COMPASS Test FAQs

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Frequently Asked Questions:


1. What is the COMPASS Placement Test?

  • The COMPASS Placement Test is designed to assist the institution in placing students into appropriate math & English courses and, if necessary, into developmental or preparatory courses.

2. Who must take the COMPASS Test?
Students (except those with credit for taking AP calculus) will need to take all or part of the COMPASS test if: 

  • They have not taken the ACT within five years from date of enrollment and have not taken and passed any college level math or English courses.
  • If they scored 25 or above on their ACT math, they are required to take the COMPASS test for accurate math course placement.
  • They scored 24 or less on their ACT math and want to challenge their course placement. Students have the option of taking the higher of the two scores, but are warned that a deficiency warrants serious contemplation, and students should consider the class that best reflects the requirements of math success. At School of Mines, advanced math is a mainstay in the curriculum, regardless of major.
  • They scored 17 or less on their ACT English test.

3. Why is the COMPASS Test required? 

  • The COMPASS test assists the school in placing students in the most appropriate classes that lead to success in a field of study.

4. How do I best prepare for the COMPASS Test? 

  • Become familiar with the high school math (such as algebra, geometry and trigonometry) and English grammar/punctuation skills.
  • Review the ACT/COMPASS website which has sample questions and test items. Additional information regarding the COMPASS test is available on the website for placement and diagnostic purposes. For students wanting to review algebra and trigonometry skills, the COMPASS Math Tutorials webpage has PowerPoint presentations and video excerpts.
  • Stay calm and do not rush through the test. The COMPASS is not timed.
  • Be reasonably comfortable in test taking situations (do not experience above normal test anxiety).
  • Sleep well the night before the test. 

The math portion of the test does not require a calculator, but you may bring your own (except Hewlett Packard (HP) 89 and HP 92) to SDSM&T administrations and most other testing centers. If you do not bring a calculator, one is embedded in the test program. It is a continuum of tests, beginning with pre-algebra and continuing on to algebra, college algebra, trigonometry & pre-calculus. If it has been a couple of years since you took algebra or if you are rusty in trigonometry, you may want to review these subjects so you will perform better on the test.

5. If I am a transfer student, do I have to take the COMPASS Test?

  • If you have completed and passed calculus I, but have not taken a trigonometry course, you still must be trigonometry proficient to take Calculus II. This requires that you take the COMPASS test. If you have a grade of C or better in college algebra, you may take trigonometry without taking the COMPASS test. If you have a grade of C or better in college trigonometry, you may take Calculus I, without taking the COMPASS test.
6. If I have taken AP Calculus do I need to take the COMPASS Test?

  • Students who complete an AP Calculus class and score a “3” or higher on the placement test will be placed in the next higher Calculus class (Calc II for AP-AB; Calc III for AP-BC); a COMPASS test is not required.
  • Students who complete an AP Calculus class, but fail to score a “3” or higher on the placement test, must take the COMPASS test to determine proper Math class placement.
  • Any student may voluntarily request to enter a lower level math class than determined by placement method if he/she is not comfortable with the higher level of placement.
7.  What happens if I think the results of the COMPASS Test are not an accurate reflection of my abilities?

  • You have one opportunity to challenge your COMPASS test score and retake the exam; however, there is an administrative cost of $17.00.
8. How do I make arrangements to take the COMPASS Test?

  • Arrangements can be made by going to the new student checklist on the SDSM&T homepage or by calling the registrar and academic services office at (605) 394-2400.
  • It is given at all SD Regental intuitions, and they will administer the test for the students coming to the School of Mines. Contact the School of Mines for further information.
  • The COMPASS is also administered on the Mondays following the First program orientation during the summer. However, students are not enrolled in Fall classes until after the COMPASS is taken, so they are encouraged to take the COMPASS as soon as possible rather than postponing the test for a later date. Contact the registrar and academic services office at (605) 394-2400.
  • The COMPASS is a national test used by many technical and community colleges, as well as universities. If you do not live close to a South Dakota university, and want to take the test without traveling to the area, you may contact Linn Miller at linn.miller@sdsmt.edu or (605) 394-2428 or the registrar and academic services office at (605) 394-2400 to find a school closer to your home. The school would have to send the School of Mines the scores via fax at (605) 394-1268.
9. Is there a cost to take the COMPASS Test?

  • No, unless you are challenging a course placement based on an ACT of 24 or less or placement by a previous administration of the COMPASS test. If you are challenging a prior placement, the fee is $17.00.
10. What happens after I take the COMPASS Test?

  • With your COMPASS test scores and utilizing registration information, the School of Mines will construct a unique semester schedule just for you. You will be given an opportunity to choose general education classes by going to a course registration webpage and to discuss your scores and courses with a professional from Registrar and Academic Services.
11. Is there a chart that shows how COMPASS test scores impact math and English placement?

  • Yes

12. Who and how do I contact someone if I have questions about the COMPASS Test?

Registrar and Academic Services Offices
E-mail: Linn.Miller@sdsmt.edu or Tammy.Moore@sdsmt.edu
Phone: (605) 394-24                     Phone:  (605) 394-2400