English and Math Assessment

All first time college students are required to take the COMPASS English and math assessment before registering for classes. Other students who wish to enroll in courses that list “placement by assessment” as a prerequisite are also required to take the assessment.

You must have a valid photo identification when you come in. We WILL NOT let you test without proper photo ID.

I. Facts about the Assessment

What is the COMPASS assessment?

It is a computer-adaptive placement test used to evaluate your skill levels in English and math.  The assessment is for your benefit because it helps determine which college classes are appropriate for you to begin with.

Do I have to take it?

The COMPASS English and math test is mandatory for all first time college students.  If you do not have previous college experience, you are required to take the assessment before you can register for classes. If you are a transfer student to BC and have not taken prior English and/or math courses, you will need to take the COMPASS test if you plan on taking English and/or math courses at BC.

If you have COMPASS test scores or previous course work from other colleges, or you have taken the AP/IB tests, you may not need to take the COMPASS assessment. Visit the webpage Transferring Assessment Scores about the procedures for bringing in your COMPASS test scores from another school. You may also visit the Course Prerequisites website to find out how to verify prerequisites with previous course work from other colleges or from AP/IB test scores.

What is the passing score?

The COMPASS test is a computer-adaptive placement test which has no “passing” score. The questions will adjust to your answers.  If you answer a question correctly, the next one can be slightly harder; if you answer incorrectly, it may be easier.  The scores are used to identify your skill levels in English and math and to place you into appropriate courses.

When can I take it?

You may take the assessment prior to your assigned registration access time. No appointment is needed. You can come to take the assessment during our walk-in hours. Please check the testing calendar for available dates and times. You must have a valid photo ID to test.

Walk-in schedule for the COMPASS English and math test

Walk-in schedule for the COMPASS English and math test

How long will it take?

The COMPASS assessment is not timed; you can work at your own pace. Every student is different, but the average time is about 45 minutes for the English and 45 minutes for the math. Together, the average time is about 1.5 to 2 hours.

II. Steps for Taking the Assessment

Step 1: Apply for admissions to Bellevue College (if you have not done so already)

You need to be admitted to the college before taking the assessment. You can apply for admissions online.  After your admission application is processed, you will receive a BC student ID number.  You need to present your BC student ID number to take the assessment.

Step 2: Select a date and time to take your assessment

Check the testing calendar for available dates and times for our drop-in English and math assessment. No appointment is needed; just walk in during our testing hours.  If you plan to take both English and math tests at the same time, plan for 1.5 – 2 hours to complete the assessments.

Step 3: Bring your SID and picture ID

You must bring the following to take the assessment:

    • A valid photo ID card (you will not be able to test without a proper photo ID)
    • Your BC student ID number
    • An assessment fee of $21.50 (The fee is non-refundable. We only accept check as a form of payment at our office; if you must pay with card or cash, you will pay at the cashier’s office after you have checked in. The Cashier’s Office is next door in the Student Services (B Building).  (We will only accept payment on the day you test; you may not pre-pay for a test on an earlier date.)

NOTE: We do not allow personal calculators. However, you can use the calculator provided on the computer. We will provide scratch paper and pencils.

Step 4: Sign up and pay the assessment fee

Go to the Assessment Office in Room B142 to sign up for your assessment then pay. You register and pay for the assessment at the time of testing.

Step 5: Start your assessment!

Don’t rush! The assessment results determine which English and math classes you begin with, so take your time and answer the questions carefully.

III. Placement and Retake Policies


Math placements are valid for 1 year. You may take the math assessment up to two times per academic quarter with one fee.

COMPASS math cut scores:


  • You will only need to take the COMPASS Reading Test for course placement. The Writing Skills is no longer required at BC.
  • If you are an ESL student, you will need to take the COMPASS ESL Reading and Listening Test. The Grammar/Usage section is no longer required.
  • English placements are valid for two years. You may take the English assessment up to two times per academic quarter for one fee. After the academic quarter is over, you may get one more retake with an additional fee unless you have started an English credit course. Once you have started an English credit course, you will need to follow the recommendation of your instructor. If you are still not satisfied with your scores after you have maxed out all your retake options, you may try the English Challenge Test. You may take the Challenge Test every other quarter or twice per academic year.

COMPASS English cut scores:

COMPASS for Native Speakers
Reading Score
60 or below
ABE classes
61 - 71
ENGL 071/72/73/74
72 - 83
ENGL 092/093
84 or above
ENGL 101
COMPASS for Non-native Speakers (ESL)
Reading Score
Listening Score
84 - 99
80 - 99ENGL 093
84 - 9979 or lowerENGL 071/072/073/074
67 - 8375 - 99ENGL 071/072/073/074
67 - 8374 or lowerDevelopmental English
50 - 6670 - 99Developmental English
50 - 6669 or lowerESL Classes
0 - 490 - 99ESL Classes

If you took English placement prior to November 5, 2012, please read the following policies:

  • Test scores and placement received before November 5, 2012 will remain effective, providing that the test was taken within 2 years.
  • You can use either the composite score or the reading score for registration, whichever gives you the higher placement. The registration system will accept either score to meet the prerequisite requirement. You do not need to retake the test.
  • If the new policy does not affect your placement, you may retake the Reading test once every 12 months if you have not enrolled in an English class; you will be required to pay a new test fee.
  • Once you have enrolled in an English class at BC, you should follow the placement from your instructor.

EXCEPTIONS: The ENGL and DEVED chairs, ENGL Assessment Coordinator, or Testing Services staff reserve the right to authorize re-testing given exceptional circumstances.

Note: Once the quarter ends, the days during the quarter break are counted for the subsequent quarter.

IV. English and Math Course Sequences

Use the following chart to view the English and math course sequences at BC.

V. Prepare for the Assessment

You should refresh your English and math skills before taking the assessment so you can get the most appropriate placement. Below are some resources you can use.

1. COMPASS sample test questions

You will only need to take the English Reading section for placement. You are not required to take the Writing Skills, or Grammar/Usage sections. Visit the ACT COMPASS website to view the types of questions you will encounter in the COMPASS placement tests. You can also use the following links to access the same information:

2. More sample questions

You may download PDF versions of additional sample questions for COMPASS placement measures. Each file includes answers to all the sample questions. (You must have Acrobat Reader to view these files. Download for free.)

3. BC sample math final exams

On our Bellevue College’s Mathematic Department website, you can also find past math finals from Math 097, 098, and 099 which you can use to study. To view and download the math final exams, go to the Math Department website.

4. Other online resources

The sample test questions are a good starting point.  If you wish to study further, here are some websites you may use to review math with tutorials and practice quizzes.

  • English and Math Practices Exam
    • COMPASS Study Guides – A site from Cowley College with study guides for COMPASS English and math tests.
  • Math Tutorials and Practices
    • khanacademy.org – provides more than 1,000 short instructional videos on math topics, from basic math to Calculus.
    • Math.com – includes pre-college and college level math tutorials and practice quizzes.
    • Purplemath.com – includes pre-college level math tutorials and practice quizzes.
    • Aleks.com – There is a monthly fee to access the math tutorial and practices.

5. Book

  • Chart your success on the COMPASS test – paper versions of practice COMPASS tests for English, Math, and Reading
    • By Nannette Commander, Walter Cotter, Carol Callahan
    • This book is available at the BC library that you can check out. There is also one copy on 2-hour reserve under GED which can be checked out and used INSIDE library only.