The COMPASS exam, administered by the American College Testing program (ACT), is a placement test for college students. It tests students' knowledge in English, math and reading. The scores determine the level college students are placed at for each subject. The COMPASS test is administered throughout the United States and is accepted by most colleges and universities, because it is a recommended placement test by the U.S. Board of Education. How long COMPASS scores remain valid is determined by each state, college or university.

No Expiration

Some colleges and universities do not place an expiration on the COMPASS scores. The institutions that do not impose an expiration date, however, are rare. The reason most institutions do enforce an expiration is because reading, English and math skills can change throughout the years and scores from years ago may not be an accurate reflection of a student's current skills and knowledge.

Three Years

Three years or less from the date of testing seems to be the standard for colleges and universities. Students who have expired scores must retest. This can work in a student's favor because if he has better English, reading and math skills than in the past, he may score higher on the COMPASS, which leads to higher course placement. Students are encouraged to study for the COMPASS test to do as well as they can. COMPASS test prep books are available at major book retailers.


The reason there is no uniformity on expiration dates for COMPASS scores is the Department of Education does not mandate the guidelines for acceptance of tests and scores. The Department of Education does suggest tests and score guidelines but there is no mention of expiration. It then remains to be determined at the state level, and in most cases by the individual college or university. The administration decides the guidelines for expiration after consulting with faculty and staff.


Students can be exempt from taking or re-taking the COMPASS test if it is shown that the student has taken satisfactory college courses in English, reading and math. For example, if a student can show that he has taken college level English composition with a satisfactory grade determined by the college, then it is assumed that the student has the requisite skills in English to garner placement at college level. This exempts a student from testing.

Related Articles