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SMC|Enrollment Development|Assessment|Math Assessment

Math Assessment

Is the Math Assessment required?

Math assessment is required of all new first-time college students attending Santa Monica College and of all students who wish to enroll in a math course for the first time.

What is the purpose of math assessment?

The purpose of math assessment is to recommend a math class that is neither too difficult nor too easy for you. The Math Department is particularly concerned that you do not waste a semester by selecting a class that exceeds your preparation.

What is the name and content of the math assessment test?

SMC uses the ACT COMPASS math test battery to assess students' skills in a variety of subject areas. All students start by taking the Algebra test, and depending on their performance they are then either 1) stopped, 2) routed to an easier test, or 3) routed to a more difficult test where placement will be determined. Given the adaptive nature of the test not all students will see questions in all content areas. If you want to maximize your chances of placing into a college-level math class it is crucial that you perform well in the first few questions you see (i.e., algebra section). The test sequence is illustrated below.

Pre-Algebra <--  Algebra --> College Algebra  --> Geometry  --> Trigonometry


What skills are assessed by the COMPASS math tests?

The COMPASS test assesses a variety of skills and in most cases students will see 12-15 questions for the content area they work on. Skills include: 

  • Pre-Algebra: Operations with Integers; Operations with Fractions; Operations with Decimals; Positive Integer Exponents, Square Roots, and Scientific Notation; Ratios and Proportions; Percentages; Averages (Means, Medians, and Modes).  
  • Algebra: Substituting Values into Algebraic Expressions; Setting Up Equations for Given Situations; Basic Operations with Polynomials; Factoring Polynomials; Linear Equations in One Variable; Exponents and Radicals; Rational Expressions; Linear Equations in Two Variables.  
  • College Algebra: Functions; Exponents; Complex Numbers; Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences and Series; Matrices (basic operations, equations, and determinants).  
  • Geometry: Triangles (perimeter, area, Pythagorean theorem, etc.); Circles (perimeter, area, arcs, etc.); Angles (supplementary, complementary, adjacent, vertical, etc.); Rectangles (perimeter, area, etc.); Three-dimensional concepts; Hybrid (composite) shapes.  
  • Trigonometry: Trigonometric functions and identities; Right-triangle trigonometry; Trigonometric equations and inequalities; Graphs of trigonometric functions; Special angles (multiples of 30 and 45 degrees).

How can I best prepare for the math assessment?

There are a variety of ways on how you can prepare to take the math assessment. We have compiled a variety of practice tests and resources that may help you prepare. You will find these in our Math Resources webpage. You can also download a copy of the COMPASS Sample Questions directly from ACT.

How is placement in math determined?

Placement into a math class at SMC is based on multiple measures. However, we place the greatest emphasis on your COMPASS math test. Thus it is critical you take the test seriously, take your time in reviewing questions and deriving a solution. Your score will determine which course you will be eligible for at SMC. Once you place into a course, you will not be able to switch into a higher-level course.

What determines success in math?

The Math Department believes that the single most important success factor is your current skill level which is measured by math assessment. However, since the department also recognizes the importance of study skills, the allowance of time for homework, previous math grades, the length of time elapsed since the completion of your last math class, completion of course pre-requisites, and personal motivation, these will also be considered in the recommendation.