How to Pass the Ability to Benefit Test

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The Ability to Benefit test is required for students who wish to apply for Title IV federal financial aid but do not possess a United States high-school diploma or GED certificate. There are seven official versions of the Ability to Benefit test that are each administered and scored by different independent companies, all of which have been approved by the US Department of Education. A separate Ability to Benefit ESL test is required for students who do not have a high-school diploma or GED who wish to receive federal financial aid for an ESL program.

Things You'll Need

  • Ability to Benefit study guide
  • Scratch paper and pencils
  • Calculator
  • Find out which version of the Ability to Benefit test your school or program uses by inquiring at the school's financial aid or student life office. There are seven official versions of the Ability to Benefit test, and each test has different passing scores. The ASSET program requires a reading score of 25, a writing score of 35 and a numerical score of 33 to pass. The CPAT test requires a language usage score of 42, a reading score of 43 and a numerical score of 41 to pass. The COMPASS test requires a 25 in prealgebra/numerical, a 62 in reading and a 32 in writing to pass. The CELSA requires a score of 90 on both CELSA Form 1 and Form 2 to pass. The CPT/ACCUPLACER test requires a 55 in reading comprehension, 60 in sentence skills and 34 in arithmetic to pass. The DTLS test requires a 108 in reading comprehension, 9 in sentence structure, 309 in conventions of written English and 506 in arithmetic to pass. The WBST test requires a verbal score of 200 and a quantitative score of 210 to pass. Passing or better scores are required for test takers to be eligible to receive federal financial aid.

  • Gather as many study resources as you can that are specific to the ABT test version you will need to take. Free sample Ability to Benefit tests are frequently available online from educational programs and institutions that use the test to assess candidates' eligibility for financial aid. Sample questions are also available online. Inquire at your school's financial aid office about the Ability to Benefit preparation materials they have available, either in hard copy or online. Study guides for the Ability to Benefit test in general are hard to find; however, each publisher of the eight different ABT tests has a study guide specific to their test available. Look instead for an ACCUPLACER or COMPASS exam study guide instead to teach you how to pass the test.

  • Take a full diagnostic test before you begin studying for the actual exam. Do the diagnostic test without any advance preparation so you can see what your weaknesses and strengths are, as well as find out what your baseline score is. Taking a diagnostic test will help focus your study sessions and identify specific areas you need to master.

  • Establish a study schedule that leaves you ample time to master the test before you sit the actual exam. Begin preparing for the test at least six months prior to your exam date, and ideally one year before. Set aside as much time as possible each week to study for the test. For example, you could study for two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and for four hours total on weekends. Write down your schedule and incentivize yourself to stick to it by using a system of rewards.

  • Get a study buddy. If you know someone else who will be taking the Ability to Benefit test, schedule time with him or her to study together in a coffee shop or at the library. If you don't know anyone, post a classified ad to your local Craigslist page or to your school's classifieds website or student activities board that states your goal of finding a study partner.

  • Take full practice tests. The Ability to Benefit test is untimed, but you should set aside at least two hours to sit a practice test. Use only practice tests that have been published by the official test company and that have been used in the past as real Ability to Benefit tests. You can find entire books of Ability to Benefit tests in college or university bookstores or at online book retailers such as Amazon. Take a full practice test about once a week in the final four to six weeks before the exam, and every two or three weeks before then.

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