English Placement Test Study Guide

Writing Skills | Reading Comprehension

The English Placement Test has two sections: the COMPASS Writing Skills Test and the COMPASS Reading Comprehension Test. This is not a pass/fail test. The purpose of the placement test is to find out where your English skills are now and to place you in the best level to start classes. Everyone will receive a placement.

COMPASS Writing Skills Test Review

You may have learned English grammar, sentence structure and style over many years; in fact, you may have a good "feel" for what's wrong with a sentence without knowing the grammatical term for what's wrong. That's fine. The COMPASS Writing Skills test doesn't require you to know the technical terms, just which answer is best.

In the COMPASS Writing Skills Test, you will read one or more essays. All the essays have many, many errors. You will highlight a phrase and the computer will show you the phrase unchanged and also four different ways to change it.

The essay you read is on the left side of the computer screen and the five multiple choice answers (A, B, C, D or E) are on the right. When you select one of the answers, the phrase will change in the body of the essay, so you can proof-read the whole essay, when you are done. If you change your mind, you can select a phrase again, and change it to a different answer. Once you click "Finished Editing Essay," the essay will go away. You cannot go back. You will get another essay or you will finish the Writing Skills Test and move on to the Reading Comprehension Test.


For both the COMPASS Writing Skills and the Reading Comprehension Tests the number of essays you get (from one to six essays) does not indicate that you are doing well or that you are having difficulty. The test will give you essays until it is clear (by your answers) which placement level is best for you. Sometimes that can happen with only one essay; sometimes you will need to read more essays.

Web sites that might help you review sample writing skills questions, grammar and style:

COMPASS Reading Comprehension Test Review

The best way to prepare for the COMPASS Reading test is to read often. Half an hour a day is a good minimum. If you are not someone who reads a lot, you might start with what's fun -- read about a subject or hobby you enjoy. Reading is part of every class you'll take in college; cultivating a reading habit is one of the best things you can do.

On the COMPASS Reading Comprehension Test, you will read one or more essays and answer questions about the essays. The essay will be on the left side of the screen and the multiple choice questions (A, B, C, D, E) will be on the right side of the screen. 


On the bottom of the right screen you will see numbers in yellow boxes (such as, 1, 2, 3, 4 or more). This is the number of questions for your essay. To select question 1, you will click on the yellow box for that number. You can go back and click on a question after you have answered it and change the answer. After you click on the "GO ON" button, the essay will go away and you cannot go back and change any answers. You will get another essay or your test will be over.

Other Resources

  • Public libraries --check the English section or ask for English review materials at the reference desk.
  • Book stores or libraries - you may want to look at writing "Style Manuals" such as Modern American Usage by Follett, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
  • Old textbooks, if you have them, can be another resource.

Study Guides Contacts

Telephone: (206) 934-3674

Hours: View Testing Calendar


CC 2459C (Southeast section of the East wing of the College Center, 2nd floor)
Southeast section of the East wing of the College Center, 2nd floor

Classes | Map | People | Directory | Calendar


Need a NetID?

Students: Set one up now!

Employees: See your supervisor.