Testing Center


COMPASS – English as a Second Language (ESL) Placement Test

The COMPASS ESL is administered to non-native English speakers to demonstrate English proficiency.

Who should take the COMPASS ESL test?

All students enrolling at Northeast whose native language is not English are required to take the COMPASS ESL placement test.

When is the COMPASS ESL administered?

The COMPASS ESL is administered on a daily basis. The COMPASS ESL test will begin three hours before the testing center closes for the day. Call the Northeast Community Testing Center at 402-844-7281; email testing@northeast.edu; or stop by the Testing Center in the College Welcome Center Room 1252 or Room 1256 to schedule a date and time to test. Testing arrangements should be made in advance of starting your program/major.

Is the COMPASS ESL timed?

The COMPASS ESL is a comprehensive computer-adaptive test. The time required to complete the test varies according to individual’s needs and abilities.

When will the student receive my test results?

The student will receive his/her test scores immediately after completion of the test. A college representative will review the test scores with the student and explain how they relate to specific courses and programs the student may be considering.

Is it possible to fail the assessment?

The COMPASS ESL is not a pass/fail test. The scores will identify the student’s strengths and needs. The COMPASS ESL measures the students’ abilities in the following areas: Listening, Reading, Grammar/Usage, and Essay, and places them in the appropriate ESL courses.

Which skill areas does COMPASS ESL evaluate?

COMPASS ESL evaluates skills in the following areas: listening, grammar/usage, and reading. The following is a list of skills that may be included in each test subject:

ESL Listening

This test assesses a student’s ability to understand Standard American English. The intent of the test is to measure listening skills rather than short-term memory.

Items range from recognizing pictures that go with spoken words or phrases at the lowest level to answering inferential questions about overall academic materials at the highest levels.

ESL Reading

This English placement test assesses a student’s ability to recognize and manipulate Standard American English in two major categories:

  1. Referring (reading explicitly stated materials)
  2. Reasoning (inferential reading)
The content of these areas will vary on the test according to levels of English proficiency.

Most materials are reading passages, ranging in length from several sentences to many paragraphs. Students may also be asked to interpret photographs, tables, charts, or graphs, or to follow directions using a map.

Items range from recognizing pictures that go with words at the lowest level to answering inferential questions about academic materials at the highest levels.

ESL Grammar/Usage

This English placement test assesses a student’s ability to recognize and manipulate Standard American English in two main areas:
  1. Sentence Elements
  2. Sentence Structure and Syntax
Sentence Elements include verbs, subjects and objects, modifiers, function words, conventions (punctuation, capitalization, spelling), and word formation.

Sentence Structure and Syntax include word order, relationships between and among clauses, and agreement, as well as how grammar relates to communication beyond the sentence level.

ESL Essay (ESL e-Write)

This English placement test provides analytic scores in the areas of Developmental, Language Use, Organization, Focus, and Mechanics with an overall score based on a weighted composite of the analytic scores.

What should the student bring?

The student must bring a current photo ID.
Acceptable forms of photo identification include:

  • Current student ID
  • Current driver’s license
  • State approved ID
  • Current state of federal ID card
  • Current passport of passport card
  • Tribal ID card
  • Naturalization card

Testing Center Guidelines:

  • Schedule an appointment for the exam. (Space is limited)
  • Tester Must:
    Complete a sign-in sheet.
    Present a current photo ID
  • All personal items will be securely stored
    Cell phones, pagers, any other electronic devices, hats, caps, scarves, coats, watches, and jewelry more than ¼ inch
  • May not leave the Testing Center without permission of the Testing Staff once testing has begun.
  • Food (including gum) and drink are not permitted in the Testing Center and/or testing rooms unless otherwise permitted.
  • Students may not access their personal belongings without permission once testing has begun.
  • If the student takes break during testing, the students may not access their cell phone or any other electronic devices.
  • No children allowed in the Testing Center.
  • No visitors are allowed in the Testing Center.

Test taking tips for the COMPASS test are available at www.act.org/compass/

Visit the following Internet websites to practice reading, grammar/usage, and listening skills:

Current photo ID required for all testing. Scores are good for 5 years. The student may take the COMPASS ESL test twice during a semester. Retest fee is $10.00.

How much does it cost?

The COMPASS is provided free of charge for any student who has applied for admission to Northeast. If the student is planning to attend another college or institution or need to schedule a Remote COMPASS, Northeast will assess a $15.00 fee.