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How GMAT Computer-Adaptive Testing (CAT) and Scoring Works

During the GMAT Quantitative and Verbal sections, the computer-adaptive testing (CAT) system will continually adapt to your ability level, using your responses to build a customized exam for you as you go. This page explains how it all works, and how the scoring system for those two exam sections accounts for the adaptive nature of the test.

NOTE: The adaptive testing feature is incorporated only into the Quantitative and Verbal sections, and not into the new Integrated Reasoning section.

The CAT System Adapts to Your Ability Level

During the Quantitative and Verbal sections the testing system will select your questions from a large pool based on your responses to earlier questions covering the same knowledge area or skill — for example, analyzing graphical data or recognizing a sentence-structure problem. Although each GMAT test taker is presented a unique combination of questions for the two multiple-choice sections, the topics and skill areas covered are similar for every test taker.

For each knowledge area or skill, the first question posed will be average in difficulty level. If you respond correctly to a question, the next question of that type will be more difficult; conversely, if you respond incorrectly, the next question of that type will be easier. As you proceed through a test section you'll encounter fewer and fewer questions of that type that are especially easy or difficult for you. So the CAT system "homes in" on your level of ability based on your input; the end result is that the test can measure your abilities with fewer questions than a non-adaptive test can.

The Computer-Adaptive System and GMAT Scoring

How does the computer-adaptive GMAT scoring system account for the fact that each test taker is presented a unique combination of questions? Well, every question in the CAT's database of Quantitative and Verbal questions is rated by difficulty level and categorized by type — the primary skill or ability the question is designed to measure. Your Quantitative and Verbal scores are each based on three factors:

  • how many questions you answer correctly
  • the difficulty level of the questions you answer correctly
  • the range of question types and skills tested among the questions you answer correctly.

So, if test taker X responds correctly to fewer questions than test taker Y does, X might nevertheless score higher than Y — by responding correctly to more difficult (and generally more time-consuming) questions. By the same token, if the overall difficulty level of the questions to which X and Y respond correctly is the same, and if the number of correct responses is the same for both, then the test taker whose correct responses are more evenly distributed among the different question types will score higher.