should you finish prior to that time, you will be able to leave.

What will be covered in the math test?

The COMPASS math test may cover topics of Pre-Algebra, Algebra, College Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.

Pre-Algebra whole numbers, fractions, absolute value, square roots, decimals, ratios & proportions, and order of operations

Algebra calculating distance using distance formula and the slope of a line, graphing solutions to linear equations, simplifying polynomials and rational expressions, solving algebraic equations and polynomial equations by factoring 

College Algebra finding the value of factorials, graphing of polynomial functions, solving problems with exponential functions, problems using standard complex forms, problems with inverse functions, problems with composition of functions.

A regular and scientific calculator is included in the testing program; however, students may bring their own calculator. 

What will be covered in the English test?

In the Writing Skills test, you will be presented with passages on the computer screen and asked to read them to find errors in punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Upon finding the mistakes, you can correct them by selecting the appropriate text segment from among the alternatives given. After editing each passage, you will be asked 1-3 questions about the passage. This reading comprehension will evaluate your ability to: refer to explicit statements in the reading passage, determine meaning using context, draw conclusions, make comparisons and generalizations.

The e-Write component evaluates your ability to write in a timed, first-draft situation. You will be given a hypothetical situation and audience. You must take a stand on the issue and explain to the audience why the position you have taken is the better or best alternative. Please remember to follow the instructions and develop your position in a coherent and logical manner, using clear ideas and effective language. It is wise to write a minimum of 3-4 paragraphs in order to receive a successfully graded score on the areas of strategy, organization, and style. 

How can I prepare for the tests?

The COMPASS Web site provides in-depth resources for preparing for the test.
Tips for test-taking can be found at:
Sample test questions are available at:

Additionally, there are other sites that may assist you in brushing up on math or writing skills: 



What happens after I finish the tests?

Once you complete the required placement tests, you will be allowed to leave. Your Admissions Representative or Academic Advisor will be in contact you within two business days to explain your scores and suggest necessary math or English course sequences.

What do I do if I cannot come to my scheduled placement test session?

Student who are unable to attend their schedule testing session, or arrive after the test has begun, will need to reschedule. Please provide as much advance notice as possible, as other students may be on a waiting list to take the tests.