Tennessee Promise

COMPASS®/English as a Second Language (ESL) Test

One valid photo ID is required for all testing.

The Union Avenue Campus Testing Center will administer the COMPASS® test by appointment only. Please visit AdvisorTrac to schedule a COMPASS® test on the Union Avenue Campus. If you are not a Southwest student or do not have access to a computer, contact the Testing Center at 901-333-4170 to schedule an appointment. An online admissions application must be submitted five (5) business days prior to testing.

COMPASS® is a computerized placement test designed to assess the student's level of preparedness in reading, writing and mathematics. The COMPASS® test is administered continuously throughout each semester. COMPASS® scores are valid five (5) years from the date of testing.

Accepted COMPASS® Test Scores

Southwest accepts official COMPASS® test scores from other Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) institutions with the exception of Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) institutions. COMPASS® scores from approved institutions must be sent directly from the approved institution or placed in an official envelope and sealed if delivered by the student. For example, if a student is hand delivering the scores from Dyersburg State Community College, the scores must be sealed in a Dyersburg labeled envelope.


The Testing Center will follow the testing schedule shown in the table below.

Day Macon Cove Campus
Tuesday 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Wednesday 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Thursday 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Friday 8:30 a.m.-Noon

Note: An appointment is required to take the COMPASS®/ESL test on the Union Avenue Campus. Please visit Advisor Trac to schedule a test date, be advised testing is only available on Tuesday and Thursday.

There is no time limit on the COMPASS® test. The average person will complete the entire test (reading, writing and math) in three (3) hours.

Students who must take the COMPASS®/ESL test are:

  • First-time Southwest students 21 years of age or older
  • Non-degree students who have not received a "C" or better in college level English Composition and or College Algebra
  • Transfer and summer visiting students who have not earned a "C" or better in English Composition and College Algebra from a regionally accredited college or university.

Note: Students under the age of 21 wishing to improve ACT scores that have been loaded in our system, may take the COMPASS once for a $20 fee. The student cannot have already started a course in reading, writing or math. You only get one chance to improve ACT scores with the COMPASS test.

In order to prepare for the COMPASS® Test, please view the COMPASS® Sample Test Questions.