Pros and Cons of Computer Adaptative Test

Posted on November 19, 2007 | Filed in GMAT

Today we would like to take a look at the benefits and limitations of a computer adaptive test. Not that we can persuade the GMAC to bring back the paper test; Rather, we would like you to be acutely aware of the upside and downside of taking such a test in order to best acclimate yourself to the test environment.

In general, a CAT greatly increases the flexibility of test management. The key benefits include:

  • Tests can be taken year around at any registered centers.
  • Unofficial Scores are available immediately, expediting the B-school application process.
  • Tests are individually paced so that a test-taker can choose a more suitable time of the day to take the test and special requirements for the disabled can be better accommodated
  • More accurate scores can be provided by a CAT over a wide range of abilities than by a traditional test.

For test-centers

  • Minimal training of test administrators is required.
  • Test security is increased because hard copy test booklets are not distributed.

For test-makers

  • Test question pools and scoring method can be updated centrally and distributed at once later. Cost can be decreased while quality and speed can be improved substantially.

Despite the above advantages, computer adaptive tests have numerous limitations, and they raise several technical and procedural issues. Here we just focus on the limitations for the GMAT.

  • Test-takers need to perform equally well when reading a passage, question or graph on the computer screen as on the paper. The same applies to writing an essay.
  • Test-takers need to maintain a relatively high level of comfortableness with taking a test on the computer, which means that they should not make simple mistakes such as not selecting the correct answer before continuing. Other examples include that test-takers are not usually permitted to go back and change answers, requiring them to do away with their long-time paper test-taking habits. And we all know “Old habits die hard”!
  • With each examinee receiving a different set of questions, there can be perceived inequities.
  • There is a limited pool of test questions with the most desirable characteristics of a CAT item. This means that test security in the long run will be affected as people may try to remember the harder questions and compare notes with others. This issue can be addressed by expanding the question pool. Otherwise, it will degrade the test quality, or a longer test would be needed.

Conclusion: Practice makes perfect! Prepare with more CATs. Read long articles on your computer screen. Take mock tests in a setting similar to your test center during the same time period of a day. Reduce your response time in the areas you are best at, for example, getting your Sentence Correction time down to less than 1 minute per question. That way you can save time for the question types that you are less confidence about and achieve an overall higher total score!

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