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Math Help - COMPASS Mathematics Test

  1. #1
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    COMPASS Mathematics Test

    Has anyone taken this?

    I'm an adult going back to school for a second bachelor's degree, and because my old test scores and coursework are from so long ago, I have to take this mathematics assessment test because I want to register for Calculus. (My first degree was a BA, and I never took past Trig).

    I'm reviewing my math and when I take the official COMPASS practice test for the college algebra/geometry/trig section, I know the material. BUT, this is just a practice test, and I'm curious if the actual test will require me to memorize some of the more obscure trigonometric identities and such? I don't remember that stuff. I'm up against a time limit as I'd like to register for the course this summer and am curious whether I need to invest the time in memorizing that material. As it is, the test looks very simple and I accept that I'll be having to re-learn some challenging material as I go through school, but I don't want to overlook anything that might be on the assessment test. Right now I'm just trying to avoid having to re-take Precalc Algebra or Trig with a bunch of first time liberal arts students. Even if I've forgotten material I remember enough where taking a whole semester of it *again* would be pretty annoying,

    Any insight into what else I might need to review would be appreciated.
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  2. #2
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    Alright, no one answered, but I'll respond to myself in case someone looks at this thread for reference.

    Took the COMPASS mathematics test today. Basically, the content on the test is very similar to the content on their sample test. Fairly basic. No need to memorize all the trig identities or anything. (There are a few questions to this effect, but they are all 45, 30, or 60 degree angles or similar, so you can muscle through it without actually remembering the identities.) I'm 33 and haven't taken a math class in nearly 15 years, did a few weeks of review, and passed easily into Calculus (which is as high as this exam will place you.) If you are freshly from school and took Algebra II and Trig and paid attention you should have no problem with this test.
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  3. #3
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    Can you give me any sites you practiced on or list of materials maybe?

    I'm going to take the COMPASS test sometime soon and I'd like all the help I can on it. I'd appreciate it.

    Any insider tips?
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  4. #4
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    Sure. This is the sample COMPASS test provided by ACT, the makers of the test:

    http://www.act.org/compass/sample/pdf/geometry.pdf

    This is the test for College Algebra/Geometry/Trigonometry.

    There is another sample test at that same site for Basic Arithmetic/Pre-Algebra/Algebra if you need as well. From where I sat, the exam kicked off with college algebra questions, and then increased in difficulty as questions were answered correctly. If you get questions wrong, it will decrease in difficulty until it hones in on your placement level. I believe if you tell them you are trying to place into lower math, it will start with the basic arithmetic questions. (The entire test is computer-based.)

    I found the sample test to be spot-on in terms of the kinds of problems and level of difficulty. It is definitely testing you for general concepts that have been retained long-term - nothing tricky like you mind find on a final exam for a specific class, and on par with what high school classes will minimally cover.

    Again, the highest COMPASS will place you into is Calculus I. I think the schools presume that if you are going to start higher than that, that you should have an AP score or a college transcript to meet the prerequisite.
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  5. #5
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    Have any idea how many questions you might've had to answer correctly to clear a section?

    What materials did you use to review with?
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  6. #6
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    The number of questions you are asked depends on how many you get right or wrong. I'm not sure how it works exactly, and since I don't know which I got right and which I got wrong, I can't say for sure. The college where I took it said the average person takes 1 hour to take the test - I took about 90 minutes, but I was triple-checking every answer because I knew getting wrong answers because of stupid errors would equate to $$ spent on classes I didn't need. I am an adult and I'm paying my own tuition.

    As for materials, I started back with basic Algebra since I hadn't taken a math class in over 10 years.

    I used this software: xyAlgebra Home to help me review basic algebra quickly and efficiently. Just ran through all the lessons. It takes you from order of operations through quadratic equations, but does not belabor each topic excessively. The software is free.

    Geometry I didn't really review at all. Geometry I used in my previous profession (graphic design), so I really didn't need any review aside from reminding myself of a few simple formulas. As far as I can tell, it's all plane geometry. If they ask anything about volumes, they'll essentially tell you the formula (or how to figure out the formula if you know how to find the area.)

    For advanced algebra and trigonometry, I relied mostly on videos from talented instructors. My favorite is Just Math Tutoring which has some videos perfect for test prep. He's a little weak on trigonometry, but I found some others on youtube.

    I also just went to a used book store and picked up some old texts to use for problem solving practice. However, I found many of the "precalculus" algebra/trig texts are incredibly tedious if you don't have an instructor to guide you through it. Publishers throw EVERYTHING in those books but the kitchen sink, so instructors can pick and choose what they'd like for their particular class. As review/test prep, you'll find yourself wasting a lot of time wading through minutiae to find the topics you should actually study.

    I mostly used math videos for instruction, and selected some sample problems out of the textbooks as follow-up. Also, maybe the textbooks I purchased happened to be particularly bad, but my general conclusion is that people who author textbooks enjoy making the biggest and most impressive-looking textbook they can, while people who make instructional math videos for youtube are people who like to actually *teach* people as clearly and concisely as possible. Really, I am impressed with how many crisp, clear communicators are out there who know math and enjoy teaching it.

    I hope that helps!
    Last edited by zenjenn; May 13th 2009 at 04:37 PM.
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    Thank you for the long reply.

    It's eased me some before taking this test. I've started to prepare and xyAlgebra works great.

