Reading Skills (Sample Items)

COMPASS SAMPLE ITEMS - Reading Placement Test

Read the following passages. Answer the items following.

Sample Passage 1—Humanities

When I'm in New York but feeling lonely for Wyoming I look for the Western movie ads in the subway. But the men I see in those posters with their stern, humorless looks remind me of no one I know in the East. In our earnestness to romanticize the cowboy we've ironically disesteemed his true character. If he's "strong and silent" it's because there's probably no one to talk to. If he "rides away into the sunset" it's because he's been on horseback since four in the morning moving cattle and he's trying, fifteen hours later, to get home to his family. If he's "a rugged individualist" he's also part of a team: ranch work is teamwork and even the glorified open-range cowboys of the 1880s rode up and down the Chisholm Trail in the company of twenty or thirty other riders. It's not toughness but "toughing it out" that counts. In other words, this macho, cultural artifact the cowboy has become is simply a man who possesses resilience, patience, and an instinct for survival. "Cowboys are just like a pile of rocks--everything happens to them. They get climbed on, kicked, rained and snowed on, scuffed up by the wind. Their job is ’just to take it’," one old-timer told me.

Adapted from Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces. © 1985 by Gretel Ehrlich.



1. According to the passage, cowboys are probably "strong and silent" because:
    A. their work leaves them no time for conversation.
    B. they have been cautioned not to complain.
    C. they are stern and humorless.
    D. there is no one nearby to listen to them.
    E. their work makes them too tired to talk.


2. For which of the following statements does the passage give apparently contradictory evidence?
    A. The cowboy's work takes endurance.
    B. Cowboys work alone.
    C. Cowboys are adequately paid.
    D. The cowboy's image has become romanticized in American culture.
    E. Cowboys think of themselves as humorless.


3. A subway can best be described as:
    A. a bus route through town.
    B. an underground train.
    C. a pedestrian right-of-way.
    D. an exit ramp.
    E. a bicycle path.

Sample Passage 2—Practical Reading

Regular tune-ups of your heating system will cut heating costs and will most likely increase the lifetime and safety of the system. When a service technician performs a tune-up, he or she should test the efficiency of your heating system.

The technician should measure the efficiency of your system both before and after servicing it and provide you with a copy of the results. Combustion efficiency is determined indirectly, based on some of the following tests:
1) temperature of the flue (or chimney);
2) percent carbon dioxide or percent oxygen in the atmosphere;
3) presence of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere; and
4) draft. Incomplete combustion of fuel is the main contributor to low efficiency. If the technician cannot raise the combustion efficiency up to at least 75% after tuning your heating system, you should consider installing a new system or at least modifying your present system to increase its efficiency.

Adapted from Alex Wilson and John Morrill, Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings. © 1993 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.



1. The passage suggests that, if carbon monoxide is present in the atmosphere, it is likely that the:
    A. heating system is losing efficiency due to incomplete combustion.
    B. heating system only needs minor repairs and will most likely function for a number of years.
    C. temperature of the flue will be lower than expected.
    D. heating system cannot be repaired and must be replaced.
    E. costs for running the heating system will decrease.


2. According to the passage, when performing a tune-up of a heating system, the service technician should:
    A. ensure that the combustion efficiency is at least 25%.
    B. modify the heating system before initially measuring efficiency.
    C. measure combustion efficiency both before and after servicing the system.
    D. provide his or her supervisor with a written report of the system's efficiency.
    E. ignore the age of the heating system.


3. Combustion can best be described as a process of:
    A. fueling.
    B. charging.
    C. spinning.
    D. burning.
    E. cooling.

Answers to Sample Items Reading Placement Test:

Sample Passage 1—Humanities
1. D
2. B
3. B

Reading Placement Test: Sample Passage 2—Practical Reading
1. A
2. C
3. D

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