What’s The Difference Between the Accuplacer and the Compass Test? ACCUPLACER and ACT COMPASS are computer adaptive tests. These tests are conducted by colleges to determine the ability of a student to conform to college level academic discipline.  But there are differences between ACCUPLACER  and  ACT COMPASS tests.


Question Bank

ACCUPLACER has a pool of around 3000 questions from which it makes a selection while ACT COMPASS has around 2400 questions in its bank.

Background Questions

Answering background questions are mandatory before taking the ACCUPLACER test. Colleges are, however, allowed to decide the questions. Unlike ACCUPLACER, ACT COMPASS has declared the procedure of seeking additional information from aspiring students as optional.

Tests Conducted

ACCUPLACER comprise 5 multiple choice tests:

  • Arithmetic;
  • College level mathematics;
  • Elementary algebra;
  • Sentence building;
  • Reading and comprehension


Unlike ACCUPLACER, ACT COMPASS conducts 5 multiple choice tests in mathematics (numerical skills, geometry, algebra, college algebra and trigonometry), in addition to reading and writing.

In the case of students for whom English is not the first language. ACCUPLACER assesses English proficiency by testing:

  • Listening;
  • Reading;
  • Language use, and,
  • Sentence formation.

ACT COMPASS conducts ESL tests in listening, grammar and reading.

ACCUPLACER also evaluates writing ability – WritePlacer ESL and WritePlacer Plus.  The equivalent test conducted by ACT COMPASS is called E-Write.


Number of questions

ACCUPLACER subject all students to the same number of questions. Unlike ACCUPLACER, ACT COMPASS decides the number of questions according to the ability of each student.  By and large, each student ends up answering between 8 to 12 questions per test.  In ACCUPLACER, the English language tests each have 20 multiple choice questions. 12 multiple choice questions constitute the elementary algebra test and 17, the arithmetic test.

Equipment Allowed

ACCUPLACER prohibits the use of calculators for any of its mathematics tests. Unlike ACCUPLACER, ACT COMPASS permits the use of approved calculators for its tests.

Writing Tests

ACCUPLACER has not set time limits for any of its tests except the WritePlacer Plus. The time to be allowed is, however, at the discretion of the colleges. Students have to write an essay of between 300 words to 600 words. The essay is assessed on a scale of 2 -12 points. Unlike ACCUPLACER, ACT COMPASS has refrained from specifying the number of words for its essay. The essays are rated on a scale of 2 -8 points.

ACCUPLACER and ACT COMPASS both permit the students to either type the essay on the computer or handwrite the essay (provided the school makes the handwriting option available). ACCUPLACER and ACT COMPASS both use the Intellimetric system for evaluating the essays.


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Maximum Marks

With the exception of the E-Write which is graded, each of the ACT COMPASS tests is worth a maximum of 100 marks. Each ACCUPLACER test has a maximum of 120 marks allocated (except the WritePlus which is a graded test).

Cut Scores

A student cannot fail the ACCUPLACER or ACT COMPASS tests. The colleges have the freedom to decide their cut-off scores which may depend on college’s specific standards. The basic objective of both the ACCUPLACER and the ACT COMPASS tests is to aid the colleges in deciding whether the student should be admitted in a remedial or development course or is good for absorption in college level academics.


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