    If you can be bothered to find me any helpful Trig instruction videos on YouTube, that'll be cool. You've already helped so much though, thanks again.
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  8. #8
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    Do remember you only need to worry about the trig portion of the exam if you are trying to place into calculus.

    For trig, one of my favorites is this: that covers which covers graphing trig functions very clearly. I read this in a book, my husband explained it to me, but it was this video that made it very abundantly clear to me. And you WILL want to understand this frontwards and backwards, as there were several questions that required you to be very familiar with this. How to draw/identify these functions including shifting them up, down, shift them, and extending or compressing them, and knowing where key points on the wave are in radians.

    I don't remember the others I watched. Trig I also just read some overview pages. If you understand the six functions and how to get them from a right triangle (SOH CAH TOA, etc.), graphing the functions based on a unit circle and modified (2 sin(x) + 1 or whatever), basic properties of special angles (30%, 45%, 60%), how to convert degrees to radians and back, and how to apply that knowledge (along with the pythagoreum theorm) to simple word problems that make you calculate angles and/or distances between two points, you're in good enough shape to place into calculus assuming you've got the college algebra content down.
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  9. #9
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    Again, I can't thank you enough for the information. I'll be sure to study and place in Calculus.

    Good luck to you in your own endeavors.
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  10. #10
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    Just to update:

    I tested into Calculus for this exam as well. Last December I had taken it and had gotten a terrible score that put me into Pre-Algebra. Upon a good time of reviewing (1 month because when I started posting about it in this topic I got sidetracked with moving and other things, so I took it back up in early July and tested July 28th), I tested into the class that I wanted. I haven't taken above Algebra II since high school.

    From my point of view:

    I didn't find the study guides very helpful on their site. I barely saw any of content on it show up on the actual exam. What I did find helpful was Khanacademy.org. Sal is a very talented instructor. I also went to various community college websites and took their study guides and did them. I suppose a good portion (75-80%) of what I learned was just review of the subject rather than for what was on the test but the test does generate random questions (they don't keep you completely in the dark about what's going to be on it though). Also, I'd like to say that you should really know your Trigonometry when doing this exam because College Algebra is pretty easy to handle.

    I did spend a lot of time studying for this exam. Sometimes eight hours, sometimes fourteen. I was quite determined to learn all I could and retain it within a month. I don't know about your memory, but I have a pretty good one and I don't easily forget what I've learned unless I thought it was uninteresting. Up until I got out of high school, I abhorred math. I didn't just stay inside all the time. I went out, got drunk, partied, and all that to let out some stress. But I did have mornings where I'd wake up at 4 AM and make coffee (I don't know how to make good coffee, it always tasted bad) to fuel me throughout the day. I'd say you have to show a lot of dedication in a short period of time to refresh, relearn, and learn old topics and a lot of new topics. I came to discover a lot of things I never knew about the basics. It's a foundation so, you gotta have a strong one if you want to do better in the more higher-levels. I also got help here at this forum when I was stuck.

    I wanted to begin with College Algebra, but I accidentally chose the wrong option and I started from the bottom (Pre-Algebra). A lot of those were fraction computations, percentages, and word problems you had to set up. Some made you think a bit. Up from Algebra there were all sorts of topics, but I'd say a lot had to deal with simplifying of rational expressions and dealing with forms of polynomials. Fairly basic. Don't forget to remember the distance formula. Geometry I had no real clue about coming in to do this exam but from what I saw it was fairly basic and they'd just want you to figure out the area/perimeter of some things or dealt with parallel/perpendicular lines. Not too much Geometry. When you progress into College Algebra, you see tons and tons of functions. You'll want to know how to do all the operations with them. You'll also want to have a knowledge of logarithms. With Trigonometry, I saw unit circle problems, word problems that dealt with right triangle trigonometry, taking the distance between points, and calculating the angles from special triangles. It's good to know your trig identities as well because they do have you figure out these sort of problems as well.
    Last edited by A Beautiful Mind; August 4th 2009 at 05:01 PM.
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  11. #11
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    Excellent that you got into Calculus!

    When you've been away from school for a while, it's easy to forget basic things and make foolish mistakes. I didn't take the COMPASS exam prior to reviewing, but if I had, I probably would have placed into Pre-Algebra too - when I started reviewing I had not taken a math course in about 15 years and I knew I had forgotten much and I started my review with order of operations. Seriously! But it comes back so quickly. It's amazing what a few months of good, studious review will do. And amazing how much BETTER you learn it than you did the first time around, because this time it's by choice and you are interested.

    I just finished my Calculus course with an A (98.8%!) and I actually really enjoyed it. I will be going on to Calculus II in a couple weeks. Calculus I wasn't super easy, but it wasn't super difficult either. I think the prep that went into the Compass is suitable prep for the class. You will still need to study and make an effort (at least I did), but you shouldn't have to kill yourself. I found working on problems daily helpful, and doing it this way, the work was spread out and not overwhelming. Generally I found the pattern is, I'd find something confusing and frustrating, but within a day or two the same topics that I found confusing and frustrating started to seem natural. In fact, in most cases, I found my sloppiness with algebra (being away from it for so long), was more problematic than any lack of understanding basic Calculus concepts. By the end of Calculus any rustiness you have with algebra should be well beaten out of you. Good luck!
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