Compass Placement Test

Testing materials

Compass Placement Test


Carl Sandburg College wants you to be successful in your course work; the COMPASS placement tests for reading, English and mathematics are required for new applicants.  COMPASS scores determine a student’s mandatory placement into college-level courses (classes with course number 100 and above), developmental education courses (classes with course number <100), or referral to the Adult Learning Center.  Our goal is to ensure proper placement into appropriate courses for your skill level.   There is no charge** to take the COMPASS placement test (up to 2 attempts).  Test results are valid for 5 years.


It is very important that applicants do their best work on the placement test so that they are placed appropriately in courses where they can succeed and make progress. Applicants must demonstrate an 8th grade reading level.  Time spent in developmental courses will delay enrollment into college level courses.  It is highly recommended that applicants prepare for the placement test. 


Note:  In lieu of COMPASS testing, official ACT scores will be accepted for placement if the test was taken within two years of the admission date to Carl Sandburg College.  Minimum score requirements are as follows:
English/Writing: 20
Reading: 20
Mathematics: 25


Applicants wishing to use their ACT test for placement will need to have ACT send official scores
to Carl Sandburg College. Official high school transcripts with the ACT score will also be accepted.


Frequently Asked Questions

When will I need to take the COMPASS placement test?

  • After completion of a Sandburg application, you may then schedule your test.
  • Before an applicant meets with an advisor to register for classes, testing is required.


Where can I take the COMPASS test?

  • The test is administered at all 3 Carl Sandburg College campus locations.
  • If out of district, arrangements may be made to test at your local community college, via remote testing.   Advanced planning is required for this option.


How do I register for the COMPASS test?

  • Main Campus in Galesburg – call (309)-345-3500 or register online.
  • Branch Campus in Carthage – call (217)-357-3129.
  • Extension Center in Bushnell – call (309)-772-2177.


If I have a documented disability, can I receive accommodations for the COMPASS test?

  • Applicants who need to take the COMPASS test with accommodations based on their disability should contact the Coordinator of Academic Support Services by calling, (309)-341-5262 to make arrangements.


What can I expect on the day of testing?

  • A brief orientation that will include information about campus resources and purpose of the COMPASS.
  • The test consists of three sections; reading, English, mathematics.   Applicants must demonstrate an 8th grade reading level.  Sections are untimed.  Do not be concerned with the completion time of other test takers!  Most applicants take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour per test.  If you are taking all three tests, plan on spending 2.5 hours to complete your placement testing.
  • Post-COMPASS advising provided upon completion of tests.  Staff provides you a copy of your score report, reviews tests results, goals and answers questions.


What should I bring on the day of testing?

  • You must bring a photo ID (driver’s license, state ID, passport or school ID are acceptable forms of ID).
  • You must know your Social Security number.
  • You may choose to bring your own calculator, even though the testing center will provide one.  An on-line calculator will also be available for your use.
  • A positive attitude! 


I was not satisfied with my COMPASS test results.  Can I take the test over?

  • An applicant might feel that they were not prepared.  Sometimes an applicant might feel that their health was not optimal, thus preventing successful demonstration of their skills.  Sometimes an applicant feels that the testing conditions were unsatisfactory.  For these and many other reasons, retesting is allowable under A.C.T. guidelines.
  • Applicants are allowed one retest.**

**Assessment Retests: An applicant can take the College’s assessment examination twice within a 12 month period without any fees assessed. Additional retests within the 12 month period will be subject to fees.

  • An applicant will be charged a fee of $10.00 per assessment or $25.00 for all three for any retests within the 12 month period after the two free chances.
  • Testing Center staff will complete the Assessment Retest Form and the applicant must then pay the fee at the Business Office at the Galesburg location or in the main office at Bushnell and Carthage.  The applicant will be required to submit the completed Assessment Retest Form that indicates proof of payment before they are allowed to sit for retesting.
  • There is a 24 hour waiting period between examinations; as additional time to study may be required.


Can I prepare for the COMPASS placement tests?

  • To assist you in your preparation, our staff strongly encourages you to check out the following links below; as well as the link entitled, "Test Prep Resources", which is located to the left of this web page.

What is Compass?

Compass Sample Test

Compass Practice Test