Angelo & Jennette Volpe Library

What is the COMPASS Placement Exam?

  • COMPASS--Computer-Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System--is a comprehensive software package developed by ACT to help postsecondary institutions place students into appropriate course levels.
  • COMPASS has been chosen by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) as an assessment tool used in determining a student's level of preparation for college-level courses.

What is the purpose of the COMPASS?

  • The COMPASS Placement Exam has two purposes:
    • First, it checks whether students have the skills to succeed in college-level courses.
    • Second, it helps to place students in whatever courses they are ready for.
  • COMPASS tests a student's academic preparation in three areas: Writing, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics. Students do not "PASS" or "FAIL" the COMPASS Placement Exam; it only determines current skill levels in the area(s) tested in order to place students appropriately.


  • There is a $20 charge for taking or re-taking the COMPASS Placement Exam.

Who must take the COMPASS Placement Exam?

  • The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) requires all universities, community colleges, and technical institutes in its system to follow certain requirements for admitting students. If you apply for regular freshman admission, you must meet these requirements. The following requirements are TBR minimums for regular freshman admission. The school to which you apply may require more.
    • If you are under twenty-one years of age, you must submit an official ACT or SAT score when you apply to be admitted.
    • If you have not taken the ACT or SAT, you will have to pay for and take the ACT before enrolling.
    • If your ACT scores are less than three years old as of the first day of classes for the term for which you are planning to enroll, you will be placed automatically by your ACT English, Math, and Reading subject scores [see Placement].
  • You may accept the ACT Placement, or if you wish to challenge this placement, you may take the COMPASS Placement Exam before registering for courses.
  • If you are twenty-one years old or older, you must take all of the COMPASS tests before registering for courses, or you may be screened according to your ACT score if it is less than three years old.
  • If you enroll in a college-level course and do not have the skills needed to succeed there, you will be referred for further testing, advising, and placement. The COMPASS may be part of this.
  • If you are a transfer student who has no transferrable college-level course in algebra-based mathematics and/or English, you must be tested in the appropriate COMPASS subject area(s). If you have fewer than 9 transferable hours, the ACT is also considered in determining testing requirements.
  • If you lack a high school unit in English or Algebra required for University Admission or Admission to a University Parallel Program at a 2-year college, you must remove this deficiency through the COMPASS Math or English requirements.

When and where will the COMPASS Placement Exam be given?

  • When you apply to a TBR school, you can get a schedule of the times and places that the test will be given.
  • The Admissions Office of each school can help you apply and schedule the ACT and/or COMPASS tests.
  • Want to take the COMPASS on the TTU campus?
    • Contact TTU's Learning Support Program (LSP) at 931-372-3456 to register for the exam.  Seating is limited so you must make an appointment.
    • When registering, you will be asked for your name, TTU Student ID (T Number), address, email, and phone number.
    • Check-in begins at 8:30am during the morning of the first day of the Student Orientation and Registration [SOAR] sessions. The test begins at 9am.  You are to report NO LATER than 15 minutes before test time.  If you come late, you may be rescheduled for a later test date.  The location of the test will be announced soon.
  • TTU accepts COMPASS Placement Exam scores from other schools.
    • The scores must come directly from the other school to TTU. We do not accept student copies as valid scores. You should request that the Testing Center where you tested fax your scores to TTU's Learning Support Program (LSP) at 931-372-6275.
    • One problem with testing at another school is that most testing centers only give the Math test that distinguishes whether or not you need learning support. The COMPASS Math Placement given at TTU begins in Algebra [about Algebra II level in high school] but will also test for College Algebra and Trigonometry. TTU's Math Department uses the College Algebra and Trigonometry scores to place students whose majors require Calculus.
  • TTU also makes appointments for prospective TTU students who live outside Tennessee or some distance from Cookeville and wish to test closer to home. The remote test setup is made through ACT/COMPASS and allows students to take TTU's placement at another school. In order to request a remote test for TTU, contact LSP at 931-372-3456. You will be asked for the following information: full name; TTU ID# [T#]; birthdate; Street Address, City, State, ZIP code; phone number; email address; which part(s) of the COMPASS Placement Exam you need [Reading, Writing, Math]; and the cities/towns community colleges/universities closest to your area.
  • Students with disabilities or students with special needs can take the tests under conditions that allow for their needs. If you have special needs, you should arrange for testing with the Admissions Office when you apply. The Office of Disability Services requires documentation of disability no later than three days prior to the testing date for which you are requesting accommodations. There is no extra charge for special testing.

How much time does the COMPASS Placement Exam require?

You should allow approximately two to three hours for the entire COMPASS Placement Exam. COMPASS is a self-paced, computerized test, which allows you to proceed at your own rate, so you might require more or less time than this estimate would indicate.

What must be brought to the test center?

You should bring the following information and supplies on the day of the test:

  • Photo ID [driver's license with photo, passport, TTU Eagle Card]
  • $20.00 testing or re-testing fee by cash or check made out to TTU/COMPASS Exam.
  • Your TTU student identification number [T-number].
  • Necessary supplies (paper, pencils, calculator) will be furnished by the testing facility.
  • COMPASS Placement Exam Requirement Letter from the college or university. This letter tells you which test(s) you need to take, where the tests are given, the required fee, and when you are scheduled for taking the test.

You may NOT bring books, dictionaries, calculators, notes, papers, or other aids into the testing center. Students who give or receive help during the COMPASS Placement Exam, use notes or aid of any kind, or remove (or attempt to remove) test materials from the testing center will not be admitted to the institution, and their test scores will be disallowed. Such students must wait at least ninety days before taking the test again, and may not enroll at any TBR school during that time.

What's on the COMPASS Placement Exam?

COMPASS Placement Exam results

After your COMPASS Test has been scored, you will need to pick up the results at the front of the Testing Center.

  • Test results are available by the time students finish the test. Your scores will be explained to you, and you will need to take a copy of these scores to your academic advisor.
  • For students who produce a writing sample, the essay portion of the test will be scored by committee and will not be available until later. The computerized COMPASS Writing Exam measures your editing skills. The essay measures your composition skills. The two will be used together to determine your Writing Placement, and your advisor will be notified of the placement.
  • When you have taken the test, your scores will be kept on file for use when you enroll for classes. If you transfer to another TBR school, your COMPASS scores will be forwarded upon your request. Circumstances may make retaking the COMPASS necessary.

How will the COMPASS Placement Exam scores be used?

When you take the copy of your COMPASS Placement Exam scores to your academic advisor, they will be used when choosing your courses for the term. Your advisor will help you to choose and register for the courses you take or make adjustments to courses for which you may have been pre-registered. Your scores will be used to place you in either college-level courses or the classes with learning support that you need. Requirements for learning support must be given priority over any other course requirements for your major.

Basic (Remedial) courses are NOT offered at TTU. Such classes should be completed at a community college. TTU DOES provide Learning Support in Writing (ENGL1010 + READ1100), Reading (READ1010), and Mathematics ("L" sections of MATH1010, MATH1530, MATH1410/1420). For more information on these courses, see  Placement.  Courses required as the result of COMPASS assessment must be completed during the first term(s) of residency at the university.