The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized computer-based test. Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the official GMAT organization, which develops rules, policies, and procedures for the graduate business school admission process. The test demonstrates the prospective applicants’ potential academic performance in MBA programs. Today over 1,850 graduate business schools worldwide use GMAT scores as a part of their admission process.
How did it all start? In March 1953, deans from Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern, Rutgers, Seton Hall, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University (St. Louis) decided to create an objective entrance exam for graduate business schools. Since 1954, the structure of the exam has changed only couple of times: Quantitative and Verbal sectional scores were added a year after this test was implemented; the length of the test itself grew from two hours and twenty-five minutes to the current three hours thirty minutes. But the only thing that has not changed is the GMAC’s goal to test the skills necessary to succeed in graduate business schools’ core curriculum. Today GMAT Quantitative and Verbal sections are written in a computer adaptive test format, while two other sections: Analytical Writing Assessment and the new Integrated Reasoning section – are scored independently with their scores not contributing to the total score.
What does the Computer-Adaptive Format mean for a test taker? The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test start with a question of moderate difficulty and each question the test taker get right or wrong determines the following mix of questions. If the moderately difficult question is answered correctly, then it will be followed with a more difficult question. On the opposite, if it is answered incorrectly, the following question will be easier. To determine student’s exact score, the computer has to give mostly harder questions to strong students and mostly easy questions to those, who are struggling. Thus, all test takers applying to top business schools, and targeting scores of 700+, will see a lot of difficult questions. Remember that computer follows a very complicated and unknown algorithm, therefore there are some irregularities in its patterns, and a student cannot out-think the CAT and predict the outcome of the test. Do not assume that the previous question was answered incorrectly, if you get an easy question. Keep in mind that just because the question seems easy it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is actually easy. On the other hand, it can really be an easy question and the algorithm is just trying to mix you up.
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The best way to handle the CAT format test is simply do your best on each question as it is presented. Don’t worry too much about trying to outsmart the CAT test. Another interesting fact about the CAT is its important consequences for scoring. The result score is always fair, even if two test-takers see questions of entirely different difficulty levels. How does this happen? In general, the scores reflect not only how many questions were answered right or wrong but also the difficulty levels of each question that you had answered. The main point is that the computer always adjusts to your level. Do your best and prepare well, do as many practice tests as possible.
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