Abstract Shear/compression tests were performed at 76 and 4 K on candidate composite insulation systems for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) toroidal field coils. The insulation systems tested consisted of vacuum-pressure impregnated, pre-impregnated, and high-pressure laminate systems that included electrical barriers such as polyimide film or mica/glass. Sandwich-style specimens, in which the composite insulation is bonded to two AISI 316 stainless steel chips, were used. Two specimens were loaded at an angle, which resulted in combined shear and compressive stresses, and tested simultaneously. Various shear/compression ratios were achieved by using different test fixtures, each at a different angle (15 °, 45 °, 75 ° and 84 °) from the vertical direction. The shear strengths of specimens loaded at 15 ° to 75 ° increased with increasing compressive stress; these specimens experienced shear failures. For specimens loaded at 84 °, the compressive stress increased and the shear strength decreased; the failure modes of these specimens were more compressive than shear. The effects of electrical barriers on shear/compressive properties are also reported.