New placement tests at BC

Compass test no longer being used to determine English and math placement

compass test in trash can
Matthew Reitveld / The Watchdog

As the ACT nationally phased out the Compass test, a test used by Bellevue and many other open enrollment colleges as a placement test for math and English, Bellevue looked for new placement tests to use and have now decided upon the Aleks test for mathematics and the ACCUPLACER test for English. ACT decided to phase out Compass because of criticisms of the test being inaccurate, placing students in classes above and below their abilities. The Compass test was also being used less and less as colleges began to use high school grades and other criteria to determine class placement, as well as directed self-placement, a process in which students choose which class to place themselves in after looking at reading samples and course descriptions. ACT had been administrating the Compass test for 16 years and the test was discontinued at the end of Nov. 2016.

BC replaced the Compass English test with ACCUPLACER, a multiple choice reading comprehension test very similar to the Compass. The ACCUPLACER is only being used as a stopgap until Bellevue college develops a directed self-placement method. “It’s not something that just happens overnight. There’s a lot of work that goes with along with it to provide the material for a student, so they can get a good idea of what they want. We are using accuplacer but we have a lot of other means of placements, high school transcripts, AP reports, the Smarter test and a variety of others,” said Sally Raftery, Bellevue College testing services associate director. “The hope would be to have the directed self placement ready in Spring,” Raftery added. Bellevue College started using Accuplacer on Dec. 1, 2016.

Replacing the Compass mathematics placement test is a test called Aleks. Unlike the ACCUPLACER, Aleks is the long term replacement for Compass. The Aleks test provides students with an account that they can use to practice problems they missed after taking the test so they can retake it, for a testing fee and potentially change their placement. To retake, students must practice for five tracked hours. The Aleks test is more comprehensive than the Compass test, giving students thirty questions instead of twelve. Students receive a report that shows the areas where they need work, as opposed to Compass which used to just gives students a score. “We are really liking it and getting good feedback from students. It is to students’ benefit for sure,” Raftery added.

“For the math, it’s taking students longer to take the test. It is more comprehensive, but the main response is that people like the fact that they are actually getting feedback,” said Raftery. “I’m finding most students don’t come out of the testing rooms as discouraged and defeated as I have seen in the past. Because with Compass, there wasn’t any feedback, and even though you could take the test again there weren’t many good resources. The English is very similar to Compass so there is more a neutral response to that than anything else,” Raftery added.