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The Computer Adaptive Test (CAT)

GMAT is delivered on a computer as a CAT at Pearson Vue test centers. To optimize your performance in the test, you need to know the features of CAT. The following section discusses the basic mechanism of the CAT and gives you advice as to what to do and what not to do to maximize your scores.

  1. Features of Computer Adaptive Test
    The following basic features of the CAT give you some basic idea about the mechanism of the adaptive test.
    1. A CAT begins its process of testing by considering you an average student.
      At the beginning of quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning sections, the CAT gives you average (50% - fifty percentile) questions. This difficulty level has been decided using experimentation on previous test takers. If question is a fiftieth percentile question, 50% of students who faced it as an experimental question went right with it. The test gives you this type of average-difficulty questions, because it assumes that you are an average student.
    2. The CAT adjusts the difficulty level of the questions basing on your performance.
      If you answer a particular question correctly, the next question the computer gives you will be a slightly more difficult question. If you go wrong with a particular question, the next question will be slightly easier than the question. This way, computer adapts itself to your performance. Hence the name Computer Adaptive Test.
    3. The CAT pattern does not allow you to skip or return to a question.
      As the difficulty level of the next question depends on whether you answer the present question correctly or incorrectly, you are not allowed to skip the question. Nor can you come back once you have confirmed the answer.
    4. The CAT adjusts the difficulty levels more broadly in the beginning and more specifically at the end.
      In the first questions of both quant and verbal sections, the difficulty levels change by higher ranges basing on your performance. This is so with the first ten questions. For example, if you answer the first question which is of 50% correctly, the second question will be in 60%. In the final stages of the section, the range of variation in difficulty levels will be less as the algorithm tries to fine-tune to generate appropriate score for your performance. If you answer a 70% question correctly in the last part of the section, the next question is likely to be in 72% question.
    5. The adaptive test computes your scores basing on several factors.
      Your final score out of 800 is calculated considering the total number of correct responses you have given and the difficulty levels of questions you have answered correctly. The algorithm considers all these factors relatively; your performance is always compared to the performances of students over the last five years and then the computer identifies how good you are! Then it generates the score that reflects your relative performance. Your GMAT score is valid for five years because all the test scores for the next five years from the date of your exam will also be relative scores that take your score too into consideration.
    6. The adaptive tests give more scores for sections that are usually difficult to most of the test takers.
      Equal numbers of correct responses in unequally difficult sections do not give you equal percentile scores and scaled scores, which greatly influence the final score. This is why the verbal section gains ascendency over the quant section in preparing for GMAT.
      You can assume that one point increase in verbal
      score is almost equal to two point increase in quant scaled score while the program computes the score. This is because most of the students across the world face more difficulty with verbal section than with quant section.
    7. The computer computes your scores and gives you two types of scores.
      In your official score card, you will be given scaled scores and total score. Both quant and verbal sections are given scaled scores with an upper limit of 60. However, scaled score of more than 51 is extremely rare in quant section and that of more than 48 is extremely rare in verbal section. It is normally believed that to achieve 700 +, the dream score of many test takers, you will have to score approximately 40 scaled score in verbal and 49 or more in quant.
    8. You don’t need to be 100% bull-eye hitter to be a 100% achiever.
      Getting 800 out of 800 does not require you to answer all the questions correctly. The main reason for this is the presence of experimental questions. Even if you go wrong with all the experimental questions, you will get perfect score.
      This naturally results in unavoidable chance in GMAT as is the case with any test based on multiple choice questions. If the questions you went wrong with were all experimental questions, you would get perfect score. If all the questions you went wrong with are scored questions, you would probably not get a score more than 600. Either of the cases is very unlikely. Thus, chance does play some role, but the test makers minimize this by giving undeclared experimentation questions.

Dos and Don’ts of Computer Adaptive Tests

Knowing the techniques of facing the CAT is almost as important as, if not more important than, knowing the correct answers in order to score well in GMAT. This section gives advisory infomation about what you should do and what you should not to maximize your scores.
  1. You should be careful while answering first ten questions.
    In both verbal and quant sections, first ten questions are important in elevating the difficulty levels and thus, score levels. Thus, you should try to get most of them correct. You may choose to invest a bit more time per question on these questions.
  2. Going wrong with questions in a series is always increasingly penalizing.
    In a CAT, if you go wrong with two or three questions one after another, the penalty is likely to increase with every subsequent question. Thus, if you have a doubt that you might have gone wrong with the earlier question, you should be more careful with the present question.
  3. Time management is of utmost importance in GMAT.
    If a ‘future manager’ cannot manage the time, he/she is unlikely to manage a company successfully! If you do not answer even a single question at the tail end of the quant or verbal sections, the penalty will be very high. So it is highly important that you reach and answer the last question within the time allotted. As per the Official Guide, by not answering the last five questions, you will lower your score from 91% to 77%.
  4. You should not waste time in any part of the test.
    The major difficulty faced by many test takers during the test is the scarcity of time. If you spend much time on a single question, you will be short of time for other questions. You should try to eliminate an ‘obviously’ incorrect option and select from among the remaining options improving your chances. If you make an occasional guess, even if your guess is incorrect, it will surely improve your score because it enables you to answer the rest of the questions comfortably.
  5. Be strongest in your strong areas and do not be weakest in your weak areas!
    This should be guiding principle for your preparation. Generally, students tend to neglect a specific type of question if they find that type easy. This is quite a bad strategy. You should have so much practice in that type of questions that you will never go wrong even with the toughest question of that kind. This way, you will be reaching highest difficulty levels in fewest possible steps. At the same time, you should not be weakest in your weak areas. At least you should be able to answer questions of moderate difficulty with reasonable accuracy. If you take care of both of these things, you are likely to improve your score very well.
    All this put together implies that you need to put in a lot of practice in all types of questions whether they are your forte or weakness.
  6. You should practice under test conditions
    The importance of practice under test-like conditions can never be over-emphasized. I accept that most of test takers do practice a lot! However, a minor deficiency is found in many cases. They take the test on an installment basis. Students do not give much importance to AWA as its score is not a part of 800 score of GMAT. That is why, whenever they practice, they just practice on verbal and quant sections. They answer even these sections individually. In the real test, you need to type an essay, answer Integrated Reasoning section that has a lot of information, and then proceed to the next section. You will surely become tired after typing the essay during the real test. Then, your concentration levels are likely to decline. So, when you practice, you should not skip typing. This way, you will get acclimatized to working under pressure. This is very much essential if you are aspiring for top scores in GMAT.
    To know the latest infomation in this regard or more infomation about scores, you should visit www.mba.com
    Now that we have discussed the basics of the test and strategies for taking CAT, we shall proceed to the next chapter to have some insights of G-matic language and its implication in taking the test.

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