Redefining the Classroom

Placement Exams (con't)

ACT/SAT test scores determine a student's initial placement into LSSU English and Mathematics courses.

Students may challenge their course placement by taking placement exams, prior to beginning coursework at LSSU . These placement exams are standardized exams provided by ACT and named COMPASS® and e-Write®. (read more below)

Placement Chart

Click here to view chart (PDF)

About the Placement Exams (COMPASS®)

  • COMPASS® is a comprehensive computerized adaptive testing system.
  • The exam tests the basic skills needed to succeed at LSSU and is used to place students properly in classes. This is not a "pass/ fail" test.
  • Much more than a series of tests on a network of computers, COMPASS® is a complete course placement and diagnostic assessment system.
  • The test from ACT helps place students into appropriate courses and maximizes the information to ensure student success.

COMPASS® FAQs  (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question Answer
How long will it take? The test is untimed. Most students will take about an hour per test. Students taking the Writing Skills Test are required to also take the COMPASS® e-Write exam.
How much will it cost? The cost is $5.00 (USD) per test. You may pay by US cash, check or money order, payable to Lake Superior State University. You may also add the fees to your student account.
How do I sign up for the test? Please call testing services at 906-635-2027 and schedule an appointment. Come to LBR, room 253 to take the test(s).
What do I need to bring? You will only need to bring a government issued picture ID. The COMPASS® software provides a drop-down calculator and the Testing Office will provide a calculator, pencils and scratch paper.
When do I get my scores? Immediately after the test.

COMPASS® Test Components

The Writing Skills is an untimed test based on 2 - 4 small articles. Questions include:

  • Usage and Mechanics: punctuation, basic grammar and usage
  • Rhetorical Skills: strategy, organization, style of standard written English
  • Suggestion: Go to the ACT website and review two sections: C. Writing Skills and Writing Skills (7 page PDF file).

The Numerical Skills Test is a 11-15 item, untimed test. It measures basic numerical skills and basic problem solving skills. Questions include:

  • Operations with whole numbers, decimals and fractions
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Conversion of fractions and decimals
  • Percentages
  • Number theory
  • Exponents
  • Order concepts with fractions and decimals
  • Prime numbers and prime factorization
  • Averages
  • Absolute value of numbers
  • Multiples and factors of integers
  • Square roots

The Elementary Algebra Test is a 11-15 item, untimed test. It tests skills commonly learned in a first-year high school algebra course. Questions include:

  • Evaluation of algebraic expressions
  • Setting up equations for given situations
  • Linear equations in one variable
  • Operations with polynomials
  • Integer exponents
  • Formula manipulation and field oxims
  • Factoring of polynomials
  • Solutions of linear equations

The Intermediate Algebra Test is a 11-15 item, untimed test. It tests skills commonly learned in a second year high school algebra course. Questions include:

  • Simplification of radicals
  • Polynomial equations
  • Graphs of linear equations
  • Solutions of the distance formula
  • Operations with radical and rational expressions
  • Exponents
  • Rational Expression
  • Solution of linear inequalities

The College Algebra Test is a 11-15 item, untimed test. It will assess skills commonly acquired in a pre-calculus course. Questions include:

  • Exponential functions
  • Factorials
  • Operations with complex numbers
  • Complex numbers
  • Composition of functions
  • Roots of polynomials
  • Functions
  • Matrices

Trigonometry is a 11-15 item, untimed test. It will cover:

  • Right angle trigonometry
  • Trigonometry equations and inequalities
  • Special angles
  • Functions and identities
  • Graphs of trigonometric functions

COMPASS® Sample Tests

To take sample tests for the writing, reading and math components, go to ACT's Website -

Preparation Resources for COMPASS®

While we, at LSSU, do not assume any liability or responsibility for the content of these Web sites, students may find the practice tools helpful when preparing for this exam.

Online resources:


  • Basic Mathematics, 7th Edition, by Bittiner and Keedy (Numerical Skills)
    Introductory Algebra, 5th Edition, by Bittenger and Keedy (Elementary Algebra)
    Intermediate Algebra, 5th Edition, by McKeague (Intermediate Algebra)
    Precalculus, 4th Edition, by Sullivan (Precalculus)
    Prewriting, Response, Revision, Copyright 1982 by Wilbert J. Levy (Composition)
    An Expository Workbook, 3rd Edition, by Huizenga, Snellings, and Francis (Basic Composition for ESL)
    Vocabulary Foundations for the College Student, Copyright 1981, by Levine and Levine
    Grammar in Context, Book Two, by Sandra N. Elbaum
    Ten Steps to Improving Reading Skills, 6th Edition, by John Langan

For more information on placement testing, contact Cindy Doornbos, Testing Specialist at (906) 635-2027.