Jump over the site's primary content.

Basic Skills Assessment Frequently Asked Questions

At Heartland Community College, we are committed to helping students succeed. A large part of student success is beginning your studies at an appropriate level. The purpose of Heartland's assessment process is to ensure that students are prepared for the courses they need to achieve their goals.

What is the Basic Skills Assessment?

The Basic Skills Assessment includes placement tests in writing, reading, and mathematics. The results of these tests place you at the appropriate level of coursework. We want you to have the best possible opportunity to succeed both in the classes you take and in the degree or program you pursue. The results are available upon test completion and are not used to determine admission to the college.

Am I required to take the assessments?

First-time college students: Must take the full assessment unless using ACT scores for placement as listed below:

  • ACT subscores in English (19 or higher), reading (21 or higher), and math (23 or higher) may be used for placement if the ACT was taken within the past 29 months. Eligible students need to send a copy of their ACT scores to Admissions or bring a copy of their ACT scores with them when they come in to take an assessment.

Transfer students (with or without a degree): Must assess as needed, based on previously completed coursework. Please call Advisement at (309) 268-8033 to determine if you need to assess.

How can I prepare to take the assessment?

Before you take the placement test(s), you can carefully review the sample writing, reading, and math questions. These will familiarize you with the style of questions and will help you practice answering questions and solving problems.

On the day of your assessment test(s):

  • Be rested and ready to concentrate.
  • Answer each question carefully.
  • Take a break between tests, if necessary. Think about taking the tests on different days.
  • Ask the test administrator for help if you are unsure about directions.
  • Don't be concerned if others finish before you do. Remember: everyone has a highly individualized test and people finish at different times.
  • Plan to do your best the first time you test!

What are the assessments like?

Heartland uses a computer-adaptive testing system from American College Testing called COMPASS. Although testing is done on a computer, computer expertise is not required. Directions are clearly stated and help is always available. The tests are adaptive, which means that questions are selected based on responses to previous questions. Since the tests are highly individualized and tailored to the student's level, the tests are shorter than traditional paper and pencil tests.

Is the assessment timed?

There is no time limit and testers are encouraged to work carefully at their own pace. Most students complete testing in two to two and a half hours, but some testers require considerably more time. Students may take all three tests at one sitting or split them into different sessions. 

When and where can I take the assessments?

For specific dates and times, see the assessment schedule. You may take the Basic Skills Assessment in the Assessment Center, Student Commons Building Room 2001. 

What if I need special accommodations through Disability Support Services?

All students taking the COMPASS test will have unlimited time and use of a calculator. Additional accommodations can be arranged by appointment with Disability Support Services (DSS) at (309) 268-8259 or disabilitysupport@heartland.edu. Please note that some accommodations need lead time to arrange.

What do I need to bring to the assessment?

  • You will need to know your Social Security Number to log into the testing system.
  • You will need to show a photo ID to take the Basic Skills Assessment.
  • Basic calculators are provided or you may bring your own for the math portion. Some calculators, such as the TI-89, are not allowed.

How many times can I take each assessment test?

Each test (writing, reading, and math) can be taken twice. Students must wait a minimum of one day before retesting in reading and math. The retest for writing can be retaken the same day and requires a 300 word writing sample. Writing sample results are available in 1-2 weeks.

Who should I contact for more information?

You may contact us by email or phone if you have further questions about the assessment.

Normal Campus
Email: Normal Campus Assessment
Phone: (309) 268-8077

Lincoln Campus
Email: Angie Ishmael
Phone: (217) 735-1731

Pontiac Campus
Email: Sharon Mackinson
Phone: (815) 842-6777

What other exams can I take with the Assessment Center?