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Computer-Adaptive Tests

February 21, 2010

I am taking the GMAT later this week and have been dutifully studying away for the past few months.  I bought the requisite books and spent hours pouring through them.  In addition I scoured the internet for tips and tricks to help me get a higher score.

When you register for the test, you are given software with additional practice problem and review AND two full computer-adaptive tests!

I took my first computer adaptive test and was amazed at how different the experience was.

  • The computer chooses the level of questions based on your performance, so you cannot go back and change your answers.  This was the hardest adjustment for me.  I always rush through and answer the easy ones and go back and spend time on the harder ones, but can’t use this tactic on the GMAT.  However, the test is not particularly time sensitive, so you can work on harder ones longer
  • The computer can play mind games with you: the computer gives you harder questions if you answer them correctly and easier ones if you answer them incorrectly.  So if you have a string of easy questions, you answered the previous ones incorrectly — or did you?
  • It’s harder to internalize text on a computer screen.  I always wondered why it so much harder to read an article on a computer screen than paper.  I don’t have an answer yet, but the test has confirmed my suspicions.  A friend advised to practice by reading dense articles from the Economist online.  This also shows why the liquid paper from the Kindle is so kind on the eyes and how important the screen is for an e-reader.

Computer adaptive tests apparently make scoring and administering the tests easier, so they are worth the headache of the test takers.  They also provide a much more accurate score based on fewer questions (=less time for you).  You also receive your score (minus the essay portion) at the end of the test, for better or worse.

For me, it just means no more nightmares about bringing a #3 pencil instead of a #2!

At the end of the day, it’s just another skill to practice and practice and practice.

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