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Counseling + Testing

Walters State Community College, under the direction of the Tennessee Board of Regents, is required to assess students for readiness for college-level study and place them accordingly as a required component of the admissions process. Your placement depends upon your having met certain academic standards, including achievement on the ACT/SAT test, the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), and/or achievement on the GED.

scores less than 3 years old

If you have taken the ACT/SAT or COMPASS test and your scores are less than 3 years old you must take the appropriate secondary diagnostic exam. If scores fall below prescribed TBR cut scores listed below, a secondary diagnostic exam is required.

English Cut Score

  • ACT = 18
  • COMPASS English = 77

Math Cut Score

  • ACT = 19
  • Compass Math = 38

Reading Cut Score

  • ACT = 19
  • Compass Reading = 83


Complete the COMPASS Test Battery if you:

  • Do not have ACT/SAT scores that are less than 3 years old.
  • Are a transfer student without college credit in English Composition, Mathematics, and a Reading Intensive Course

Mathematics Skills

The COMPASS Mathematics Placement test will include prealgebra/algebra items. Items in the Numerical Skills/Prealgebra Placement Test range in content from basic arithmetic concepts and skills (e.g., basic operations with integers, fractions, and decimals) to the knowledge and skills considered prerequisites for a first algebra course (e.g., exponents, absolute values, and percentages). The Algebra Placement Test is composed of items from three curricular areas: elementary algebra, coordinate geometry, and intermediate algebra. Each of these three areas is further subdivided into a number of more specific content areas (substituting values into algebraic expressions, polynomials, linear equations in one variable, exponents, linear inequalities in one variable, rational expressions, systems of linear equations in two variables, quadratic formulas, absolute value equations and inequalities). If ACT or COMPASS exam scores are below TBR cut scores, secondary diagnostic testing is required.

Reading Comprehension

The COMPASS Reading Placement Test is designed to determine whether an examinee has the reading skills necessary to succeed in a standard entry-level college course or take the reading diagnostic. A selection of 41 reading passages are either excerpts from copyrighted material or original works written by contracted item writers. The average length of the passages is 215 standard words, with a range from 190 to 225 standard words. (A standard word is equal to six characters, including spaces, punctuation marks, letters, and numbers.) Passages are of five types: prose fiction passages emphasize the narration of events and revelation of character; humanities passages describe or analyze ideas or works of art and craft; social sciences passages present information gathered by research; natural sciences passages present a science topic along with an explanation of its significance, and practical reading passages present information that is relevant to vocational or technical courses. The reading level of all passages is approximately equal to that encountered in the first year of college; much of the excerpted passage material comes from essays, journals, and magazines commonly used in entry-level college courses. The five reading comprehension items that accompany each passage are of two general categories: referring and reasoning.

Referring items: Items in this category pose questions about material explicitly stated in a passage.

Reasoning items: Items in this category assess readers' proficiencies at making appropriate inferences, developing a critical understanding of the text, and determining the specific meanings of difficult, unfamiliar, or ambiguous words based on the surrounding context. If ACT or COMPASS exam scores are below TBR cut scores, secondary diagnostic testing is required.

Writing Skills

The COMPASS Writing Skills Placement Test is designed to help determine whether a student possesses the writing skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the typical entry-level college composition course or take the writing diagnostic. This test simulates a text-editing task by presenting examinees with an essay on the computer screen and requiring them first to find errors in grammar, usage, and style in the essay and then to correct the errors by selecting the appropriate text segment from among five alternatives. If ACT or COMPASS exam scores are below TBR cut scores, secondary diagnostic testing is required.

Composition of Passages and Items

Examinees are presented with an essay on-screen and are then asked to read the essay looking for problems in grammar, usage, and style. Upon finding an error, students may replace the portion of text with one of five alternatives. Test passages are presented to the examinee as an unbroken whole, and there is no indication of where the errors are located. To accommodate the editing task for computer testing, test passages are divided into a series of segments within the software. Because examinees can choose to edit any portion of the essay, every part of the text is included within these segments, and no part of the text is contained in more than one segment. There is a test item for each segment of the text, so that an item with five alternatives will appear no matter where an examinee chooses to revise the text. In addition to the items that correspond to passage segments, there are one or two multiple-choice items that appear after the examinee is finished revising the passage. These items pose global questions related to the passage.

Item Classification Categories

Items in the COMPASS Writing Skills Placement Test are of two general categories: Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills. Each general category is composed of three subcategories.

Usage/Mechanics Items

Usage/Mechanics items are directed at the surface-level characteristics of writing, as exemplified in three major subcategories: Punctuation, Basic Grammar and Usage, and Sentence Structure.

Once you have been placed in any Learning Support courses, you must take the courses EACH semester until successful completion.

Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing is mandated by TBR Guideline A-100 for students who do not achieve the TBR benchmark scores on the ACT, SAT, or Compass Exam. The purpose of diagnostic testing is to move students into college-level or accurately place students into Learning Support coursework.

See Counseling and Testing for additional information and test resources.

Secondary Diagnostic Test in Mathematics

The Mathematics Diagnostic is a test of mathematical skills in arithmetic, pre-algebra, and algebra.

Secondary Diagnostic Test in Reading

The Reading Diagnostic is a test of reading comprehension skills.

Secondary Diagnostic Test in Writing

The Writing Diagnostic is a test of college-level writing skills.