Placement Process Frequently Asked Questions

What is the placement process for entering students?

The South Dakota Board of Regents has developed a standardized placement process to ensure that entering students are placed into math, English, and reading courses most appropriate for their ability and background. Entering students must show evidence of their level of academic preparation prior to enrollment into their initial math and English courses. All degree-seeking students must provide valid Enhanced ACT or SAT I sub-scores. Valid scores are scores that were earned by the student within five years of the date of initial enrollment within the Regental system. Students who do not have valid ACT scores must take the ACT COMPASS examination in the areas of writing skills, mathematics, and reading. All non-degree seeking students enrolling in English or math courses must provide Enhanced ACT scores or must take the COMPASS exam in writing and math. Students who wish to enroll in a math course above the level of college algebra must sit for the COMPASS math placement exam. The required ACT and COMPASS scores for the math, English, and reading courses are set by the South Dakota Board of Regents and can be found on the web at the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (OIEA) website. Students with an ACT Reading score of less than 16 will be required to enroll in LART 110: Language Arts.

What if a student has taken the ACT multiple times?

If students have multiple ACT scores, the highest ACT Math and ACT English scores are used for placement purposes.

What is COMPASS testing?

COMPASS is a computer-based placement test developed by ACT. The COMPASS exam is an adaptive program that is self-paced and allows students to work at their own speed. There is no time limit, the scores do not affect admission to DSU, and there is no pass or fail score. Students do not receive course credit for the COMPASS test; it is used to place students into their initial math and English courses.

How do students schedule a COMPASS test session?

Students can complete the COMPASS test during a regularly scheduled registration session at DSU. Individual appointments can be scheduled by contacting the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (OIEA) at 605-256-5101 or by e-mail at  Students can schedule a test at University Center in Sioux Falls by calling 605-367-5989 or by e-mailing

How much does the COMPASS test cost?

There is no fee for COMPASS if the testing is required for the Board of Regents. This includes the initial placement into higher level math courses with an ACT Math score of 25 or higher or invalid ACT scores. Students who challenge their initial placement must pay a $17.00 challenge fee for taking the COMPASS test.

How do students prepare for the COMPASS tests?

Sample questions for the COMPASS test are available from the ACT-COMPASS websiteSite opens in new window.
Students can use a calculator on the math exam; acceptable calculators are listed on the web at the ACT-COMPASS website.Site opens in new window Students are allowed one challenge by the COMPASS test.

How long do the COMPASS tests take?

Most students take about 30-45 minutes to complete each section; the questions are adjusted to the ability level indicated by students' responses to previous questions.

How do transfer students fit into the placement process?

Transfer students from South Dakota Technical Institutions:

A South Dakota technical student transferring to a regental university, who has successfully completed English and/or mathematics coursework that has been formally approved for articulation or transfer, may follow the appropriate English or math sequence at the regental university without additional placement testing. Technical institute students must meet the public university placement cut scores before being allowed to enroll in English and math courses that have been approved for articulation, if they intend to transfer those courses.

Transfer students from Non-Regental Institutions:

Transfer students who have not completed the equivalent of English 101, Math 101, and/or Math 102 are subject to the placement requirements outlined for first-time students based on the availability of valid ACT scores. *Students transferring Math 101 must have a grade of C or better.

Are there exceptions to the policy?

Students can request an exception to enroll in a course different than indicated by their placement test scores. For more information, contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at 605-256-5101 or by e-mail.

What if students are enrolled in the wrong course?

Unless granted an exception, students are required to enroll in the English, math, and reading course indicated by their placement scores. Students who are not enrolled in the correct course will be notified by letter or e-mail. Failure to adjust courses or receive an exception prior to the add/drop date will result in students being administratively dropped from that course.

How soon do the required courses need to be completed?

  • Students placed in pre-general education courses (English 033, LART 110, Math 021 and Math 101) must enroll in and successfully complete the courses within the first 30 attempted credit hours.
  • Students placed above the pre-general education courses (Math 102 or higher and English 101) must complete these courses within the first 48 credit hours completed.

What if the pre-general education courses are not completed in the required time frame?

If the required pre-general education course(s) are not successfully completed within the first 30 attempted credit hours, a registration hold will be placed on the student's record and their schedule will be reviewed. If the pre-general education course(s) are not successfully completed within the first 42 credit hours attempted, the only course(s) in which students may enroll is the required pre-general education course(s); and the student's program is changed from degree seeking to non-degree seeking. Non-degree seeking students are NOT eligible for financial aid.

How many times can students repeat a course?

Students may repeat any course to improve the course grade. However, students may not enroll in the same course more than three times without permission of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

What if students need accommodations for testing?

Students with disabilities can request accommodations by contacting the ADA Academic Coordinator, Keith Bundy, at 605-256-5121 or by e-mail at

Questions? Students can contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (OIEA) at 605-256-5101, by e-mail or their academic advisors for specific information on the policies developed by the Board of Regents to address the placement process.The OIEA website contains links to policies and procedures.

Last Updated: 3/24/14