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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.

How can I do my best?

  • 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. If, however, you feel your placement does not reflect your true ability, you may retest one time before taking classes in the subject area. Students must wait one day before retesting. The retest for writing skills requires you to compose a 200-500 word essay. Essay results are available in one week.

Before you take the placement test, we urge you to carefully review the sample math, reading and writing questions. These will help you become familiar with the style of questions and will give you an opportunity to practice answering questions and solving problems.

Who is required to take the test?

  • All first-time college students take the full assessment unless using ACT scores for placement.
  • Transfer students assess as needed, based on previously completed coursework
  • A student who has completed Composition I with a "C" or better is exempt from the writing assessment.
  • A student who has completed a college-level math course is exempt from the math assessment unless math is needed as a prerequisite and the course was taken more than two years ago.
  • A student who has completed at least 12 hours of college level credit with a "C" or better is exempt from the reading assessment.
  • Students who hold degrees from U.S. colleges and universities, students with special testing needs or students with other special testing considerations should contact the Enrollment Services Assessment Office at (309) 268-8018 prior to testing.

Does Heartland accept ACT scores for placement?

ACT subscores in English, Reading, and Math may be used for placement if the ACT was taken within the past three years.

  • An ACT English subscore of 19-36--placement at college level in English. All other students must assess.
  • An ACT Reading subscore of 21-36--placement at college level in reading. All other students must assess.
  • An ACT Math subscore of 23-36--placement at college level in Math 106, Math 109, Math 128, Math 131, Math 135, Math 141 or TMAT 105.  All other students must assess.
  • Students eligible to use ACT scores for placement in English, reading, and/or math need to bring a copy of their scores with them when they come in to test.

What are the tests 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 test 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 test?

By appointment, assessments take place in the Assessment Center, Student Commons Building Room 2001. To make an appointment, log into your myHeartland account and click on the Appointments tab.

How do I schedule my College N.O.W. Assessment?

College N.O.W. students who are taking courses on Heartland's campus (i.e. Homeschool students, U-High students, etc.) should register for an assessment appointment (if applicable) through this web page.

College N.O.W. students taking college-level courses at your high school location should not register for an assessment appointment through this webpage. If you have applied to be a College N.O.W. student who is assessing for dual credit/dual enrollment courses offered at your high school or career center during your daily schedule, the following link will redirect you to the College N.O.W. Assessment Schedule for partnering high schools.

What do I need to bring to the test?

  • You will need to know your Social Security Number and your Heartland ID 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. See the ACT Compass Guidelines to find out if your calculator is allowed.

How many times can I take each 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 assessment.

Normal Campus
Kaitlyn Ralph, Coordinator of Assessment
Email: Kaitlyn Ralph
Phone: (309) 268-8018

Lincoln Center
Email: Angie Cardwell
Phone: (217) 735-1731

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

Where can I go to view sample questions?

To become familiar with the style of questions, we encourage you to practice answering sample questions in reading, writing and math. This will give you an opportunity to practice answering questions and solving problems.


·         www.act.org/compass/sample


·        www.owl.english.purdue.edu


·        www.act.org/compass/sample

·        www.interactmath.com

·        www.khanacademy.org

         Geometry Practice Questions

            COMPASS Math Study Guide PDF 

What other exams can I take with the Assessment Office?

How will I get my results?

Compass results are available immediately, and you will receive a copy of your scores when you finish testing. To request access to previous scores, please submit the Score Release Form to our Assessment Center and contact assessment@heartland.edu with any questions.